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Opinions of Saturday, 17 December 2005

Columnist: Ampofo Ofori

The I.G.P Should Address This Nonsense.

On or about November 2nd, 2005, it was reported that two farmers were killed and a large number of them injured by personnel of the Ghana police dispatched from Koforidua, Akyem Oda and Nkawkaw, after an official of Newmont had allegedly called the Police to inform them that the town?s population had blocked the roads leading into and out of the town and were not allowing Newmont?s vehicles and heavy equipment to use the towns roads in protest Newmont?s refusal to pay their farmers per tree.

Newmont is said to be the world?s second largest Gold production company; and reports indicate that they have had problems with communities? world wide where they are engaged in their explorations and production. There is a growing voice around the world to resist gold mining because of its disastrous effects on human, and the environment.

The report of the New Abirem incidence indicates that the mode for compensations, to the Farmers around the area where Newmont is going to engage in Gold exploration has not been accepted in its present form. A group of farmers therefore mounted road blocks on the main Oda-Nkawkaw road which passes through the town to prevent the staff of the company from entering and exiting the camp site near Yaayaaso, a nearby village and also an affected community. The farmers were however letting other vehicles that normally ply that route pass through without hindrance.

Newmont believes however that the current rates being paid as compensation is competitive in the industry, and one of the best in the country. It said, the current rates are not innovations but are the accepted methods for computing compensations due for farm crops nationwide. According to the communications Manager of Newmont, the police was called in to attempt to restore peace but the question is, were the farmers fighting them, or they were only occupying their road to the Newmont camp, protesting for a genuine cause? They have every right to their land as long as they have not been compensated, and as long as there hasn?t been any acceptable mode for computing the level of compensations.

The fact that we need Investors doesn?t mean we should leave room for them to manipulate our police against our people; The Police in this instance, allowed themselves to be used against their own people, and have needlessly shed blood. What we do know is that the killing was carried out by the Ofoase Police.

There are a lot of questions to be answered and the government owes it to the people of Abirem and of Ghana to promptly and truthfully do so.

1. What information was conveyed by Newmont to the police service?
2. Was there a shoot to kill order?
3. Was there a shoot on sight order?
4. How many policemen were deployed to the scene?
5. Were the farmers and youth of the town assaulting the police?
6. Were they throwing stones or missiles at the police?
7. Were the poor farmers armed with offensive weapons?
8. Were they destroying property?
9. Had anybody in the town complained to the police about the demonstrators?
10. What were the rules of engagement?
11. Were the police forced to flee?
12. How far away or how near were the demonstrators when the police opened fire?
13. How many rounds were fired?
14 Which of the Ofoase policemen discharged their firearms?
15. What instructions were given to the police before they got to the scene?
16. Was there not an alternative way to disperse the demonstrators?

Fellow Ghanaians, I do not think we have to accept just anything the Multi-National companies decide to pay as compensation in new mining areas. I believe we should not repeat the mistakes of the past where we allowed these companies to exploit our people. EXPLOITATION OF MAN BY MAN; LET US GUIDE AGAINST IT.

Today, we know the dangers associated with the use of CYANIDE for Gold mining allover the world.

There is a growing objections and rejections around the world of gold mining because of the use of cyanide and its effect on Human and environmental disaster it posses.

THE OTHER QUESTION IS, Does the percentage share or profit for Ghana worth the lives that have been lost through the negligence of the police? How much compensation can replace the dead?

I do not think the Gold and Diamond mining communities in Ghana are any better socially and economically than the non mining towns. Oboase, Akwatia,Tarkwa,Prestia, Bogosu etc have all not seen any meaningful developments; and life in these mining towns are just as depressing as any other village in Ghana. So why do we need to sign Newmont on to the Akim gold fields to kill our people?

The loss of lives by any means is sad. I therefore express my profound condolences to the people of New Abirim and most especially, the families of those that were needlessly gunned down by the police. The deceased must rest in peace and I pray those still at the hospital, recover fast to return to their normal farming activities. THE NATION NEEDS THEM. At this time of our history, I believe the brutal use of arms on peaceful protesters in favor of the exploitative multi- national company, should be a thing of the past. I THEREFORE ON THAT BASIS CALL ON THE INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE (IGP) WHO HAS BEEN DOING A GOOD JOB SOFAR, TO ADDRESS THE SITUATION TO AVOID A REPEATITION. THE GHANA POLICE MUST DO BETTER THAN THAT.

FUTHER MORE, I URGE NEWMONT GH. LTD. TO STRIFE FOR A COMPROMISE SOLUTION TO THE DEMANDS OF THE FARMERS OTHERWISE, THEIR OPERATIONS IN THE AKIM GOLD FIELDS WILL SEE NO PEACE.

GOD BLESS OUR HOMELAND AND OUR PEOPLE.

AMPOFO OFORI (CHAIRMAN SAVE GHANA NOW ASSOCIATION) THE SALVATION OF GHANA DEPENDS ON ALL OF US AT HOME AND ABROAD. WE SHALL OVERCOME SOMEDAY.

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