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23.01.2021 Feature Article

Can "Government Catch Government"?

LISTEN JAN 23, 2021

IN one of his satirical books – Soza Boy, if my memory serves me right – the Ogoni writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa (who was brutally executed in November 1995 by General Sani Abacha, the corrupt Nigerian dictator) wrote that corruption continued to exist in Nigeria“because government cannot catch government”.

I laughed at that statement when I first came across it around 1986. And I was reminded of Saro-Wiwa's words the other day as I watched an extraordinary video on Joy News, in which a very brave reporter, Erastus Asare Donkor, and his crew, were harassed by armed military men, whilst they were covering the activities of an armed Task Force set up by the Ghana Government – the Environmental Sustainability Task Force.

(Erastus Asare Donkor, by the way, deserves the nation's gratitude for being brave enough to give such a frank account of what he witnessed. He certainly deserves protection from our Government, which cherishes freedom of the media.) The video can be watched by clicking here:

Military officers protect illegal miners in Manso forest despite government’s caution -

According to the text accompanying the video, “Despite the withdrawal of all military personnel from mining sites across the country, Luv News has evidence of over 30 fully armed military men protecting miners degrading the forest of Manso in the Ashanti region.

“During the team’s journey to this part of Manso and its forests, scenes of destruction and degradation were visible from miles away. Abandoned pits and mining settlements dotted the road leading into what is left of the once lush forest.

“After navigating through the dangerous terrain of open pits filled with water, [the Government’s] Environmental Sustainability Task Force, together with Luv FM’s Erastus Asare Donkor, arrived at the mining settlement, deep within the forest enclave.

Seven Chinese nationals were quickly located and arrested.”Repeat that: in this year, 2021, seven Chinese nationals were located and arrested at a galamsey site in Ghana! As the French would say, Plus ça change!

While the Task Force was conducting a search of the site, “a young military officer drove into the compound in a pick-up truck.” He “started making some calls to his superiors. Within 30 minutes, the entire place was crawling with over thirty angry armed military men.”

The report goes on: “For hours, members of the Task Force were surrounded and prevented from moving their vehicles by armed soldiers and a backup of known faces from the Delta Force group, led by the owner of Heritage Imperial company, Donald Entsuah.

“There was a near clash between the Ministry of Environment’s Sustainability Task force and the military, who are allegedly [providing] security for the miners.

The [seven arrested] Chinese were subsequently released. The news team was prevented from filming anything from this time onwards, as the[military team] overpowered the Task Force and took over.”

Things became physical as the macho men assaulted the driver of LuvFm’s Erastus Asare Donkor, forcibly taking the keys to his vehicle and damaging his equipment. “Under the watch of the military men, they broke our windscreen and side mirrors. [The] owner of the site, Donald Entsuah, ordered the military to delete all footage from our camera and our personal phones, says the report.”

Donald Entsuah “claimed he had all the documents [that give] him full access to mine in the forest, but the Minister for Environment clarified the licence he had”. The Minister is quoted as stating that “Heritage Imperial only has a prospecting licence and so it is mining illegally in the forests. It is supposed to be drilling testing samples to be presented in the process of getting a mining permit.”

The report concludes, philosophically: “But in all [of this], the best judge is the environment, which remains with huge gullies and [water-filled] pits.”

What an extraordinary story. Clearly, two entities, both armed and paid by the state of Ghana, were working at cross-purposes at the site in question. The Environmental Sustainability Task Force has been financed and given authority by the state, through the Ministry of Science and the Environment, to stop galamsey anywhere it may find it, And what was taking place at the site is precisely the same as the galamsey that is duplicated in hundreds of ugly, moon-landscape sites dotted all over the Ghanaian countryside.

There is no difference, as the video shows, between what was going on at Manso and what goes on elsewhere, and which the Government has been spending money in trying to stop, with such Task Forces as “Operation Vanguard” and Galamstop over many months. Same excavators; same chanfans,

You see, “men of influence” within our political system have been resisting every attempt to put an end to, or stop, galamsey. When the Government, in recognition of their need, gives so-called “small-scale miners” permits to obtain relatively small mining concessions designated for “community mining” (after the Government has tried to train and “vet” the so-called small-scale miners) they use the permits granted to them by the Government as a cover to carry out galamsey at its ugly worst. They unilaterally expand whatever acreage is specified for them, in the full knowledge that they can bribe their way out of any situation that arises if they get “caught”

And somehow, they do sometimes manage to obtain military protection – as in the case reported in the video! So they create an invidious situation whereby the Government appears to be duplicitous in “approving” of galamsey, whilst at the same time, trying to stop or, at the very least, transform it.

