Feature Article of 2017-06-19

Was Upper Denkyira West DCE right after all?

It was Tuesday 30th May 2017. Many Ghanaians had woken up to viral videos of the gruesome killing of a soldier. That soldier turned out to be Captain Maxwell Adam Mahama, now Major. The news, in no time, spread like wild fire on both social and traditional media. People started demanding more information on the gruesome act and the videos that emerged heightened the anger among Ghanaians and the quest to ascertain what led to this wicked act. He has finally been given a befitting burial, but certainly, his wife, family, friends and well wishers need closure. This is likely to happen if the perpetrators are found guilty and jailed. I am writing this piece with a lot of hesitation, especially as the incident is still fresh in the minds of people, and so asking some critical questions would be interpreted as being insensitive. Indeed, I had these same questions when the story was unfolding, but I decided not to broach the subject because Major Mahama had not been buried. It might still not be the most appropriate time, but please permit me to revisit this matter. The two sides to Major Mahama’s killing There are two sides to the whole story about Major Maxwell Mahama that we must take notice of: 1. Knowing what really happened that Monday morning and the perpetrators behind his dastardly killing; and 2. What the military detachment was really doing in the Upper Denkyira West District. The first point we believe, the Ghana Police Service have done some really good work with it. They have so far arrested about 50 suspects, several of them have been remanded in police custody. That is worth commending because it will teach some Ghanaians who think they are the best judges in situations of lawlessness some good lesson. That said, the second point is of greater importance in this article. What was the military detachment really doing in the district? We were all grieving and asking questions pertaining to the killing of Major Mahama. The award winning Citi Breakfast Show was also seeking answers. The host, Bernard Avle, first spoke to the Director of Public Affairs of the Ghana Armed Forces Col. Aggrey Quarshie. Bernard asked Col Quarshie, what the army knew about the developing story at the time. He narrated the popular ‘jogging story’ and the visit by the Chief of Defense Staff to Denkyira-Obuasi, the accident scene. Bernard followed up with the critical question; what was the military detachment doing there? Bernard Avle: What was the detachment doing in the town, Denkyira-Obuasi? - Col. Quarshie Aggrey: The detachment is deployed at Diaso on an internal security operation like we have personnel deployed across the country. Some are doing anti-galamsey duties, some are doing anti-lumbering duties, others too are making sure that chieftaincy disputes, and land disputes, all those things are going under control. So they were deployed there for anti-galamsey operation….The conversation continued… One thing readers must take note of is that, Col. Aggrey emphatically said the detachment was there on official duties. This is point one. After Bernard Avle finished with that interview. He then spoke to the uncle of the deceased. His uncle also told Bernard that “he [Major Maxwell] was there on an anti-galamsey mission”. So according to the family too, Major Mahama was doing anti-galamsey operations. The military’s account corroborates the family’s. At this point, listeners of the program were convinced Major Mahama has been killed whilst on anti-galamsey operations. Still following the Citi Breakfast Show, Bernard also interviewed the DCE for Upper Dekyira West, Daniel Appianing, in whose jurisdiction the killing of Major Mahama took place. Bernard asked the DCE: Bernard: So as DCE, were you aware of the military presence in the district? Were you informed of what they were doing? DCE: …“The truth of the matter is that, in my district, there is no military detachment here to fight galamsey as I speak to you. We do not have any military barracks in the district as well. We share boundary with part of Western Region; that’s the Wassa part. There is this large acre of a forest that for the past one and half to 2 years, some people entered the forest, started mining; that’s small scale mining, they have done it up till today as I am talking to you. When they started this mining, this small scale mining or illegal mining or galamsey or whatever you call it, they have been protected heavily by military personnel. Not one or two or three military personnel, heavy military personnel have been protecting these people for this one or two years that I am talking about. Before I became DCE, I have been here just two weeks ago, but I have been in the district so I know what I am talking about. That forest which shares boundaries with Wassa is the Upper Wassa Forest. I have about two or three communities that share boundaries. They are affected by the activities of this. In other words, they are farmers. They farm around the forest. So we are affected directly. The forest is not necessarily in the district, part of it, or portions of it eats into our district here. That is what has been going