What does the American Embassy think it's doing?

Cameron Doudu   Cameron Duodu

Sat, 24 Mar 2018 Source: Cameron Duodu

No – this is not about the military co-operation agreement between Ghana and the United States.

It is about an audience the US embassy gave to an organisation called the Small-Scale Miners’ Association at Prestea. Here is a report on the matter:

“The US Embassy in Ghana today had a meeting with Small Scale Miners in Prestea as part of their responsibilities to seeing a successful Ghana…. The key leaders (included) Morris Jackson, Economic Department, US Embassy, Ghana, and Issaih Tuolienuo, Environmental Department, US Embassy, Ghana. [They met with officials of] the National Small-Scale Mining [organisation]…. [the] leadership of Prestea Communicators for Development… (a civil society group based in Prestea) and over seventy licensed Small-Scale Miners…in interactions which lasted a couple of hours.”

Now, in my view, these so-called “small-scale miners” who have banded themselves into an organisation are currently among the most lethal groups of citizens in this country and should not be encouraged by embassies. For many of them have shown by their deeds – not words – that they want to kill off the nation called Ghana.

They began in the 1980s, they used sweet words to lobby the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) to legalise “small-scale mining” in the country. “Look” they said, “Ghana has been mining gold for over 100 years. But all the proceeds from gold-mining is exported outside the country. Why not give licences to Ghanaian citizens to carry out “artisanal or small-scale-mining”?

“Yes, why not?” the PNDC guys answered.

So they passed PNDC Law 218 of 1989. We, all manner of people suddenly became “miners.” The knowledgeable rural dwellers, however, recognised these crooks for what they were and instead of glorifying their activities, called it out for what it was: galamsey! What galamsey is, in practice, is to “camouflage-yourself-as-a-lawful-digger-but-gather-the-gold-anywhere-by-any–means-possible-and-sell-it.” (In short, “gather ’em’ and ‘sell”.

Galamsey became so profitable that soon, its Ghanaian participants were going as far as China to look for “partners”. These “partners” gave them heavy machinery that turned the so-called “artisanal” gold-mining into an industrial-scale operation.

The result? Between 1989 and 2018, the Ghanaian countryside was devastated and turned into what a German film-maker has described as a “lunar landscape littered with craters on its surface”.

Indeed, according to an airline pilot, “when you leave Ivory Coast airspace and enter Ghana airspace, the contrast is immediate. The Ghanaian landscape is filled with large hoes, like an area subjected to indiscriminate aerial bombing. The yellowish colour of the rivers and streams is so striking that you wonder whether the water has been deliberately sprayed with massive quantities of mud!”

The Government of the Ivory Coast, perturbed by the turbidity that flows from the Ghana section of the Bia River into the Ivory Coast section, has made official representations about it to Ghana. Apart from the Bia, Ghana’s massive water systems – the White and Black Volta; the Volta itself; as well as the Pra, Ankobra, Offin, Birem, Densu, Oti and Tanoh and others, have all been almost destroyed.

It is this situation that has led the Government of Ghana to set up “Operation Vanguard” to prevent the destruction carried out by the galamseyers from continuing. The Government knows that there is a serious unemployment problem in Ghana, and it is addressing that. But it has to resist the facile linkage of galamsey to unemployment: no-one went to China to bring excavators and bulldozers to create employment on our rivers!

These facts ought to be known to every foreign embassy in Ghana. Indeed, I urge the US embassy to call upon the relevant US governmental agencies to provide it with a detailed grid-map of the land area of Ghana and water resources so that it can carry out a proper, FACTUAL EVALUATION of this issue. In the unlikely event that satellite imagery cannot yield the information, drones would.

In fact, it would be a VERY good idea for the Government of Ghana to formally ask the US Government to provide technical assistance in assessing the possibility of reclaiming the river and water-bodies under attack, as well as the cocoa and food farms.

The US embassy ought to be able to detect the fact that the galamseyers have over-used the “employment” blackmailer the years. In this connection, I refer the embassy to what the Majority Leader of Ghana’s Parliament, Mr Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, told MPs on 13 March 2018:

QUOTE: [In 1983], when people returned from Nigeria and brought back their chain-saw machines and engaged in illegal felling of trees, we said that we should stop them. The agreement at that time was “Let’s create alternatives for them.” Less than thirty years after that, half of our forest cover is gone!…At the turn of the 20th century, we had a forest cover of 8.5million hectares – up to 1980. We had six million [hectares] between 1980 and the third part of the century. Today, the depletion has [been] more than five million hectares because of the activities of illegal chain saw operators. And we should grant them liberties to continue to do this?…

What is going on [in respect of galamsey] is [equally] illegal, and if every measure is taken to prevent it, it should be encouraged…Mr Speaker, if we agree to that, what is going on is criminal, the Constitution does not forbid any person trying to prevent the commission of that crime from pursuing that person [with] a certain force, which may even result in death. And I quote Article 13 — we are all law-makers and should understand the meaning of law. Article 13 of the Constitution provides that: “ No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally, except in exercise of the execution of a court [decision] in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Ghana, of which he has been convicted. A person shall not be held to have deprived another person of his life in contravention of Clause One of this Article, if that person dies as a result of a lawful act of war, or if that … person dies as a result of the use of force to such as an extent as is reasonably justifiable, in the particular circumstances, in order to prevent the commission of a crime by that person..UNQUOTE

The US embassy can understand that the seemingly harsh tone of the majority leader’s speech reflects the frustration with which many patriotic citizens of Ghana view the destruction of their rivers, streams and water-bodies, as well as farms, by galamsey operators. The speech was a WARNING to them. When warnings are not heeded, then it is that action follows.

Columnist: Cameron Duodu