28.02.2003 Feature Article

Elegy From The Bowels Of Kwaebibirem

Elegy From The Bowels Of Kwaebibirem
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Rhapsodies On Kindness - Verse 17 Farewell, Kyebi's bauxite! They will mine Kyebi's bauxite. They will bring in foreign investors and pay Ghanaian workers 2 dollars a day to mine Kyebi's bauxite. Then they will take itt away to make aluminum for some foreign nation to fabricate into busses, trains and airplanes. They will bring in bulldozers, tear down the ancient forests and displace thousands off their ancestral land. And the dust from the red earth from the mines shall settle on sleepy, ancient, Kyebi. And for the next 200 years, as they dig the living soul from Kwaebibirem, Kyebi shall march the destructive path of Prestea, Tarkwa, Akwatia Obuasi, Nsuta, Konongo and others, with their small posh cores of expatriate and senior officers' quarters surrounded by the slums of townsfolk, miners, hookers and disease. And many are them that will applaud this as "development"! But my kinsmen will sit under the shade tree, sipping their palm wine, and take in all the new wonders of development and nonchalantly pontificate, "Akyea nso emmuye" It's crooked but not broken. And we shall come down from the mountains in Akwadum, and crowd around Awo Sika's palm wine spot, and as we watch the red dust from the mines settle on our town, we shall mourn thus, Me ye Okwantu nii, (I am an eternal sojourner)

Ma nante ma bre . (Fatigued from life's incessant struggles)

Na m'adesowa a ye me den oh, ( Overwhelmed by my burdens)

Na maye den na m'ako fie, (Oh, how shall I reach my journey's end,)

Nyame bekyere. (God will provide the way.) Any talk about mining Kyebi's bauxite fills us with great trepidation because the State's insatiable lust for foreign exchange will destroy the Akyims most useful natural resource, and bargain it away to some foreign investors for a mess of pottage. Over the last few years, there has been a glut in aluminum production in the world, especially with the growth in aluminum recycling, and Kyebi's bauxite has lain safe in the vaults of Kwaebibirem. So anytime a Ghanaian government pays lip service to mining Kyebi's bauxite, as they all have, it sends shivers down my spine... And that is exactly what happened, when The Deputy Minister of the Interior, announced at Atibie recently that, the Ghanaian State is looking for foreign investors to mine Kyebi's bauxite, which have an estimated 200 year life span." To the unsuspecting, including many of the good people of Okyeman, such a venture will bring untold benefits of development to the deprived Oman. And we know many will accuse us of being anti-development, but really, who stands to gain from mining bauxite from Okyeman? The Ghanaian State or the Ghanaian people, primarily, the people who inhabit the Okyeman space? The history of mining in Ghana has been a collusion of State officials, foreign investors and a few local chiefs to amass wealth from naturals resources held in trust for the people, leaving the mining communities impoverished, or at best severely retarded in their growth. And the Ghanaian State has backed this claim up with a Constitution that provides that all natural wealth underneath and above the soil be held in trust by the President of Ghana for the people. In trust, just like we did when we watched Ofori Atta squander our funds in pointless litigation over the Akawatia diamond mines. In trust, just like when the goldsmith's son seized all of Kyebi lands and banished the king because CPP politics could not tolerate dissent. Me ye Okwantu nii maante mabre! And indeed our's is a long journey. But we are not alone. We cry with the people of Konongo in Asante Akyem whose gold deposits are exploited by the State and foreigners, and whose Galamsey boys have, as an act of charity, been apportioned a small plot by the State to find some 'living'. We cry because in the midst of the abundance being taken from their lands, the town does not have access to clean drinking water or decent housing for mining personnel.. Na m'adesowa aye me den We share the burdens of our kinsmen from Ntronang whose virgin forests are about to be carved up by Australians for the next 10 years to plunder their gold, so that Ghana will obtain foreign exchange. They will watch as Ghana is called a success story in gold production, whilst they live in slums and wait for dollar remittances from relatives abroad. Even the snails that have become a hot export commodity, a product of their forests, would be denied them, and beloved Birim, the spring of life, shall be polluted with the heavy metals used for winning gold. Na mayeden mako fie! Like the brothers and sister from Prestea and Tarkwa whose sporadic rebellions against the displacements, pollution and ecological damage by the mining companies and the collusion of state officials, we have no home. Like the brothers and sisters in Kubi, near Obuasi, who brave death in 'galamsey'trenches to get a piece of their own gold from Asante Goldfields Corporation, and are continually harassed by State security officers. They too have no home. And only God will provide for them. Nyame Bekyere. Who will fight for us if we do not fight for ourselves; if we do not demand a sizable chunk of the wealth that they want to take from our lands; to benefit our own people instead of benefiting the 'foreign exchange' people? Who will fight for us so that, as part of the mining agreement, Kyebi becomes the center of aluminum production and fabrication in Africa? Who will fight for us so giant factories and assembly plants spring up in Kyebi as a result of the availability of this vital resource? Our chiefs won't fight for us. Nana Okyehene is busy feuding with Ministers of State for interfering in his Forestry Commission. He is busy organizing marathons and AIDS Awareness programs. They will take the bauxite from right under his nose, and he won't even 'see'. Or maybe they will build him a new palace so he can't 'see'. But still when the bulldozers come, ands they start tearing down Kwaebibirem, and they force us all from our homes to relocate, we shall congregate for one last stand at Potroase, at the curve on the Accra - Kumasi road, where the Big Skeleton sign board used to sit warning drivers about death in the hairpin bend around the cliff. By then we shall have nothing to lose, for we would have become like the orphaned rooster, left alone to face the vicissitudes of life. Like the wayside plantain tree that sits by the path, forever condemned to a stunted growth by passers-by who pluck its leaves for shade, and wrapping. There we shall 'do and die' to protect the source of Birim and Densu, which lie in the lush forests of Potroase. And Wofa Bedu, the local drunk, shall pontificate about the three classes of humans, "Nnipa, Nnimpae and Nnipato". (human, humanoid, and Hollow human). And we shall watch them all, Nnipa, Nnimpae and Nnipato, as they negotiate Airport's (Nickname for Potroase) treacherous curve in their SUVs and Mercedes cars. And if there is no more palm wine because all the palm trees have been cleared for bauxite mining, we shall dip ourselves in the bauxite mud, and fling ourselves at the Skeleton on the sign board, still singing, Me ye Okwantu nii

Ma nante ma bre

Na m'adesowa a ye me den o

Na maye den na m'ako fie.

The Wofa Bedu, will, as usual, hit his high-pitched descant for the last line, as only he can.


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