on. A lot of security issues have popped up. At a point in time, there were demonstrations by some of the communities around because they didn’t understand why Chinese should be in the forest mining…” The DCE is saying literally that, the account from the family and the military is untrue, and that, Major Maxwell Mahama was protecting an illegality in the forest reserve. But, was Daniel Appianing right? Let’s get into this objectively! Was the DCE’s account correct? In the evening of the same day, Col. Aggrey Quarshie, the uncle to Major Mahama, and the DCE, spoke on the same network. Citi FM’s Umaru Sanda Amadu called the Central Regional Police Commander, DCOP Ampabeni on Eyewitness News, to seek more answers on what the Police knew about the military detachment in the region. The following is what ensued: Umaru Sanda: …So what is the understanding that the police in the Central Region have as far as the presence of these military personnel in the region is? DCOP Ampabeni: The military high command, they have posted this military people to C&G Mining Limited [The actual name of the company is C&G Alaska Company Limited]. So they are legally based in the Central Region, Wassa West, Denkyira West. But there is an extension of the forest, the area that they do, most of them are within the Western Region, so that is the little contention when it comes to the supervision of the place.” Umaru Sanda: When were they [the military] deployed? DCOP Ampabeni: I think last year December. [Take note of the month] Umaru Sanda: How many were deployed? DCOP Ampabeni: The military have their own deployment plan. They do it contingent by contingent, so they did not tell exactly, but they are many. [Interview continues]. Let’s put the pieces together. The Central Regional Police Commander is saying the military was in his region protecting C&G Aleska Company Limited. His statement is in sharp contrast to that of the military and the family. So according to DCOP Ampabeni, Major Mahama and his contingent were protecting a mining company, not doing anti-galamsey. DCOP Ampabeni’s account somewhat supports portions of the DCE’s account. So, DCOP Ampabeni and the DCE appear to be on one side, whilst the military and the family are also on the other side. DCOP Ampabeni is the man in charge of security in the Central Region. If the military’s anti galamsey, anti-lumbering and chieftaincy reasons for their presence in the region is anything to go by, DCOP Ampabeni would have known about it. Indeed, as head of security, what he knows is what he had already told Umaru Sanda above. So we believe DCOP Ampabeni’s account. But let’s do a bit of digging around C&G Aleska Company Limited, the company which the military detachment was offering protection to, according to DCOP Ampabeni. Who is C&G Aleska Company Limited? The first time we heard of the company was when it had sued Multimedia Group and Adom Fm’s Captain Smart on 5th December, 2016 for defamatory comments. In the said suit, the supporting statement of claim noted that the company “… was granted a prospecting license by government of Ghana…to undertake prospecting activities in the Upper Wassa Forest Reserve” [in the Wassa Amenfi Central District of the Western Region.] This statement suggests that the company is a small scale mining firm carrying out mineral prospecting activities “legally” in the Upper Wassa Forest Reserve. Does this statement have any similarity with what the DCE said? Hear the DCE again, “there is this large acre of a forest that for the past one and half to 2 years now, some people entered the forest, started mining small scale mining…that forest which shares boundaries with the Wassa is the Upper Wassa Forest…” Let’s go on further! Was C&G Aleska Company Limited using security men in its operations? It’s a big yes! How? In the statement of claim that was attached to the writ of summons from C&G Aleska Company Limited to Multimedia and Captain Smart of Adom Fm I referenced earlier, the company stated that “in the course of time, it [C&G Aleska Company Limited] found out that gangs of “galamseyers” had trespassed the concession and were engaged in galamsey activities. It therefore made reports to the security agencies and sought assistance to flush out the illegal miners, who included Chinese nationals”. It is not clear which of the security agencies the company sought to use to help flush the alleged galamseyers out, but the Central Regional Police Commander DCOP Ampabeni provides some useful leads. In the interview with Umaru Sanda quoted above, DCOP Ampabeni said “the military high command, they have posted this military people to C&G [Aleska Company Limited]. Does this also have any similarity with what the DCE said? Hear the DCE again. “…When they started this mining, this small scale mining or illegal mining or Galamsey or whatever you call it, they have been protected heavily by military personnel. Not one or two or three military personnel, heavy military personnel. Was C&G Alaska’s operation in the forest reserve “legal”? The answer is yes! C&G Aleska Company Limited’s operation in the Upper Wassaw Forest Reserve is “legal”, as far as the government is concerned. There are documents