The Government must be warned that this situation is untenable. First of all, it has to clarify the situation. Otherwise, such dangerous incidents as that at Manso will continue to happen and may proliferate. The Government will find that it is not wise to brush aside or sweep under the carpet, an incident in which two armed teams, each believing to be doing the will of the Government, nearly opened fire on each other. Certainly, not with the Parliament we've got now!

It is good that the Ghana Armed Forces says it is investigating the matter. The results of the investigation and the action the Armed Forces command takes to prevent the recurrence of such clashes of authority will be awaited with great interest by the millions of honest citizens who have been asked by the Government in words upon words to help end the galamsey menace.

The most important question the investigation should answer is this: Who ordered the military to the site, after being tipped off by the “young officer”?

Has the Government learnt nothing from the incident in which the suspicion and misunderstanding surrounding the activities of Major Adam Mahama allegedly contributed to his tragic killing at Denkyira Obuasi, in the Central Region, on 29 May 29, 2017?

The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo sincerely wants a “conversation” to be carried out in the nation about galamsey. But if he looks at the pictures in this video and the many others that are available on the Internet; if he recalls the number of times Chinese nationals have been caught at galamsey sites and yet Chinese nationals continue to be caught at galamsey sites; he is bound to realise that the perpetrators of such wanton destruction against our water-bodies and forest resources, against the admonitions of the highest in the land, have already signalled, by their ruthless actions, that they value gold more than “conversations”.

When they are seriously talking of gold, then the President is talking about how their fellow citizens and the unborn generations that will follow their fellow citizens, need water to drink in order to continue to exist? Tweaaa!.

Who does not know that human beings need good clean water in order to stay alive? The galamseyers know that. Yet they are determined to defy the state by any means necessary. Including deception.

Deception? Yes. They want the Government to believe that they want to “go legal” and do “mining, small!”. “We are all your loyal friends, you know”? is the complaisant mantra they recite to the Government. “We just want to feed our families.”

But there are countless thousands of other Ghanaians who work to feed their families, without “flying” excavators into rivers and forests at night, or importing Chinese collaborators.

The hope of the galamseyers is that they can use the desire of the President to be fair to everyone to blackmail the Government (pencilling in a promise of “votes” or financial contributions to election campaigns) into closing its eyes to the cruel devastation of water-bodies and farmlands that galamseyinevitably causes.

And they want to wear the Government down. If the Government refuses “political advice” and intervenes, the galamseyers will bribe, or somehow infiltrate the Government's own systems to use force to frighten off the Government's own established Task Forces! In other words, they will employ “government to catch government!” (as happened at Manso). Or as the Mafia's Don Corleone would put it, they would make the Government “an offer it cannot refuse!”

I pray the Government to recognise that it would be silly for a woman to enter into a “conversation” with her would-be rapist (if she is fortunate enough to figure out what he has in mind!)

No! She runs away from him and if she is a woman of integrity, she takes steps to inform the police and to provide them with concrete evidence to enable them to arrest and prosecute him. For if she manages to run away from him but does nothing about the threat he poses to other women, he most certainly will seek other women to rape. And she would be morally responsible if he succeeds in raping them, wouldn't she?

This is the situation from hell that our Government faces. If it chooses the "conversation" method, instead of cracking down hard on the galamseyers with the powers it has already given itself, in the Mines and Minerals Amendment Act of 2019, it will have failed abysmally in its duty to the people of Ghana and their unborn generations. The people's welfare – and the continued existence of their offspring – is not, and cannot be negotiable.

Cameron Duodu
Cameron Duodu, © 2021

Martin Cameron Duodu is a United Kingdom-based Ghanaian novelist, journalist, editor and broadcaster. After publishing a novel, The Gab Boys, in 1967, Duodu went on to a career as a journalist and editorialist.Column: CameronDuodu

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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