With new aviation laws, Ghana aims for safer skies

Ghana recently spent $275 million expanding and modernising Kotoka International Airport located in the capital city, Accra. This is part of its plan to attract eight million tourists annually by 2027. A significant increase from the 1.2 million people who visited the country in 2015. Given that most of these tourists will arrive in the country by air, attracting them partly depends on Ghana’s ability to create and maintain a safe air transport sector.

With the right legislation, Ghana hopes to improve aviation compliance and safety. Shutterstock

Ghana is a state party to the Chicago Convention. This multilateral treaty established the fundamental principles governing international air travel. It also created the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) – a United Nations agency which manages the international air transport system. As a member of ICAO, Ghana is expected to comply with its standards and recommended practices.

But it has had some compliance problems. In 2006, Ghana ranked below average in five out of eight criteria set by the organisation’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme. Although it met the requisite standard level for licensing, accident investigations and aerodromes, Ghana’s aviation industry was found to be unsatisfactory when it came to legislation, organisation, operations, air worthiness and air navigation services.

In 2010, two Ghanaian airlines appeared on the European Union Air Safety List for failing to meet certain international safety standards. The list is a directory of airlines which have been banned or otherwise restricted from flying in the European Union. Currently, Ghana is a Category 2 country on the American Federal Aviation Authority’s International Aviation Assessment Program. This means they were found to have not met the requisite safety standards.

Ghana’s been working hard to address its aviation deficiencies. This has yielded some important successes. In 2015, the two Ghanaian airlines were removed from the EU Air Safety List. In June 2019 Ghana was awarded a provisional Effective Implementation grade of 89.89% in aviation safety oversight under ICAO’s Coordinated Validation Mission.

This is a remarkable achievement: it surpasses the organisation’s minimum target of 60% and significantly outshines the global average of 66.5%. It is also the highest score for an African country. The Effective Implementation average rate for the continent is just over 50%.

So how has Ghana achieved this milestone? Through inter-agency cooperation and efforts to amend existing legislation and pass new ones. These legislative efforts kicked off after the country’s poor performance in the 2006 audit. Legislators and aviation authorities realised they needed to strengthen the country’s laws to improve the situation. This work culminated in two particularly crucial pieces of legislation – the Ghana Civil Aviation (Amendment) Act, 2019 and Aircraft Accident and Serious Incident Regulations, 2019. Both were passed by Parliament in March this year.

There is still a need to address the other areas identified by the audit, air worthiness and organisational efficiency, for example. These require effective and efficient business administration. One solution may be to involve a commercially-focused private company to rectify the outstanding operational issues. Indeed there have been rumours of privatisation. The financial investment and strategic management necessary to maintain the safety improvements made, and take Ghana’s aviation industry to the next level – one to rival counterparts in Nairobi – just might require the private sector.

New laws

The first of the two crucial laws aimed at improving aviation safety is the Ghana Civil Aviation (Amendment) Act 2019 (Act 985), which modified a number of pre-existing laws.

Under it, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority will retain its regulatory function. But it will no longer be responsible for operational functions such as navigation services. These will be coordinated by a new body. This separation of roles should improve economic efficiency and minimise conflicts of interests.

The Act has also strengthened some important roles within the aviation sector. For instance, powers of the Minister of Aviation and Chief Investigator have been enhanced. The Civil Aviation Authority’s Director General has also been given extra powers. This person can now compel an individual to produce documents – or testify – before any person or panel whose work falls under the authority’s mandate. These changes should assist the effective investigation of aviation incidents and accidents.

The other new legislation is the Aircraft Accident and Serious Incident Regulations, 2019. This requires airline operators to immediately notify authorities of an accident or serious incident. The law created the Accident Incident Bureau to manage investigations of civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents in Ghana. Its remit also covers any state-registered aircraft that are involved in incidents or accidents outside the country.

The new regulations also provide for the establishment of a database of facts and figures relating to accidents and serious incidents for the first time. This will enable officials to do useful analysis on actual or potential safety concerns. It will also help identify any necessary corrective measures.

These legislative changes are meant to improve aviation safety oversight, enhance the powers of aviation officials and address inefficiencies. It should also facilitate the transition to Category 1 status on the FAA’s list.

It’s hoped that the new legal framework will help Ghana improve its reputation and performance in all sorts of safety and compliance measures. And make the country’s aircraft even safer for passengers.

What still needs to be done

Whether these new laws have their intended effect depends largely on the degree to which they are implemented. Additional resources are likely to be required. This could include a cash injection to sustain the progress made and increase the number of professionals with technical training and expertise in aviation. Any optimism about successful and long-lasting compliance requires senior officials with a sound understanding of the importance and will to enforce violations.

The tragic Ethiopian Airlines crash in March 2019 was a sobering reminder that major problems arise when safety and security are concentrated in one stakeholder, like airline manufacturers.

The more stakeholders, including states, involved in evaluating, implementing and maintaining safety standards, the better. This is why stronger legislation is so important. Now it’s incumbent on Ghana to ensure consistent compliance with its new laws.

Julia Selman Ayetey, Doctoral Candidate, Institute of Air & Space Law, McGill University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Bullets and Love: finding romance in the midst of sudan protests


Bullets, Tear Gas and Love: Romance Blooms in the Midst of Sudan Protests

After decades of rule under a dictator, a wave of exuberance has rippled across Sudan’s capital, the young are reveling in newfound freedoms — to speak, party and find love.


The minivan sped along the Nile, weaving through the evening traffic. The bride sat up front in a pink dress, a sparkling purse on her lap and her feet swaddled in bandages.

The bride, Samar Alnour, was shot twice last month during the tumultuous uprising that toppled Sudan’s longtime dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Now she was on her way back to the protest site, to marry the man who saved her.

