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Opinions Tue, 13 Jul 2021

'We must kill galamsey before it turns into a genocide against our offspring!'

I make no apologies at all for returning to the subject of galamsey, much as I would have liked to talk about other issues in my column today.

For I once heard my elders demand, rhetorically: “kokoram aye wo a, wosu atipaye?” [If you have been diagnosed with an unmentionable and calamitous disease (such as cancer), do you cry over a mere headache?)

Yes, I could dissect under or non-performance in our public life. The culprits are many and easily identifiable. But of what use will good public services, for instance, be to us when we no longer have good water to drink, because galamseyers have ruined all our water-bodies?

When galamseyers have made impassable, the paths we use to

go to our farms to grow and harvest crops?

When our brothers and sisters are being attacked and killed,

before our very eyes, by cancers caused by the mercury, cyanide and other poisonous chemicals used in washing sand in our rivers and streams in search of gold?

When I stood on my own father's farm at Asiakwa, which had once been the source of succulent cocoyam leaves (nkontommire); very sweet cassava (because the roots were watered by the underground water table of the nearby Supong stream); extremely delicious bananas; a place where beautiful birds thrived and game could be caught in abundance.

When I saw this beautiful land turned into craters filled with greenish water, with ridges around them that denied a foothold to all but careless idiots who wanted to drown; when I saw a parcel of land, at least four square miles in size, turned into a completely irreclaimable wasteland; it was then I realized that we were living in a country that had turned itself into

an unacknowledged lunatic asylum!

For how could humans with brains deliberately carry out such wanton acts of devastation against their own land which has been made super-fertile by the Grace of God? The enormity of the crime which has been committed, not

only in places I have been to but in other localities around the country where conscientious journalists have videoed and publicized worse scenes, pales into insignificance when juxtaposed against the indiscretions in high places that some of my fellow citizens get excited about.

Yes, of course, those political lapses do matter. But we take our eyes off the ball of galamsey at the risk of committing genocide – REPEAT GENOCIDE – against the generations that will follow us to dwell on this land, 50 years hence (if we are lucky) or less (if we are unfortunate).

But GENOCIDE? An exaggeration, surely?

I sincerely wish it were. This is how genocide is defined by the dictionary:

"Genocide is intentional action to destroy a people ... in whole or in part."

Now, – I have a 5-year-old grandson whose ability to argue occasionally leaves me completely stumped.

“Grandpa, now that I am five years old, can I be allowed to....” and he would supply a word or term which describes something he had been told little kids of his age group were not allowed to do.

“No, not yet”, one would glibly reply.

“But" (he would retort) “I was told that I couldn't do that when I was only four years old. Now I have grown to be five years old! And I am still not allowed?” (Resentful pout in evidence at this stage!)

How does one answer such logic? To him, the difference between four and five years of age is enormous. He'd waited a whole three hundred and sixty-five days for that age difference to materialise. Yet, now that – what to him – was “maturity” had arrived, the advantages he had hoped to join other “mature” people in enjoying, were still being denied him!

What would happen if a logic master like him were appointed a judge, 40 years from now, and the State of Ghana was brought before him on a charge of negligence, leading to genocide?

(Extracts from the Court Proceedings:)

(PROSECUTOR: Your Lordship, in the year 1989, “small-scale” (also known as “artisanal” miners) upon the acquisition of a licence from the Minerals Commission, were allowed to dig for gold on lands allocated to them. But in less than ten years, this “small-scale mining” had degenerated into large-scale enterprises whereby the simple tools used for small-scale mining – such as pick-axes and shovels and pans – were discarded and replaced with powerful earth-moving equipment. These machines have been causing not only total devastation on the land but also, churning up sand, pebbles and soil, from our riverbeds!

Costly excavators, heavy earth-moving equipment, stone-crushers and a machine called changfan [imported from China] are used indiscriminately to turn our riverbeds upside down to bring up enormous quantities of soil, to be washed in search of gold.

(JUDGE): Riverbeds? But that would constitute a flagrant breach of the various Environmental Protection Acts on our statute book?

(PROSECUTOR): Exactly, My Lord; I was coming to that. They also defy the Immigration Act and smuggle skilled Chinese technicians into the country to take a leading part in the so-called “small-scale mining”, although, as Your Lordship is no doubt aware, that business had been reserved exclusively to Ghanaians!

(JUDGE): Ah yes – I see in your Deposition numbered “A001”...?

(PROSECUTOR): Yes, my Lord. Much obliged! It is the Prosecution's case that agents of The Accused, acting severally in a corrupt manner, have deliberately ignored breaches of the laws they are supposed to enforce and have allowed foreign nationals, acting in collusion with "get-rich-quick Ghanaians";

1: To make huge tracts of land no longer suitable for cultivation for food to feed our growing population. The result is that mass starvation is now a distinct possibility in a future Ghana. Hence, my Lord, the grievous charge of genocide, starvation being one form of mass killing.

2: To denude other similarly sizeable tracts of land, including Forest Reserves, of timber, some of which are most valuable, and are under legal protection, to save them from extinction.

And,

3: To expose every citizen of Ghana who has regularly drunk water from the affected rivers and streams over the past 20 years or so, to potential infection and death from various dangerous diseases. Symptoms of these deadly diseases include: muscle weakness; poor coordination; numbness in the hands and feet; skin rashes; anxiety; memory problems; trouble speaking; trouble hearing; or trouble seeing.

(JUDGE): My goodness, Counsel! You're telling the Court that no Ghanaian who has been drinking water from these poisoned rivers and streams can enjoy peace of mind from now on!?

(PROSECUTOR): Exactly, My Lord! The irony is that those engaged in galamsey have more than enough money to buy bottled water and sachet water, whereas the victims of galamsey cannot afford what has become a “luxury” to them – water that is safe to drink! My Lord, another serious disease that is caused by high doses of the mercury used to wash gold in rivers and streams is a strange one that has achieved notoriety in foreign countries. It is called “Minamata disease.” It has arrived here, whereas in the past it used to occur only in the so-called developed countries.”

(JUDGE): I hear you, Counsel. But I'd much rather hear detailed evidence on that from a medical expert. I see you have a few listed as expert witnesses? Hopefully, they will be more authentic than the loudmouths who crib stuff from the Internet!

(LOUD LAUGHTER IN COURT)

(PROSECUTOR: I have no such intention, My Lord. ...Indeed, the Prosecution intends, at the appropriate time, to lead detailed medical evidence of an unimpeachable nature, to show that: exposure to mercury in children, in particular, may result in something called “acrodynia” or “pink's disease”....

(LOUD SIGHS OF ANGUISH IN COURT)

That disease, if Your Lordship pleases, causes the skin to change colour and become pink. It then peels off. Long-term complications may include kidney problems. It's a most serious and tragic affliction, for it also causes decreased intelligence in children! My Lord, we are sowing the seeds of permanent socio-economic under-development by exposing our children to such diseases!

(JUDGE): Decreased intelligence? My God! You will be leading expert evidence on that, too?

(PROSECUTOR): Yes, My Lord. In fact, at this stage, I would crave Your Lordship's indulgence to grant the Prosecution an adjournment, to enable us to furnish the Court with the names of eminent scientists, some based abroad, that the Prosecution intends to summon to provide expert evidence. Some of the embassies we wrote to have not yet sent us their responses.

JUDGE: (AFTER SOME MURMURED CONSULTATIONS) Case adjourned for two months).

I sincerely hope that the above scenario never occurs in the annals of this country. But given the stubbornness with which we work against our own welfare, who knows?
Columnist: Cameron Duodu
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