Opinions Fri, 7 May 2021

Ghanaian journalists and the anti-galamsey campaign

ON 17. December 2019, I published an article entitled :

“If I Had Enough Resources To Award A Meaningful Prize!”

I began that article by pointing out that “in recent articles, I have been crying quietly in my heart over the fact that although Ghana's water-bodies are being totally destroyed by galamsey operators, our media are only paying scattered and sporadic attention to the problem.”

In fact, the situation was much worse than I realised. Some big moguls in the Ghanaian media had formed a “Media Coalition Against galamsey”. But just as the Coalition was being taken seriously by the authorities, its campaign mysteriously fizzled out. (Like many of the other well-intentioned campaigns that have fall into the “Black Hole of Ghana”!)

In the article mentioned above, I said:

“I have offered the media several suggestions on what they should be finding out about [about how galamsey continues to be so successfully organised on the blind side of our numerous investigative bodies]. For instance: why those who bail galamsey operators arrested by Operation Vanguard personnel, are never named and shamed.

“This conspiracy of silence” seems to be perpetrated by the prosecution and judicial authorities, who never mention the bailers' names, despite the fact that naming them would deter others from offering bail assistance to the miscreants. They refuse to do do this with the passive acquiescence of our media! For the ability of the arrested people to contact influential people to bail them out, provides incontrovertible, prima facie evidence that those influential people must know something about how the galamsey personnel are recruited, equipped and paid.”

Why don't the media pursue information about those who assist galamseyers to obtain bail? Is there a law against naming those who bail suspects who are being prosecuted in the courts? I've never heard of such a law?

WHY, in fact, do the courts offer the galamseyers bail? Surely the magistrates and judges live in this country and are aware not only of the destruction being , in the first wrought against our rivers, water-bodies and forests? They also know that our President has publicly accused them of being “delinquent” in their treatment of galamsey offenders found guilty by them?

This point assumes some importance because the President has also stated, quite correctly, that he can't arrest galamsey suspects on the basis of “hearsay evidence”. Surely “hearsay evidence” is not relevant in this instance, since no-one can be allowed to bail anyone else in a court of law without providing verifiable information about how the bailer can fulfil the terms of the bail if the person he/she is bailing takes to his or her heels and legs it to China, Malaysia, Sefwi-Wiawso or Dodowa Forest?

I charged, in my article, that sometimes, arrested galamseyers are not even taken to court at all, but are intercepted by powerful individuals, who go to police stations and Immigration Department offices, brandishing the names of Ministers and their telephone numbers, and who lean on, or bribe these law enforcement agencies, to allow the arrested personnel to go free.

Surely, the interrogation of the police/immigration officials who allow themselves to be influenced in this way to discontinue cases against arrested galamseyers, can elicit “hard evidence” regarding the identity of the sponsors of galamsey, as against the “hearsay evidence” whose use the President quite rightly abhors? The President employs the police and prosecutors to give him “hard evidence”, not “hearsay evidence.” If they hide it from him, surely he ought to replace them?

I also wrote in the 2019 article that “quite often, Operation Vanguard personnel are able to seize excavators, bulldozers and changfan machines used in galamsey operations in our rivers and streams, as well as our cocoa and food farms. Changfans.... can only be used to devastate rivers. So they should, by logic, be destroyed at sight. Yet they continue to exist in our countryside! These are all matters the media – especially the electronic media – should be concerned with.”

Alas, changfans were still being captured by our armed forces at the beginning of May 2021!

Again, in 2019, I reported that “the public has been told that tracking devices are to be attached to excavators and bulldozers used in the country, so that their movements can be monitored to provide evidence that they are being used for legitimate purposes (such as building roads or other projects) [as against being used] for galamsey. But where is the information to show that such new progressive steps ARE ACTUALLY BEING taken to defeat galamsey?”

Worse was to follow in 2019. Conflicts were detected in the “official” figures released about the number of seized excavators and bulldozers. And where these machines were being kept.

These matters were highlighted by some elements of our media, yes. I congratulate them on that. But the amount of untruths, contradictions, evasions and unfulfilled promises about the provision of accurate figures, should have alerted our media to the fact that something was seriously “rotten in the kingdom of Denmark!” (My apologies to Hamlet). Ministers came and went without any serious investigation of their performance in office. Why should their successors care about their own performance?

Additionally, a sad aspect of our galamsey calamity is the media's failure to link galamsey's horrendous effects in Ghana, to climate change on Mother Earth as a whole.

I wrote in 2019 that “If you watch the international television news, you will see that in places like Australia and California, climate change is already causing huge and deadly fires. With all their technological capabilities, the authorities in these “developed countries” cannot adequately fight these “wild fires”. What would WE do if such fires were to break out here? Yet, we live in the tropics (where global warming is progressing by leaps and bounds.)

I reminded my readers that what was worse, in our case, was the fact that we had “actually been there before!” We saw what fire can do to our forests and rivers in the terrible horrible years of hardship – namely, 1982-84. The drought was so bad, and affected our power-generation capability so seriously, that our newspapers used to publish each day, on their front pages, the “water-level” as measured in our largest dammed river, the Volta.

I remember one helicopter pilot engaged in fire-fighting in those days telling me that he had never “thought it possible that fire could cross a main road and cause damage on both sides of the road”!