Muntassir Altigani, 30, a construction worker, had rushed to Ms. Alnour’s aid as she lay bleeding in the street. Bullets whizzed around them. Like her, he had joined the revolt as a howl against the misrule of Mr. al-Bashir. In the weeks that followed, they fell in love.

“I thought she was very courageous,” he said.

But the revolution is not over.

Listening to music, singing and chanting at the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
The confluence of the White and Blue Nile. Across Khartoum, young Sudanese are enjoying once impossible freedoms.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
Samar Alnour, whose feet were injured in early April during the violent crackdown on protesters, walking toward the sit-in after her wedding.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

The minivan halted on the edge of the protest site where thousands are still camped out at the gates of Sudan’s military headquarters, demanding a transition to full civilian rule. Ms. Alnour, an unemployed 28-year-old college graduate, hitched up her dress as she sat into a wheelchair and joined them.

An uncle pushed her deep into the heaving crowd — past the pop-up cafes with lounging soldiers and flirting couples; past the street poets and speakers, declaiming their dreams for Sudan; and past the dreadlocked musician playing Bob Marley covers.

Trailed by a cheering crowd, she stopped at the spot where she had been shot.

All her life, she said, she had known only Mr. al-Bashir’s Sudan: a cheerless place where corruption thwarted her effort to get a government job. Now a new country — or at least the promise of one — beckoned.

“Before we did not celebrate,” she said. “You couldn’t express yourself, or speak out. Now we feel free.”Socializing at one of the many cafes that line the alleyways near the site of the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Socializing at one of the many cafes that line the alleyways near the site of the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
The protest area, where thousands gather every night to demand their political rights but also to play. It is the epicenter of the changes rippling through Khartoum.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
A soldier holding a protester’s baby.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Revolutionary Sudan has become the site of extraordinary scenes. After decades of airless, joyless rule under Mr. al-Bashir, a wave of exuberance has rippled across the capital, Khartoum, where young Sudanese are reveling in newfound freedoms — to talk politics, to party and even to find love.

The epicenter of these changes is the protest area at the gates of the military headquarters. Women in jeans move about without fear of harassment from the hated public order police, whose patrols have vanished from the streets. Couples mingle easily, some holding hands.

Day and night, teenage boys beat stones against the sides of a railway bridge, in a steady rhythm that has become a kind of heartbeat of the revolution.

Down by the Nile, young people relax on plastic chairs on the grass, sucking on water pipes that were banned by Mr. al-Bashir.

Closer to the water, men swig openly from bottles of araqi — date wine whose consumption is punishable by 40 lashes under Sudan’s Shariah law.

A sweet odor of hashish hangs in the air. Uniformed soldiers, who have vowed to protect the revolutionaries, are among the revelers.

Mr. al-Bashir’s Islamist rule had made Sudan, already a conservative society, unaccustomed to such scenes. A backlash is possible. Yet change is reverberating far beyond the protest area.

Protesters listening to an imam’s sermon before Friday prayers at the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
Two newlyweds were mobbed by well-wishers as they walked through the site of the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Protesters sleeping along the train tracks that run by the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

One night a young woman in tight jeans rode on the back of a motorbike in southern Khartoum, her hair flowing — a once unthinkable sight, likely to invite arrest.

Now, men in a passing car tooted their horn and made thumbs-up signs. The woman smiled and flashed a victory sign.

“The changes were shocking at first,” said Zuhayra Mohamed, 28, a project manager who defied her parents to participate in the protests. “It’s as if the regime had its arms around our necks for so long, and now there’s something so beautiful.”

But while the old Sudan may be out of sight, it has not gone away.

On a recent morning, dozens of uniformed public order police sat drinking tea under a cluster of trees outside their brightly painted Khartoum headquarters, near the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile. They were awaiting orders, a commander said.

And as the protesters celebrated last week, Amer Yousif was being lashed.

The 35-year-old driver had been caught with a bottle of araqi in his pocket on a trip out to buy cigarettes. The next morning a judge sentenced him to 50 lashes, including an extra 10 for aggravated circumstances.

The judge “seemed angered by the revolution,” said Mr. Yousif, lifting his shirt to show a welt on his back.

Protesters looking on as a woman addressed the crowd. The protest grounds are full of small stages, where activists, including many women, have been giving speeches.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
A volunteer stirring a giant vat of soup being prepared for protesters.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
Hanging out on motorcycles on Tuti Island, where the two Niles meet.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Another young couple, Mohamed Hamed and Nahed Elgizouli, also met during the protests, but it wasn’t bullets that brought them together but a cloud of tear gas.

Mr. Hamed, a 31-year-old engineer, collapsed onto his knees in downtown Khartoum, his lungs filled with the gas. Ms. Elgizouli ran up to him and rinsed his face with Coca-Cola.

They got to know each other over the following months — congregating at protest sites, sprinting away from armed regime thugs and protesting the death of a mutual friend in detention.

“They beat him to death,” said Ms. Elgizouli, 26, who works for an organization that promotes reproductive health.

Both had fallen afoul of the dreaded public order police before the revolution. Ms. Elgizouli was detained last year as she returned with male friends from a camping trip in the desert. Mr. Hamed was punished with 40 lashes in 2016 for being drunk.

It wasn’t so bad, he said. He bribed the flogger to go easy on him.

Economic collapse didn’t hurt them as badly as it did poorer Sudanese, but they hated the way the Bashir government robbed them of opportunity, and provided regular reminders of their country’s humiliating isolation.

In Sudan, American sanctions mean that Netflix, Spotify and many other internet services are blocked, credit cards don’t work and international franchises are absent. One popular coffee shop in Khartoum is called Starbox, with a version of the Starbucks black-and-green logo.

They watched friends move abroad to make a better life.

“Sudan was like a hell,” Ms. Elgizouli said. “No hope, no freedom, no jokes.”

The couple’s friendship turned to romance during the final push against Mr. al-Bashir in early April. They lay on the ground together as gunfire erupted outside the military compound, and rejoiced when the dictator fell.

