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24.04.2019 Feature Article

When Oh When Will Ghana Reassert Its Common Sense?

When Oh When Will Ghana Reassert Its Common Sense?

IT was opposite that the 20thanniversary of the Asantehene's accession to the Golden Stool should have coincided with Easter Sunday, 21 April, 2019, the day of commemorating the “Resurrection” of Jesus.

As I watched the procession of chiefs and their retinues at Dwabrem, Manhyia Palace, to celebrate Akwasidae KƐseƐ, I could not but wonder at the almost spontaneous discipline with which every person at the gathering took his or her place. Such a huge crowd, and yet, everyone knew where to go and what to do!

It was a magnificent show. And Otumfuo Osei Tutu The Second demonstrated great imagination in compiling his guest list. The most impressive presence was that of the Vice-President of Suriname, His Excellency Ashwin Adhin, resplendently turned out in an outfit familiar to Ghanaian eyes.

Why was his presence so special? It's like this: there are many people in Suriname who speak Akan and observe Akan customs, traditions and even festivals. But they did not go to Suriname voluntarily. And it was good to see that despite the horrendous tribulations that took their ancestors there hundreds of years ago, the people still treasure their blood ties with us. Indeed, they welcomed Otumfuo himself to Suriname with fanfare in November 2018! Well, they were now crowning the relationship by sending their Vice-President at the head of a 15-man delegation to represent them at the 20th anniversary celebrations of Otumfuo.

It was also a day to remember for other reasons. Neighbours of the Asantes who, in the past, would have passed “the other way” if they saw an Asante coming, were now the “bosom” friends of the Asante King. And the sitting President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was, himself, heading a “presidential presence” that also comprised both President John Kufuor and President John Mahama.

I wanted my heart to be completely satisfied with everything I took in at the turnout. But I could not help asking myself, “How can a people who have managed to preserve such gifts as -- the great artistry on display – the invention of the drum language; the crafting of horns that accurately imitate human speech; alchemy that transforms gold into the most ornate ornaments for the arms, wrists, neck and skull; (ornaments that, by the way, declaim sagacious proverbs!) – how could such a people have sat down and watched their own sons and daughters bring in foreigners and work in tandem with them to destroy the rivers and streams that give them life?

I asked: what would Okomfo Anokye have said, if he had been told that the riverbed of the Pra or Offin or Oti, had been turned upside down and inside out with machines called excavators, and that chemicals infinitely more deadly than the menstrual emissions of women, were now polluting Tanoh kronkron? Mercury; cyanide, thiosulphate; copper: these now constitute a good part of the drinking water of Osei Tutu's grandchildren! And – ALAS -- we sit down with equanimity and watch it happen?

How my blood cried for the asafo and kyirem semi-military groups bequeathed to us by our forefathers to be our first line of defence against invaders and nation-wreckers.

In the era of our forefathers, if any person harmed the collective good, he or she was openly tried and if found guilty, punished according to the well-known laws of the time. Sometimes, the punishment would extend to the culprit's ENTIRE family! It may not have been altogether fair, but who was to persuade anyone that it was a good thing to allow one person to endanger the lives of a million or two million people?

Armed robbers and wayfarers; rapists; kidnappers; murderers and spies knew what awaited them if and when they were caught. Today, it is the would-be punishers who rather assist the law-breakers.

We have sat down for the Ambassador of a country that knows the practice of diplomacy inside out, to come here and tell us that we are colluding with some nationals of his own country to destroy our own nation! This was no other than the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Shi Ting Wang, who, speaking at a lecture organised by the Confucius Institute at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) on 16 April 2019, rightly called on Ghanaians to acknowledge their role in the galamsey “menace”, if the fight against it was to be successful.

Chinese nationals could not have identified Ghana’s gold concessions without the support of local people, he said. “We don’t know where your gold is!” (the Ambassador reiterated). “We don’t issue visas too for the Chinese people coming to Ghana. Ghanaians issue the visas. Ghanaians aid the Chinese to where they can find your gold. Why are Chinese not doing illegal mining in South Africa, where there is also a lot of gold? [It's]because they cannot do that there ! The locals don’t support such illegalities,” the Ambassador pointed out in a matter-of-fact manner, as could be expected[C1] of one schooled in socialist realism.

Is Senior Minister Osafo Marfo listening? People in other countries don't punish law-breakers because doing so can bring them “cash”. They punish law-breakers in order to warn others not to break the law!

In Ghana, it's those who make the law, or people close to those who make or enforce the law, who assist other people to break it. We have the word of the top man in the Forestry Commission for that!

Indeed, it is widely known that the personnel of Operation Vanguard, as well as the Task Force of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM) have faced immense frustration from the police and the prosecutors in the Attorney-General's office, with regard to the prosecution of those arrested for engaging in galamsey. Magistrates and judges to whom such law-breakers are taken are also notorious for giving them (the offenders) a mere slap on the wrists.

Unfortunately, all this is causing the Government of Ghana to be mocked at, with respect to its enforcement of the anti-galamsey laws. An MP blithely states that the IMCIM is “illegal” and should be dissolved! So it’s red tape that can save us now, is it? Ha -- a former boss of the discredited Minerals Commission, who presided over the illegal issue of concessions to gold-miners without Parliamentary approval, contrary to the provisions of our Constitution, also says that the licensing of miners should be reverted back to the old system that reeked of corruption and incompetence. These guys have no shame, do they? The cheek of it!

The Government needs to quickly stop the nonsense emanating from predictably hostile quarters against IMCIM by (1) beefing up the anti-galamsey operation with the passing legislation, under a certificate of urgency, that makes the breach of galamsey laws punishable by a mandatory prison sentence of 5 years or more and (2) setting up a special prosecuting unit, made up largely of prosecuting lawyers recruited from outside the public service, to prosecute galamsey offenders quickly and ruthlessly. The galamsey calamity is certainly more destructive to the national interest than the offenses which a Special Prosecutor has been appointed to detect and prosecute, no?

It has to be repeated and repeated and repeated that the destruction of our drinking water poses an existential threat to our children's children. And we must not falter in eliminating that threat.

The reason why IMCIM is facing attacks from so many fronts at the same time is obvious: the NDC has perceived that Anas and others have turned IMCIM into a soft target. But I am sure that our wily President will read between the lines and conclude sagely that, in fact, the attacks on IMCIM are the best evidence that IMCIM does stand a chance of stamping out galamsey.

Yes – IMCIM's sophisticated and ultra-modern approach to the job in hand is striking fear into the selfish gold-diggers. And so -- it must “pull for the shore!”

IMCIM, therefore, needs the people's staunch support against -- undermining by unpatriotic elements who want to score a political points, whilst ignoring the lethal existential threat posed to our nation’s future by the activities of unscrupulous galamseyers and their ilk.

Cameron Duodu
Cameron Duodu, © 2019

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.

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