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24.09.2019 Feature Article

If You 'Kill' A Snake And You Don't Cut Off Its Head....

If You 'Kill' A Snake And You Don't Cut Off Its Head....

The Ghanaian proverb above, which states (in full) that "if you kill a snake and you don't cut off its head, then you haven't really killed it at all," is a warning by our ancestors against carrying out half measures. You will see its relevance when you read this article to the end.

Now. I have been asked whether it was 'democratic' for the security detail of the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to prevent a Ghanaian student in the US from entering a hall where the President was addressing a public meeting.

The question ignores a truism about modern statecraft. A President's security detail are trained to protect the President AT ALL COSTS. Thus, if they determine that an individual is obsessively pursuing the President -- and apparently, this chap in the US had followed the President from one college to another one elsewhere -- they cannot make assumptions about his motives. Sure, the US is one of the most democratic countries in the word. But it is also the country where two very popular Presidents, Abraham Lincoln and John F Kennedy, were taken out by hostile elements.

It has also been suggested that whilst in the US, the President should not have admitted that it had been a mistake for his Government to deport Aisha Huang, the Chinese “galamsey queen” whose trial was halted midway whilst it was taking place in Accra.

Again, the question is a moot one: Government decisions usually arise from an exercise of options. That's why some arrested spies are allowed to return to their countries without being executed (for example) although most countries prescribe the death penalty for espionage. Sometimes, exercising an option obliges one to carry out a horrendous “Hobson's choice”. But it has to be done.

As for admitting a “mistake”, it must be recognised that only really “big” people can engage in that. Only an untutored mind can imagine that every Cabinet would always unite in action, or in pursuing policy. Debate and compromise are the bread and butter of politics at the highest level and mistakes often get into the mix. To admit that a mistake has occurred is therefore to acknowledge being human. Inevitably.

If we are humble enough to look inwards into our own lives, there is no way we cannot find human weaknesses. It should therefore not be surprising to find similar weaknesses in our fellow humans. If they admit – in hindsight – hat they had been wrong, we should applaud them for being big enough to admit their mistakes, and not criticise them. Of course, if the same mistake is repeated again and again, then something is seriously wrong.

Our Government has an opportunity to demonstrate to all and sundry that it will not mortgage the continued existence of Ghana's water-bodies to any person or country. It was extremely outrageous to read that a few days after the President had made strong public statements extolling the passing into law of the Minerals and Mining Amendment Act, 2019, TWENTY Chinese nationals had been arrested in different raids at Mpohor and Prestea Huni-Valley, in the Western Region. Two other Chinese nationals were also arrested at Ntibroso in the Atwima Mponua district.

Excavators, generators, and water-pumps were seized from the arrested persons, which makes it quite clear that they were engaged in galamsey. More disturbing was the seizure of pump-action guns and ammunition. I have asked before and I ask again: against whom at all were these guns meant to be used, in a country which has specifically established “task forces” to arrest illegal miners? Are the members of ”Operation Vanguard” supposed to be bullet-proof? Yet mention Chinese involvement in galamsey and some persons in influential positions in our country lose all sense of these realities that confront us.

The presence of the guns should put paid to the argument that the Chinese nationals are only the technical advisors of Ghanaian galamseyers. No adult who is prepared to wield deadly guns to resist arrest can deny his guilt. If one were engaged in a lawful enterprise, why would one need to be armed?

There were laws against the illegal possession of arms in this country before the recent amendment prescribing mandatory minimum prison sentences for galamseyers was enacted, But I can't remember any Chinese or Ghanaian galamsey operator appearing before a court specifically on a charge of illegal possession of firearms.

Obviously, the police and our prosecution service have been “laundering” galamsey offences before arraigning galamseyers before the courts.

Many people suspect that the prosecuting authorities have been doing this because they take money from the galamseyers and their sponsors. But they could equally well be going soft on the galamseyers for political reasons, both at the internal and external levels. Well, the Government has now shown the galamseyers a mailed fist. The President has denounced the ineffectiveness of our law enforcement institutions as stemming from institutional “delinquency” and it is up to them to demonstrate that they want to redeem their image,

The Ministers of the Interior and of Justice, in particular, must realise that they are in the firing line , when it comes to the President's endeavour to rid the country of institutional “delinquency”. For the power of the judiciary to frustrate the objectives of the Government, with regard to galamsey, has been deftly removed by the enactment of the Minerals and Mining Amendment Act. So, if galamsey does not now cease, we shall know exactly who is responsible for the failure.

In this connection, I would like to reiterate something that I said in my article, entitled: “LAWS ARE MERE WORDS WRITTEN ON PAPER” (The Ghanaian Times 17 September 2019): namely, that court cases can serve as a means of educating the public. If I were the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, I would go to court myself to prosecute the 20 Chinese arrested on Friday, 13th September 2019.

I would insist on the police giving me all the facts of the case, from which I would construct a narrative that is simple and clear, and which would be streamed on live television. GBCTV would be advised to play the tape quite often. This used to be the practice carried out by President Kwame Nkrumah's Attorney-General, Mr Bashiru Kwaw-Swanzy, and it was most effective in educating the public on sensitive offences, such as treason.

It should be emulated, for galamsey is, essentially, treason against Ghana's unborn generations and should be treated exactly as if it were treason against our current dispensation.

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. Author column: CameronDuodu

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