Now they hold hands freely as they pass through the crowd. “This is the new Sudan, the one we dreamed of,” Ms. Elgizouli said.

The differences of religion and ethnicity that Mr. al-Bashir exploited to cement his authority are being blurred or erased. A train packed with jubilant revolutionaries arrived from Atbara, 175 miles to the north, last week. On Tuesday a cavalcade arrived from distant Darfur.

“People feel more at peace with each other,” said Ms. Mohamed, the engineer. “There’s a sense of unity.”

Sudan’s new freedoms are fragile, and whether they can endure is unclear. Power-sharing talks between protest leaders and the military, now in their fourth week, have become tense in recent days. Outside the protest bubble, supporters of the old government are waiting and watching.

Some say the struggle has just begun. “It’s like you’re in a dark place and you can see a small light,” Ms. Elgizouli said. “We have a long road to freedom.”

A young protester using his flashlight to look at graffiti depicting the faces of protesters killed in the clashes with the riot police and military before the fall of President Omar al-Bashir.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Declan Walsh is the Cairo bureau chief, covering Egypt and the Middle East. He joined The Times in 2011 as Pakistan bureau chief, and previously worked at The Guardian. @declanwalsh

A version of this article appears New York edition with the headline: Romance Blooms in Midst of Bloody Revolution.


Ethiopian airline crash: family of Rwandan victim sue Boeing

The family of Jackson Musoni, a Rwandan, who died in the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash where 156 other passengers also died, has filed a lawsuit against Boeing Co. at a federal court in Chicago, where Boeing is headquartered. 

Boeing is accused of “defectively” designing “a new flight control system for the Boeing 737 Max 8 that automatically and erroneously pushes the aircraft’s nose down,” and of failing “to warn of the defect.” Boeing has declined comment on the lawsuit. 

The suit also claims that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) delegated authority to Boeing to approve portions of the aircraft certification process and assisted Boeing in rushing the delivery of the Max 8, which resulted in “several crucial flaws” in the safety analysis report Boeing ultimately delivered to the FAA. 

At a United States Congress hearing on Wednesday, the acting FAA administrator defended the government’s oversight approach. 

A Lion Air crash which happened months ago under similar circumstances as the Ethiopian Airline crash has also led different lawsuits against Boeing.

“Boeing, having knowledge of all the reports of dangerous conditions and the previous accident that killed over 150 people, should have taken steps to protect the flying public,” said Steve Marks, an attorney with the Miami-based law firm Podhurst Orseck, who is representing the Musoni family. “This accident happened when it should have never happened.” 

On Wednesday, Boeing announced a software update to the 737 Max fleet, which it said would prevent erroneous data from triggering the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) anti-stall system, which is suspected to have played a role in both crashes.  

Musoni, 31, was a field coordinator with the United Nations Refugee Agency based in East Darfur, Sudan. He was one of 19 U.N. aid workers and staffers who were on board Ethiopian Flight 302 that crashed on March 10.


This report was first published by The Nerve Africa. All rights reserved.

Cyclone Idai crisis takes deeper turn as cases of Cholera confirmed

Five people test positive for waterborne disease in flooded port city of Beira amid warnings outbreak will spread.

The first cases of cholera have been reported in the cyclone-ravaged Mozambican city of Beira, complicating an already massive and complex emergency in the southern African country.

The announcement of five cases of the waterborne disease follows days of mounting fears that cholera and other diseases could break out in the squalid conditions in which tens of thousands have been living since Cyclone Idai struck on 14 March, killing at least 700 people across the region.

The first cases of the disease were confirmed in Munhava, one of the poorest areas of the hard-hit port city of Beira, the national director of medical assistance, Ussene Isse, told reporters. The city of roughly 500,000 people is still struggling to provide clean water and sanitation.

“We did the lab tests and can confirm that these five people tested positive for cholera,” said Isse. “It will spread. When you have one case, you have to expect more cases in the community.”

The World Health Organization is dispatching 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine to affected areas from a global stockpile. The shipment is expected to be sent later this week.

Cyclone Idai smashed into Mozambique at about midnight on 14 March before tearing through neighbouring Zimbabwe and Malawi, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and flooding an area of 3,000 sq km.

Cholera has been a major concern for cyclone survivors now living in crowded camps, schools, churches and any land exposed by the still-draining flood waters. The disease is spread by contaminated food and water and can kill quickly.

Last week, the Guardian visited a number of areas, both in the city itself and outside, where those who had fled the storm and subsequent flooding were surviving by collecting standing water from the floods, including from puddles in the city, for cooking and cleaning.

The huge extent of the flooding in the countryside is also feared to have contaminated wells, which villages rely on for clean drinking water.

The disclosure of the cholera outbreak follows a warning by the WHO of a “second disaster” if waterborne diseases like cholera spread in the devastated region.

Mozambique’s president, Filipe Nyusi, was to address the nation on Wednesday afternoon about how his government is responding to the cyclone, which has killed more than 460 people in the country and left 1.8 million people in need of urgent help.

After flying over the vast, flooded plains of central Mozambique early last week, Nyusi estimated that 1,000 people had been killed. The toll could be higher, with some emergency responders warning that more bodies will be found as floodwaters drain away. They said the actual figure may never be known.

Cyclone Idai destroyed most parts of Beira. Photo: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

Health workers were opening clinics across Beira, the centre of relief operations for the region.

Underlining fears of more outbreaks of disease, Gert Verdonck, emergency coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières in Beira, said: “The scale of extreme damage will likely lead to a dramatic increase of waterborne diseases, skin infections, respiratory tract infections and malaria in the coming days and weeks.

“The cyclone substantially damaged the city’s water supply system, resulting in many people having no access to clean drinking water. This means that they have no option but to drink from contaminated wells. Some people are even resorting to drinking stagnant water by the side of the road.