to prove that. There are documents from the Mineral’s Commission to show and that of the Forestry Commission granting permission to the company to enter the forest reserve the DCE referenced. The company at least, per their statement of claim referenced earlier, also secured the military protection legally. But wait! There is another interesting twist to this story. Legal for 38 days The Forestry Commission’s permission for the company to prospect for gold in the Upper Wassa Forest Reserve was supposed to be legal until 8th August, 2018 starting September 1st, 2016. But, on 30th January, 2017, the Minerals Commission which had granted the company a Mining Lease on 23rd December, 2016; after 38 days into the company’s operations in the forest, wrote to withdraw their license. The Minerals Commission’s Chief Executive Dr. Tony Aubyn has written to the company “to cease all forms of operations including mining with immediate effect pending the conclusion of further investigations into C&G’s operations on the lease area, failing which the [Minerals] Commission will take any steps it deems appropriate without further recourse to you.” But why will the Minerals Commission write to revoke the license of the company 38 days after it has received legal documents from same commission? Dr. Tony Aubyn’s letter explained why. The letter said in paragraph 2 that “subsequent to this, C&G has been granted a Mining Lease [ML] dated 23rd December, 2016. [Notice that the police commander mentioned the military was deployed last December] However, after the grant of a mining lease, the mineral right holder is required to obtain Operating Permits from Inspectorate Division of the [Minerals] Commission and Environmental Permit from the EPA, and where the mineral operations are to be conducted in a forest reserve, the mineral right holder is required to obtain a permit from the Forestry Commission before mining operations can be undertaken. However, investigations indicate that C&G is undertaking mining activities illegally without obtaining all the requisite permits and approvals”. So the company’s operations with respect to mining in the reserve became illegal. From that point, its operations could be likened to Galamsey! The company was asked to stop its operations in January 30th 2017. Major Maxwell Mahama, according to DCOP Ampabeni was protecting C&G Aleska Company Limited when he was killed by some residents of Denkyira-Obuasi on May 29th 2017; 129 clear days after the operations of the company became illegal. So can we say the military was protecting an illegality? Was the military protection for C&G Aleska in contravention with the government’s stop Galamsey campaign? Assume what Col. Aggrey Quarshie said that Major Maxwell Mahama was doing; anti Galamsey operations, as corroborated by the company’s reason to seek security service’s assistance, is correct, how about after the company had its license declared illegal? But more seriously, C&G Aleska Company Limited is into mining and mining support services. They are also dealers in gold and other precious minerals. It will be surprising they were still receiving security protection too, if the nature of their operations falls within small scale mining category. They are not members of the Chamber of Mines and also not listed on the Ghana Stock exchange. So obviously it could be in the small scale mining category. If C&G Aleska is a small scale mining company, why was it still operating to warrant continuous security protection when the government had placed a ban on all forms of small scale mining at the time Major Mahama was murdered? Assume again that what the military was doing for C&G were all legal, did they not take any cue from Lands and Natural Resources Minister John Peter Amewu’s encounter with the same military who were giving protection to another mining company in the Ashanti Region? Mind you, even before that encounter, there is currently a ban on all forms of small scale mining activities in the country, and had they adhere to Mr. Amewu’s encounter, Major Captain Mahama wouldn’t have died because, he would have been sent home before the very Monday he was killed. That Amewu’s encounter happened on 22nd May, 2017, 7 clear days before the lynching of the young soldier. Why was Upper Denkyira West DCE suspended? Now, if all these accounts are true, why was the Upper Denkyira West DCE, who sought to clarify what the military was “really” doing in the district, suspended? Was he suspended for speaking the truth in the heat of the moment, or he was really found guilty? I still have a question for the military on what the PRO said the detachment was doing there. Could it be that the military was trying to avoid a second “embarrassment” that came upon it, when Lands and Natural Resource Minister John Peter Amewu questioned the military over providing security for a mining company which was operating illegally? What really was major Mahama doing in the Upper Denkyira West district? Col. Aggrey Quarshie said in the interview with Bernard Avle that the detachment was there on official duties! Draw your own conclusions!Source: Obrempong Yaw Ampofo
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