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Opinions of Thursday, 18 May 2017

Columnist: Eric Bawah

A country awaken to danger and called to defend water bodies

The President Nana Akufo Addo is a lucky man. And he is also a bold leader. Presidents who have come and gone tried to stop the Galamsey menace but they were not successful because Ghanaians did not unite to help them. For the sake of political expediency, while a cross section of the society supported the governments, others stood far apart, condemning them. Such behavior has brought us to this situation where almost all our water bodies are under threat because of the activities of these criminals who call themselves, Galamseyers.

I said the President is a lucky man because since he made the clarion call for us to join hands and fight these galamsey criminals, not a single full-blooded Ghanaian has kicked against the call. The clergy, the media, chiefs and queenmothers, parliamentarians, politicians etc, have all thrown their weights behind the president and ready to do everything to make him succeed in the fight against galamsey. This is how it is done in other jurisdictions when they are faced with such a threat. That is why they always succeed. In the early seventies when the menace called galamsey started in Obuasi and other gold mining areas, Ghanaians did not pay much attention since they were not destroying the environment and water bodies as we see today.

In those days these galamsey (gather them and sell) guys used to scoop sand around the mining pits, ground them and used mercury to extract the gold. We did not see them prospecting for gold around the river bodies and neither did we see them invading reserved forests and destroying cocoa farms to prospect for gold. That was why we closed our eyes to their operations. Today, what do we see? Heavy earth moving machines like excavators and bulldozers were imported into the country to be used in illegal mining. To add insult to injury, they have improvised some equipment which they use to dredge river beds to extract sand which contain gold. You see, we did not wake up one morning to see our rivers changing to yellowish colour. Those who live around these polluted rivers will tell you that as a result of the polluted rivers they rely on sachet water to survive. “Akyem Kwaa onom Bremu” has turned to “Akyem kwaa onom sachet water” Sad indeed!

Fishes, crabs and any living creatures in such rivers have all died and fishermen who ply their trade on the rivers have been rendered jobless and hopeless. The worst scenario is the use of cyanide by these galamseyers. This highly poisonous chemical is used to extract the gold and later poured into the rivers and people who drink the water downstream are exposed to serious danger. Fish pond owners who have their ponds located near such polluted waters are also affected. If tomorrow you decide to buy tilapia from the market try to ask where the tilapia is produced. What is more serious is that children who are born near the galamsey polluted waters stand the risk of contracting some sort of disabilities. Parents may not recognize the danger today, but as the children grow, they will come to realize that the use of dangerous chemicals is the result of the disabilities of their children. Ask the scientists and they will tell you that Ghanaians are playing with fire. That is why I am saying Ghana is a country awaken to danger and called to defend our bodies for the sake of generations yet unborn.

Galamseyers are more than terrorists because they are also fully armed and ready to defend their territories. If the president succeeds in wiping out Galamsey and save our water bodies and environment, his name will be written in gold if even he loses the 2020 elections, history is made from such bold ventures. Whether we bring galamseyers to justice or justice to the galamseyers, justice must be done. After all, how many are they to be able to cause the defeat of a presidential candidate in 2020? And when we have decisively done with the illegal miners, we should turn the searchlight on the legal small scale miners who also flout the rules of the game. Some of these legally registered small scale miners are the worst polluters of our river bodies and the environment more than the galamseyers.

Thankfully, MMDCEs will take over their offices very soon and I hope as the representatives of the president in the various districts, they will take the fight to the galamseyers who operate in their respective jurisdictions. They should not expect the president to leave his tight schedule and travel down to their districts to fight galamsey. I implore the president to sack any MMDCE who fails to fight these galamseyers. These MMDCEs should be made to sign performance contracts as far as the fight against galamsey is concerned. Regional ministers should also be made to sign the same performance contracts. It is a total war, you know.

As for the chiefs who give out their land for these galamseyers, the time has come for their kingmakers to start destooling them. A terrorist and a nation wrecker cannot rule a traditional area. Chiefs who also engage in galamsey should be exposed, arrested and made to face the law. If they are found culpable and jailed, that will become the end of their misrule. These shameless chiefs who give out lands for galamsey operators and also engage in galamsey should bow their heads in shame. They should be told that as chiefs, they hold the land in trust for the people and if the people should die because of polluted waters, posterity will not forgive them.

MARAUDING CHINESE ON THE PROWL

Anytime I hear of a Chinese arrested for engaging in galamsey, my heart boils. The current population of China is 1.388,232,683 billion and rice is a major staple food for these people with small eyes. In fact, China is the world’s largest producer of rice. Ghana spends huge sums of money to import rice from China and other rice producing countries. It stands to reason from this statistics above that Chinese are good at the production of rice. Ghana can also boast of large acres of fallow lands which could be used to produce rice but sadly we cannot do so because the technical knowledge is not there. The Aveyime Rice Mill is a dream gone sour and the Nasia rice field is lying fallow.

When these Chinese started coming to Ghana, I was expecting them to make a feasibility study of our land in order to know the type of rice seeds that could grow well in Ghana so that they could go into rice production for home consumption and export. Sadly, they rather set their eyes on our river bodies and cocoa farms to prospect gold. Supported by chiefs, politicians, businessmen and criminals, these Chinese started importing excavators and other earth moving machines into the country to destroy our waters and environment. They did not stop there but also went in for our young girls and had babies with them. So when you go to galamsey operating areas, you can see Chinese fatherless children roaming the streets aimlessly because they are fatherless since their father might have finished with their galamsey jobs and vamoosed into thin air. You see the troubles that they have brought to us. If these Chinese fatherless children grow up in Ghana, the only job that will be available for them is either galamsey or armed robbery.

Our war against galamsey begins with the Chinese and their Ghanaian collaborators but it doesn’t end there. In fact, it will not end unless any galamseyer, be she or he a Ghanaian, Malian etc has been found, stopped and totally defeated. Since the President declared this war against galamsey in this country Ghanaians are asking: how do we fight and win this war since it has been with us for so long a time. We should direct every resource at our command, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, to the defeat of these galamseyers. This fight should not be a nine day wonder or a one battle but a lengthy campaign unlike any other. We will have to drive then from place to place until there is no refuge or no rest for them.

We will have to pursue chiefs, land owners, politicians and anyone who will provide support and harbor these criminals and anybody who will support or harbor any galamseyer will be regarded as enemy of the state and declared a persona non grata. What people should be made to understand is that the only way to stop galamsey as a threat to our water bodies and the environment is to eliminate it and make sure it doesn’t resurface again in this country. The Ghana Armed Forces, the Ghana Police Service, the Immigration Service, the CID and the BNI should be ready. The clock is ticking and the time will come when you will be called to duty and I believe you will make us proud. And you know what? Any security officer who will be caught bonking a Chinese woman in order to allow her to engage in galamsey like they did to Aisha Huang, the galamsey queen will be exposed by those of us in the inky fraternity.

As for me, your irrepressible earth Angel Gabriel, I will not stay acquiescent or allow myself to be cowed down by any Jupiter as far as the fight against galamsey is concerned, no matter whose ox is gored. To me it is a holy war and I will not run to the wall. The Minister of Lands and Forestry has called upon the media to help fight the menace and I have picked up the gauntlet. The name of the game is OPERATION KILL GALAMSEY!!!