“This, of course, results in an increase of patients suffering from diarrhoea. The MSF-supported health centres have seen hundreds of patients with acute watery diarrhoea in the past few days.”

Unicef, the UN children’s agency, said parts of the city’s water supply system were working again, with “water running in 60% of the pipes”. The government is also operating water trucks.

Relief operators continue to explore ways to deliver aid to the city, which is reachable almost solely by air and sea. More challenging still is getting to rural communities, some of which have had no contact with the outside world since the cyclone hit.

More humanitarianworkers are arriving, as the UN urges the international community to fund a $282m (£213m) emergency appeal for the next three months.


SOURCE: The Guardian, Africa

Ethiopian Airlines crash: all you need to know as 30 nations grieve for victims

The crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi is a tragedy that threatens to leave fresh questions hanging over the aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

Few details about the crash are yet available, but according to Ethiopian Airlines the pilot, who was experienced with an excellent flying record, reported difficulties and asked to turn back.

Africa’s aviation safety record has never been good, though Ethiopian has been regarded as an exception. Technical experts from Boeing are standing by for an international investigation into a crash that involved passengers from at least 32 countries.

Here are all we know so far

Carriers ground Boeing 737 Max 8 jets in wake of disaster

Ethiopian Airlines joins China and Cayman Islands in suspending use of the new jets following second tragedy in four months

A man carries a piece of debris on his head at the crash site of a Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines flight near Bishoftu Photograph: Michael Tewelde/AFP/Getty Images

Ethiopian Airlines has joined carriers in China and the Cayman Islands in suspending the use of Boeing 737 Max 8 jets in the wake of a crash that killed all 157 people on board on Sunday.

Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302, on its way to Nairobi from Addis Ababa, crashed six minutes after take-off, ploughing into a field near Tulu Fara village outside the town of Bishoftu, 40 miles south-east of the Ethiopian capital.

The disaster was the second involving the new aircraft in the last four months. In October, a Lion Air plane crashed into the sea off the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, killing all 189 onboard.

“Following the tragic accident of ET 302 … Ethiopian Airlines has decided to ground all B-737-8 MAX fleet effective yesterday, March 10, until further notice,” the state-owned carrier said in a statement released on Twitter on Monday.

“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we have to decide to ground the particular fleet as an extra safety precaution,” said the airline, which is Africa’s largest.

The move came after China’s aviation authorities ordered the country’s airlines to ground their Boeing 737 Max 8 jets.

The cause of the crash is unknown, but Cayman Airlines also suspended operations of its two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes while investigations continued.

The civil aviation administration of China (CAAC) issued a notice on Monday at 9am local time ordering domestic airlines to suspend the commercial operation of the Boeing 737- Max 8 aircraft before 6pm.

Referring to the Boeing 737 Max 8 as a Boeing 737-8, the CAAC said it made the decision “in view of the fact that the two air crashes were newly delivered Boeing 737-8 aircraft” and had “certain similarities.” 

The regulator said the grounding of the planes was “in line with our principle of zero tolerance for safety hazards and strict control of safety risks”. The CAAC said it would be contacting US aviation authorities and Boeing before restoring flights of the aircraft.

Roughly 60 of the Boeing 737 Max 8 planes have been delivered to about a dozen Chinese airlines since the new craft was released. Chinese carriers make up about 20% of deliveries of the model through January, according to Bloomberg. On Monday, two Chinese airlines told the Guardian they had begun using Boeing 737-800 aircraft instead of the Max 8.

Cayman Airways, which also flies the Boeing 737 Max 8 craft, also announced it would ground the planes while the investigation into the crash was ongoing. Cayman Airways president and chief executive Fabian Whorms said the airline was “putting the safety of our passengers and crew first”.

More than 300 Boeing 737-MAX planes are in operation and more than 5,000 have been ordered worldwide since 2017.

In Britain, the holiday operator Tui Airways ordered 32 Max aircraft as part of a major fleet overhaul and took delivery of its first Max 8 in December. Tui was the first UK-registered airline to receive one of the new Boeing aircraft and plans to roll out its orders over the next five years.

Based at Manchester Airport, the planes are due to ferry passengers to a range of holiday destinations from the north-west. The carrier’s German parent company is reported to have bought 54 Max 8s.

Several airlines told the Guardian they did not intend to ground their flights, including Fiji Airways, which said it had “full confidence in the airworthiness of our fleet.”

BOC Aviation, an aircraft leasing company based in Singapore, which has five Boeing Max 8, 9 and 10 aircraft in service with lessees and another 90 on order said they had “no intention of grounding aircraft at this stage or changing our aircraft orders. The data available is limited and we can’t speculate on [what] might have been the cause of the crash.”

30 nations grieve for victims of Ethiopian Airlines crash

UN a ‘house in mourning’ as 19 staff members die along with 32 Kenyan citizens, 18 from Canada and seven Britons

Joanna Toole was the first British victim of the plane crash to be named. Photograph: Facebook

Three young Austrian doctors, an environmental campaigner from Devon, a former Nigerian ambassador and the wife and children of a Slovak legislator, have been named among the 157 people killed after Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed shortly after takeoff.

The plane contained passengers from more than 30 nationalities including 32 Kenyan citizens, 18 from Canada, nine from Ethiopia, eight from Italy, China and the US and seven from the UK and France.

Many of the passengers were en route to the United Nations environment assembly in Nairobi, which starts on Monday. At least 19 people affiliated with the organisation were killed. Not all of the victims have been named so far but stories about those onboard were starting to emerge on Monday.

‘In deep grief’

A lawmaker from Slovakia said his wife, daughter and son were killed in the crash. Anton Hrnko, a legislator for the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party, said he was “in deep grief” over the deaths of his wife, Blanka, son, Martin, and daughter, Michala. Their ages were not immediately available. President Andrej Kiska offered his condolences to Hrnko.

