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Opinions of Sunday, 6 June 2021

Columnist: Cameron Duodu

Congratulations, Operation Halt

A photo of galamseyers on site A photo of galamseyers on site

The amount of opposition which “Operation Halt” has already engendered, is a sure sign that with good guidance, it can succeed in its objectives, where other task forces have failed.

For it has seriously begun to hurt the pockets of the galamsey criminals, who are hell-bent on killing our rivers, streams and water bodies, and reducing our rich farmlands to deserts.

It is not for nothing that wherever sophisticated criminals take on the Government of a country, the clever thing the Government can do is to “follow the money”!

If it's an issue of drugs, a clever Government unleashes agents to bug their telephones and detect where they will strike next. And they lay ambush at the rendezvous, burn the drugs, and seize any money that was supposed to change hands. Next, they move in on bank accounts, real estate and motor vehicles.

Even so, the drug business continues to thrive. The reason? Money buys things – including people. And alas! – some people, are corruptible.

Galamsey uses the same “networking” principles as other smuggling operations. A raid is to happen? Telephone messages ensure that those to be grabbed get wind of when and where the agents of the Government want to strike.

Over here, the galamsey networks have begun to used the media to stir up hatred against the Government. The message is simple: what the Government is doing is “illegal”, the galamsey supporters howl.

To counter this sophisticated approach of the galamseyers, the Government needs to be a lot more professional in its response.

First of all, it should not be merely REACTING to the public outcry by the galamsey sympathisers, but ANTICIPATING it and SCORCHING IT AT SOURCE.

Now, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Dame, told a Joy News TV programme that those who are arguing that the burning of excavators is “illegal” have no ground to stand on, because a court in Kumase had given a judgement that validates governmental action against equipment that was being used for illegal purposes.

The question is: why wasn't this important e4lucidation of the legal position incorporated into the initial statement announcing the launching of “Operation Halt”? It would have saved potentially neutral organisations the embarrassment of accusing the Government of acting illegally.

Another piece of anticipation that did not occur has been the wholesale evacuation of equipment from galamsey sites to nearby communities, following the launching of “Operation Halt”.

The Government should have realised that the “100 METRES” demarcation line, or, for want of a better expression, “QUARANTINE” or “RED ZONE” (beyond which equipment found there would NOT be burnt) was quite unrealistic.

Why? Well, ask yourself whether it was smart to expect that these sophisticated galamseyers would not be able to evacuate their equipment beyond the limits set by the Government? They might even misconstrue the measure as a subtle loophole thrown at them by their sympathisers in official circles! (And don't imagine that there aren't any!)

In any case, according to the Minister of Defence, Mr Nitiwul, the military have watched helplessly as about “seven hundred excavators and bulldozers” have been moved from the demarcated area (the “red zone”) to adjacent, nearby communities!

The military could have stopped them being moved. But although they knew very well that the equipment was in the area precisely to do galamsey and kill or destroy water-bodies and farmlands, they were powerless to touch them! Why? Because the Government's own “demarcation line” had tied their hands.

It would be interesting, in fact, to know how the “100 metres” demarcation limit” was inserted into the “Operation Halt” mandate. Did the drafters of the mandate not realise that two-ended pipes could be connected to rivers and streams to “wash” the gold-bearing “black” substance with “washing machines” stationed one or two kilometres away, and pump the sluice back into the rivers and streams which the military were sent to go and save?

Indeed, the 100 metres demarcation line should be removed immediately. Henceforth, any excavators and galamsey equipment found in any part of the Ghanaian countryside should be burnt, unless the owners can PROVE that they were taken there for non-galamsey purposes – i.e. to be used in (say) making roads, building schools and clinics, or other legitimate purposes. Strict proof of the non-malignant utilisation of the equipment should lie on the shoulders of the person(s) claiming ownership of it.

You see, military operations should have clear and unambiguous objectives. If the objective is to stop despoliation of the rivers, streams, water bodies AND FARMLANDS, that must be clearly stated. Otherwise, we shall be going backwards and forwards forever.

Now that at least four aspects of Operation Halt have taken place, there should be enough practical experience available to enable modifications to be made to the operational orders of “Operation Halt”.

The Government should not be reluctant to reverse itself if experience and circumstances demand that it should do so. For the galamsey issue poses serious political and social challenges which cannot be tackled with purely orthodox methods. On the contrary, given good faith and an increasingly practical approach to it, the Government will succeed.

That success would inspire unborn Ghanaians to bless this Government for not allowing money, or influence, or political expediency, to stand in its way, as it fought to preserve for our future generations, the rivers, streams, water-bodies, farmlands and virgin forests which were gifted to us by Nature.

Our country was once one of the most fertile, best abundantly favoured by Nature, among the nations of West Africa. We must not allow a few short-sighted and unpatriotic nation-wreckers to use their greed for gold to smash Ghana to pieces and reduce Ghanaians to the unenviable status of beggars.