I added in my article: “It does not take expertise in rocket science to realise the sort of trouble we are heading for, by just being placed by Nature in the tropical zone of Planet Earth. Yet, in our stupidity, we are worsening matters by actively and voluntarily destroying our water sources.” And, of course, our rain-forests – the source of the oxygen we breathe to stay alive.

I warned that our nation “will be affected by climate change whether we like it or not! Isn't it madness to be deliberately inviting a potential water shortage for ourselves by allowing people without a single ounce of patriotism or common sense to ruin our rivers, streams and water-bodies at a dangerous period like this in world history?” I asked.

I ended the piece by acknowledging the fact that “some of our journalists are among the finest in the world. And so are many of our University lecturers.” And yet (I regrettably noted) “we are sleep-walking into a deadly trap that can lead to self-inflicted genocide, no less!” Genocide? Yes, if we make it impossible for our succeeding generations to find water to drink.

I then came to my bombshell: “one of the more pleasant things about Ghana is that you cannot always take this nation for granted.” Why did I say that? This was why: “On Monday, 16 December, 2019.... I opened the Daily Graphic and was rushing through the pages, as usual, scowling most of the time, when I reached the centre spread of the paper.

“And there, springing up before my eyes, was the sort of display that the Graphic “spread”used to be noted for in the past – a vivid feature, with excellent pictures very well laid out, in which a reporter was presenting a gripping eye-witness account of what was going on in his country by the name of galamsey. Here is a link to the article:


“To say that the article, written by TIMOTHY NGNENBE, bowled me over is to engage in under-statement. it was the sort of article I have silently been praying that some Ghanaian journalists would write, so that the anti-galamsey struggle would not become what Ghana's snobbish “educated” classes snootily dub as “the issue” (!!) of some particular individual or other.”

TIMOTHY NGNENBE wrote an article “for which I would award him a glittering prize – if I had the resources to do so!” I stated.

Here is part of what he wrote:


“We have a serious situation here. Our lands that provide us with food are being destroyed on a daily basis; we can no longer drink from the Tano and other water bodies that quenched our thirst; our cocoa farms are being destroyed.“If you go to our towns and villages and see the extent of destruction illegal miners have caused to our land, cocoa farms and water, you will weep.” These were the lamentations of the Paramount Chief (Omanhene) of the Aowin Traditional Area in the Western Region.....

“The residents complained that several acres of cocoa farms had been destroyed by the illegal miners, while rivers such as Tano, Boin, Dusoe, had all turned milky-brown as a result of the indiscriminate mining activities. It was clear from my interaction with the residents of the Aowin municipality and other communities in the Western and Central regions that galamsey is an albatross around their necks...

“It is sad that children, as young as six years, engage in illegal mining. Many of them spend their nights at galamsey sites and sleep in the classroom during the day when lessons are ongoing.” One parent said she had “not set eyes on her son for about a month... . As I speak, I don't even know where he is.”

“At Breman, Brofoyedru, Denkyira Obuasi, all in the Upper Denkyira West District, cocoa farmers [say] illegal miners have destroyed their cocoa farms: "The galamsey boys have dug pits in our cocoa farms,... Because of the onset of the rains, the road leading to our farms are flooded and we fear to even go to the farm because you could end up falling into a mining pit,"

“Meanwhile, the leader of the Operation Vanguard team in the Eastern Region, Major John Majeed Balou, said that although the team had managed to arrest 31 of the galamsey operators, they appeared handicapped because there were some insiders who were frustrating their efforts. he said “Before we even move to the illegal mining sites, our own people call to tell the galamseyers that Operation Vanguard is coming so they take cover,” he said.

“This revelation by Major Balou has solidified an earlier claim by the leader of the Aowin South Concern Youth Association, Mr Patrick Afful, that there is a cartel behind the illegality. Mr Afful had said: "I can tell you that chiefs, politicians, security officers and some collaborators take their percentage of the booty that galamsey operators get, so they do everything to shield them.” UNQUOTE

I asked readers to read the full article by Timothy, and to write to his Editor to tell him that you agree with me that Timothy should be given a worthy prize for writing such a good piece about a matter of great concern to our Nation!

I do not know whether Timothy's Editor shared my enthusiasm for his writing. But Timothy has done it again: on 31 March 2021, he was to be seen in the Daily Graphic spread updating his galamsey story. Unfortunately, you can't find the article on the Graphic website: (website producers in Ghana, I am sorry to say, are among the class of “journalists” we have whose sense of what's ”newsworthy” leaves a lot to be desired.)

Is that because the management of the media believe that the operation of a website is a mere “technical” process? The media houses will soon learn that the best and most powerful newspapers in the world are all devoting better intellectual – and material – resources to their digital endeavours?

Anyway, please – if you can – do find Timothy's article of 31 March 2021. The prize I shall give him when my financial circumstances improve sufficiently has just doubled in size!”

Oh, by the way, don't necessarily look for his name in the annual GJA awards honouring the most outstanding Ghanaian journalists of the year! The judges have better things to think about. If they didn't, why wouldn't they have instituted a special prize for “ANTI-GALAMSEY CAMPAIGN JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR?”

Tim would win that prize hands down!
Columnist: Cameron Duodo