Kenya had the largest number of victims, including Hussein Swaleh, the former secretary general of the Football Kenya Federation who was due to return home on the flight after working as the match commissioner in an African Champions League game in Egypt on Friday.

Another Kenyan on the flight was Cedric Asiavugwa, a law student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Asiavugwa, who was born and raised in Mombassa, was on his way to Nairobi after the death of his fiancee’s mother. Before he came to Georgetown, he worked with groups helping refugees in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the university said.

At least seven Britons were on the flight, the British Foreign Office has confirmed.

The first British victim to be named was Joanna Toole, a 36-year-old environmental campaigner from Exmouth, Devon, who worked for the fisheries and aquaculture department of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The department’s director, Manuel Barange, tweeted that he was “profoundly sad and lost for words” over the death of his colleague. He said she had been travelling to Nairobi to represent the FAO at the UN environment assembly.

Barange said Toole was “a wonderful human being who loved her work with a passion. Our love to her family and loved ones.”

Toole’s Facebook profile states that she lived in Rome, where the FAO is based.

Her father, Adrian, told Devon Live: “Joanna’s work was not a job, it was her vocation. She had never really wanted to do anything else but work in animal welfare since she was a child. Everybody was very proud of her and the work she did; we’re still in a state of shock.”

The family of Joseph Waithaka, a Kenyan and British dual national, said the 55-year-old had died in the crash.

His son Ben Kuria told the BBC his father, who had lived in Hull for more than a decade before moving back to Kenya, was a “generous” man who “loved justice”.

Waithaka, who had worked for the Humberside Probation Trust, saw his son on Saturday in Croydon, London, before flying to Kenya via Addis Ababa.

“I gave him a hug and shook his hand, because in my culture it’s more about the handshake than it is about the hug,” Kuria told BBC News. “I said we’ll probably see you at some point soon. We usually spend a bit more time saying goodbye, but yesterday it kind of just felt routine.”

Abiodun Oluremi Bashu, an ambassador from Nigeria, was also killed in the crash. The Nigerian ministry of foreign affairs said it received the news of his death “with great shock”.

After joining the Nigerian foreign service in 1976, Bashu served in embassies around the world including Vienna, Austria, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and Tehran, Iran. He also served as secretary to the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the time of his death, Bashu was on contract with the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa.

Michael Ryan. Photograph: World Food Programme/PA

One Irish national was killed; Michael Ryan, a father of two who worked for the UN’s World Food Programme. Ryan, who was based in Rome, was global deputy chief engineer for the aid agency and had been on a work trip in Ethiopia.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Ryan on Twitter, saying: “Our thoughts tonight are with families of all those lost in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, including Irish engineer Michael Ryan.

“Michael was doing life-changing work in Africa with the World Food Programme. Deepest sympathies to family, colleagues & friends.”

Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian professor with Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, also died on the flight.

The author of “Naija No Dey Carry Last,” a collection of satirical essays, Adesanmi was described as a “towering figure in African and post-colonial scholarship” by Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Carleton’s president and vice chancellor.

Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian professor with Carleton University in Ottowa, Canada, was the winner of the inaugural Penguin Prize for African non-fiction writing in 2010. Photograph: Josh Hotz/AP

Sebastiano Tusa, 66, a renowned Italian underwater archaeologist, was another killed, the Italian government said. He had been flying to Kenya for a project with Unesco.

In a tweet, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said: “We are united with the relatives of the victims and offer them our heartfelt thoughts.”

‘This is a house in mourning’

Austrian foreign ministry spokesman Peter Guschelbauer confirmed that three doctors in their early 30s were on board the flight. The men were on their way to Zanzibar, he said, but he could not confirm the purpose of their trip.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 plane was believed to be carrying 149 passengers and eight crew members en route to Nairobi when it hit the ground six minutes after departing Addis Ababa on Sunday morning.

Theresa May said she was “deeply saddened to hear of the devastating loss of life following the plane crash in Ethiopia”.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the prime minister said: “At this very difficult time my thoughts are with the families and friends of the British citizens on board and all those affected by this tragic incident.”

The spokesman for the UN secretary general, António Guterres, said he was “deeply saddened at the tragic loss of lives”.

“He conveys his heartfelt sympathies and solidarity to the victims’ families and loved ones, including those of United Nations staff members, as well as sincere condolences to the government and people of Ethiopia,” the spokesman said. “The United Nations is in contact with the Ethiopian authorities and working closely with them to establish the details of United Nations personnel who lost their lives in this tragedy.”

Inger Andersen, the incoming head of UN environment, told the Guardian the organisation was “devastated”.

“This is a house in mourning but a house that doesn’t yet know all the facts.”

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, said in a statement he joins the international community in mourning the lives of so many. He says the Canadian government is providing consular assistance and working with local authorities to gather further information.

UK investigators from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch are likely to be communicating with their counterparts in Ethiopia to keep next of kin informed.

How ‘excellent’ pilot was unable to avert disaster

The scene of the crash near the town of Bishoftu, south-east of Addis Ababa. Photograph: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Aviation authorities have begun investigating how a new Boeing plane with an experienced pilot crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board.

The destruction of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302, which was on its way to Nairobi, is the second calamity involving a Boeing 737 Max 8, a new model that experienced a similar accident in Indonesia in October.

The largest number of the victims were Kenyans. At least seven Britons were on the flight, which left Bole airport at 8.38am local time (5.38am GMT).

At least 19 people affiliated with the United Nations were among those killed, according to the UN migration agency chief. Many were delegates on their way to the UN environment assembly, which starts in Nairobi on Monday. Eighteen Canadians also died.

The pilot said he was experiencing technical problems and asked to return to the airport. The control tower lost contact with the aircraft at 8.44am. Wreckage was later discovered near the town of Bishoftu, 39 miles (62km) south-east of the Ethiopian capital.

The flight tracking website Flightradar24 tweeted that the plane had unstable vertical speed after takeoff.

The cause of the accident is not yet known. The Ethiopian Airlines chief executive, Tewolde GebreMariam, said routine maintenance had revealed no problems with the plane, and the captain Yared Getachew had flown more than 8,000 hours with an “excellent flying record”. The airline took delivery of the plane in November.

“As I said, it is a brand new airplane with no technical remarks, flown by a senior pilot and there is no cause that we can attribute at this time,” he told reporters.

Questions have been raised about the safety of the Boeing 737 Max 8, which has been in commercial operation since 2016. The same model was involved in the Lion Air crash, where a jet plunged into the Java Sea soon after takeoff last year, killing 189 people.

More than 300 of these planes are in operation with different airlines. Ethiopian has six more. Asked whether they would be grounded, GebreMariam said no because “we don’t know the cause of the accident”.

Several airlines around the world fly the 737 Max 8. On Sunday night reports said China had asked its local airlines to temporarily ground the planes.

In a statement, the airline said it would conduct a forensic investigation in conjunction with officials from Boeing, the Ethiopian civil aviation authority, the Ethiopian transport authority other international bodies.

The plane contained passengers from more than 30 nationalities. According to the airline, Kenya had 32, Canada 18, Ethiopia nine, Italy, China and the US eight each, the UK and France seven each, Egypt six, the Netherlands five, India and Slovakia four each, Sweden and Russia three each and other countries one or two.

Sebastiano Tusa, 66, a renowned Italian archaeologist, was among those killed, the Italian government said. He had been flying to Kenya for a project with Unesco.

A Slovakian MP, Anton Hrnko, wrote on Facebook that his wife, son and daughter had all been killed in the crash. “It is with deep sorrow that I announce that my dear wife, Blanka, son Martin and daughter Michala, died in the air disaster in Addis Ababa this morning.”

Kenyan authorities offered support to families and friends waiting at Nairobi airport. The transport secretary, James Macharia, said they would be transported to an emergency centre at a nearby hotel. “It is a very sensitive emotional matter,” he said.

Earlier many people had been waiting at the arrival gate with no information.

“We’re just waiting for my mum. We’re just hoping she took a different flight or was delayed. She’s not picking up her phone,” said Wendy Otieno.

Robert Mudanta, 46, was waiting for his brother-in-law coming from Canada. “We haven’t seen anyone from the airline or the airport,” he told Reuters more than three hours after the flight was lost. “Nobody has told us anything. We are just standing here hoping for the best.”

Four of those on board were travelling on UN passports. . “Early indications are that 19 staff members of UN affiliated organizations perished,” said International Organization for Migration head Antonio Vitorino.

“Numerous other staff members from at least five UN and affiliated organizations are understood to have also perished,” he said.

Inger Anderson, the incoming head of UN environment, told the Guardian: “We’re devastated by what transpired. Obviously many of our partners and colleagues are deeply impacted. This is a house in mourning but a house that doesn’t yet know all the facts.” The assembly’s organisers have shared details of emergency hotlines with delegates.

Several prominent humanitarian workers were among the victims, including International Committee for the Development of Peoples founder Paolo Dieci; three members of Italian humanitarian organisation Africa Tremila, including the president Carlo Spini, his wife, and treasurer Matteo Ravasio; and Save the Children child protection in emergencies adviser Tamirat Mulu Demessie.

The Ethiopian prime minister’s office sent condolences via Twitter to the families of those lost in the crash.

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, said the crash was “devastating”.

Under international rules, responsibility for leading the crash investigation lies with Ethiopia but the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will also participate because the plane was designed and built in the United States.

Representatives of Boeing and Cincinnati-based engine-maker CFM, a joint venture between General Electric and the French company Safran, will advise the NTSB.

The aircraft had shattered into many pieces and was severely burnt, a Reuters reporter at the scene of the crash said. Clothing and personal effects were scattered widely over the field where the plane came down.

An eyewitness told AFP the plane came down in flames. “The plane was already on fire when it crashed to the ground. The crash caused a big explosion,” Tegegn Dechasa recounted at the site. “I was near the river near the crash site. Shortly after the crash police and a fire crew from a nearby air force camp came and extinguished the plane’s flames on the ground.”

He added: “The plane was in flames in its rear side shortly before the crash. The plane was swerving erratically before the crash.”

The cause of the earlier crash involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 in Indonesia is still under investigation. A preliminary report focused on airline maintenance and training, as well as the response of a Boeing anti-stall system to a recently replaced sensor, but did not give a reason for the crash. Since then, the cockpit voice recorder was recovered and a final report is due later this year.

State-owned Ethiopian is one of the biggest carriers in Africa by fleet size. It said previously that it expected to carry 10.6 million passengers last year. Its last major crash was in January 2010, when a flight from Beirut went down shortly after takeoff.

The airline is in the middle of an expansion, aiming to double its fleet to 120 and become Africa’s biggest airline by 2025. It has tripled its passenger numbers over the past decade. A new terminal recently opened at Bole, tripling the airport’s size.

Additional reporting by Lorenzo Tondo

Second new Boeing 737 to crash in four months

Confidence that a newer plane inevitably means a safer plane in danger of being shaken

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8. Photograph: EPA

The crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi is a tragedy that threatens to leave fresh questions hanging over the aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

Few details about the crash are yet available, but according to Ethiopian Airlines the pilot, who was experienced with an excellent flying record, reported difficulties and asked to turn back.

Africa’s aviation safety record has never been good, though Ethiopian has been regarded as an exception. Technical experts from Boeing are standing by for an international investigation into a crash that involved passengers from at least 32 countries.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8, a brand new plane only registered in November, disappeared from the radar six minutes into the flight. Immediate comparisons have been drawn with Lion Air flight 610, which crashed just over four months ago, killing 189 people. Flight data showed erratic climbs and descents before the plane, also a MAX 8, came down 12 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta.

More than 300 Boeing 737-MAX planes are in operation and more than 5,000 have been ordered worldwide since 2017. It is the latest iteration of the 737, the world’s bestselling plane, ever more capable of flying autonomously.

Autonomy, however, can bring problems. It is notable that insurers considering driverless cars worry most about the period when highly autonomous vehicles will coexist with human drivers, the uncertain interface between human and artificial intelligence.

Pilots worldwide were angered after the Lion Air crash that subtle software modifications to the MAX 8’s autopilot had not been fully communicated. Nor were they made the subject of mandatory pilot retraining.

The new plane automatically compensates if it believes its angle puts it at a risk of stalling, a safety feature that worked in a slightly different way to that which 737 pilots were used to. Lion Air’s black box suggested the pilots of flight 610 had been wrestling with this issue.

Boeing argued that if pilots followed existing procedures, there should be no danger. Past crashes, however, and most famously the AirFrance flight 447 disaster in the south Atlantic, have shown that the sensors on which aircraft computer systems rely can malfunction, and that pilots who have grown to trust the technology can become rapidly bewildered when things go wrong. All too human reactions led to disaster.

The aviation industry has boasted that it is safer than ever in recent years, and the International Air Transport Association reported no accidents involving a modern commercial passenger jet over several years this decade. Turboprops and old cargo planes might fail, but the worst disasters were ascribed to deliberate acts – terrorist attacks, pilot suicide, Russian missiles – or, in the case of MH370, left unexplained.

Emerging details from Ethiopia may quickly show a specific cause that is completely unrelated to any issues at Lion Air or to the new 737. Boeing and the Federal Aviation Authority, which regulates the company, will hope so. Confidence that a newer plane automatically means a safer plane is in danger of being shaken.

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK/NYT/Sky News/Al Jazeera

Alleged killed Malian jihadist leader is alive

Amadou Koufa appears in video three months after French armed forces minister declared him ‘neutralised’

Malian and French soldiers on patrol in Mali, where France has been aiding counter-insurgency efforts.
Malian and French soldiers on patrol in Mali, where France has been aiding counter-insurgency efforts. Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

A senior jihadist leader in Mali whom France said it had killed last November survived the attack and appears in a new propaganda video mocking French and Malian forces.

The French armed forces minister, Florence Parly, told parliament a few days after the 22 November raid that Amadou Koufa, a radical preacher and senior leader of a militant group linked to al-Qaida, was one of 35 fighters who had been “neutralised”.

Mali’s army also said Koufa had been killed, in what was seen as a blow to Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), Mali’s strongest Islamist militant group.

But Koufa, sporting a white turban and dyed red beard, appears in a video published by Mauritanian media and circulated on social media this week, in which he mocks the claims that he has been killed.

According to the US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites and confirmed the video’s authenticity, Koufa tells an interviewer that the announcement of his survival was delayed “to observe political reactions … to design the best plans to deal with them in the media, politically and on the ground”.

A spokesman for France’s army chief of staff said authorities were in the process of authenticating the video. A Malian army spokesman declined to comment.

Parly said last week French forces had killed Yahia Abou Hamman, JNIM’s number two, in a raid on 21 February.

Violence by jihadist groups has proliferated in the scrublands of the west African Sahel in recent years, with groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State using central and northern Mali as a launchpad for attacks across the largely desert region.

French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, in 2013 to push back a jihadist advance but the militants have since regrouped. Some 4,500 French troops remain based in the wider Sahel, most of them in Mali.

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK


Zimbabwe gold miners trapped after flood

Relatives of more than 40 illegal workers say there is little chance of saving them.

About 60 miners are thought to have been inside the mine in Kadoma, northern Zimbabwe. Photograph: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters
About 60 miners are thought to have been inside the mine in Kadoma, northern Zimbabwe. Photo: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters

More than 40 illegal gold miners are believed to have died in Zimbabwe after they were trapped deep underground following a flash flood.

Police, engineers and other miners have struggled since Tuesday to reach any survivors of the accident, which took place in the town of Kadoma, 125 miles (200km) west of the capital, Harare.

About 60 miners are thought to have been working at about 11pm local time (2100 GMT) on Tuesday when heavy rains sent a wave of water pouring into shafts that were up to 100 metres deep.

Relatives searching for their loved ones said they had lost hope on Friday.

Kazius Zvikiti, 94, said of his two missing sons, Xavier, 47, and Marlon, 35: “I am old and I was relying on my children for survival. I don’t know how I am going to survive without them.”

Charles Mwenye, a 41-year-old survivor, said four of his friends were inside the shaft. “I could have been the one trapped underground too,” he said. “When I was on my way out of the shaft, I saw a flood coming straight in … Thank God I am alive. The police came yesterday and today but nothing has been done. All my hope is lost now.”

Mwenye said he and his friends earned a living as illegal gold miners since 2015 in areas surrounding the northern province of Mashonaland West.

Zimbabwe’s economy has collapsed in recent years, forcing thousands to try to feed themselves and their families by excavating in areas abandoned by major commercial companies. It is dangerous and physically gruelling work.

Onlookers watch the rescue efforts.
Onlookers watch the rescue efforts. Photo: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Kadoma and nearby areas are rich in gold deposits and popular with the artisanal miners who use picks and shovels and generator-powered water pumps. The makeshift shafts and tunnels can easily collapse in the rainy season when the ground is soft.

The miners, known locally as makorokoza, or hustlers, usually work at night using torches and can disappear into shafts and tunnels for more than two days.

The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), a mining watchdog, blamed Zimbabwe’s environmental management agency for failing to protect lives by properly decommissioning disused mines. The NGO said the mine should have been sealed to avoid tragedies of this nature.

Lovejoy Mbedzi said her brother Evan Chibuwe, 29, has been missing since Wednesday. “I am very sad. This mine shaft is full of boys between the ages of 18 and 30. They are so young and don’t deserve to die in this manner,” she said.

Trapped miners have no funeral cover and relatives are pleading for government assistance. “I don’t have a funeral policy, burying my child will be very difficult,” said Idah Gwangwari, 60, who lost her son Donald, 20.

“I’ve been waiting since the day he went missing , hoping he would come back to me.”

Gold is the largest foreign currency earner for the struggling Zimbabwean economy and this makes illegal gold mining attractive to unemployed young people.

Fatal mine accidents occur frequently, though rarely on this scale.

Illegal gold miners last year contributed significantly to the record bullion output of 33 tonnes in the southern African nation. They sell their gold to a central bank subsidiary or private buyers.

Raab resigns as Britain’s Brexit minister

British leader Theresa May suffered a huge blow on Thursday when a series of ministers including her Brexit secretary quit as she tried to sell her proposed EU withdrawal agreement to a divided parliament.

Dominic Raab resigned from his role at the Brexit ministry while a second cabinet minister and two junior government ministers also walked out over the draft deal.

But May insisted that while the negotiations had not been comfortable, it was the best Britain could hope for when it leaves the EU on March 29.

“If we get behind a deal we can bring our country back together and seize the opportunities that lie ahead,” she told lawmakers.

“The British people want us to get this done.

“The course is clear: we can choose to leave with no deal, we can risk no Brexit at all or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated.”

‘I must resign’ 
EU leaders will hold an extraordinary Brexit summit on November 25.

If they approve the agreement, the British parliament is scheduled to vote on it in early December.

But May faces stiff opposition to her agreement in the legislature from Brexit hardliners who see the deal as conceding too much to Brussels and EU supporters who want closer ties to the EU or a second referendum.

Before May spoke to MPs, Raab said he could not back the draft deal.

“I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto,” he said.

“You deserve a Brexit secretary who can make the case for the deal you are pursuing with conviction.

“I must resign.”

Brexit hardliner Esther McVey also quit as the work and pensions secretary.

“We have gone from no deal is better than a bad deal, to any deal is better than no deal. I cannot defend this, and I cannot vote for this deal,” she said.

Suella Braverman quit as a junior Brexit minister and Shailesh Vara resigned as a junior Northern Ireland minister over the draft accord.

In parliament, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, told May: “The government must now withdraw this half-baked deal”.

“This is not the deal the country was promised,” he said.

Pound plunges 
The pound plunged against the dollar and euro as Britain’s business sector gave a lukewarm verdict to the proposed agreement.

At 1000 GMT, the pound was worth around $1.2784, compared with almost $1.30 late Wednesday. The euro meanwhile jumped to 88.26 pence, a gain of 1.3 percent.

May had secured her cabinet’s collective approval for the agreement during a five-hour meeting on Wednesday, an important step that helped allay growing fears in the business community of a disorderly divorce.

May’s governing centre-right Conservative Party — which does not command a Commons majority — was already split between Brexiteers and those who wanted to remain in the union, and now many on both sides of that divide oppose her deal.

The outraged response by many MPs to the deal has heightened concerns that even when finalised, it will not pass parliament.

May told MPs: “Delivering Brexit involves difficult choices for all of us.

“What we agreed yesterday was not the final deal. It is a draft treaty that means that we will leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way.

“I do not pretend that this has been a comfortable process or that either we or the EU are entirely happy.”

Special summit planned 
Speaking in Brussels, EU President Donald Tusk said EU member states would have until Tuesday next week to examine the deal and to agree the wording of a parallel political statement setting out goals for the bloc’s future relations with London.

Ater that, preparations will begin for an EU summit on the following Sunday to sign the deal.

“As much as I am sad to see you leave, I will do everything to make this farewell the least painful possible, both for you and for us,” said Tusk.

The deal covers citizens’ rights, Britain’s financial settlement and plans for a post-Brexit transition period during which both sides hope to agree a new trade deal.

The most controversial element is the “backstop” plan to keep Britain in a customs union with the EU until a trade deal is agreed that avoids the need for border checks with Ireland.

Many Brexiteers fear this would leave Britain a “vassal state”, tied to the bloc indefinite


Cover Photo; In this file photo taken on August 31, 2018 Britain’s Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab gives a joint press conference with EU Chief Brexit Negotiator at the European Commission in Brussels. – British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a huge blow on November 15, 2018 as Dominic Raab quit as her Brexit secretary, saying he “must resign” over the proposed EU withdrawal agreement. Photo;  Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP.

Slavery is an ‘indelible stain’ – Prince Charles

The Prince of Wales has acknowledged Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade but stopped short of giving an official apology, which is likely to disappoint campaigners who have long called on the British Royal Family to do so.

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Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne and next head of the Commonwealth, is in West Africa, and in a speech to a conference in Ghana’s capital, Accra, he said:

Quote Message: The appalling atrocity of the slave trade and the unimaginable suffering it caused left an indelible stain on the history of the world.

Quote Message: While Britain can be proud that it later led the way in the abolition of this shameful trade, we have a shared responsibility to ensure that the abject horror of slavery is never forgotten, that we uphold the existence of modern slavery and human trafficking and that we robustly promote and defend the values which today make it incomprehensible for most of us that human beings could ever treat each other with such utter inhumanity.”

Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1833. It has never apologised for its role in slavery.

Reparations to the tune of $22bn (£17bn) in today’s money were paid to former slave owners to compensate them for the loss of their human property. But slaves themselves did not receive reparations nor have their descendants.

British taxpayers’ money was used pay off the 46,000 or so former slaver owners, and these payments only ended in 2015.


SOURCE: BBC Africa

Cover photo: Ghana is the latest stop on Prince Charles’ tour of West Africa. Photo: Reuters