Feature Article of Thursday, 31 May 2012

Columnist: Schandorf, Adu Bright

Not Only Intemperate Languages But Also Unfair Distribution


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

The possession of natural resources within most Africa countries has always
been a source of grief and unhappiness to its citizens. On the positive
side, in some countries, such as Botswana, where the possession of these
resources is sustainably and wisely managed, the nation has gained economic
blessings and much-needed foreign exchange earnings. It is often argued
that Botswana avoided conflict over resources by distributing its benefits
equitably within the population. However, in African countries where the
management of natural resources is weak, the future of the nation is at the
risk to degenerate into zones of chaos. Most conflicts in Africa started
as clashes over access and control of natural resources. An example is the
blood diamond war in Sierra Leone where "rebel" terrorists of the
Revolutionary United Front (RUF) chopped off thousands of civilian hands,
feet and ears and thousands more men, women, children were slaughtered and
left to rot in village streets. In August 1998, like many African
countries, Congo experienced war which eventually ended in 2003 as a result
of access and control of water resources and rich minerals. The war took
over 3 million people lives due to disease and starvation. More than 2
million people became refugees. Many women were raped due to intimidation,
resulting in a rapid spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as
HIV-AIDS. National parks housing endangered species were exploited
together with minerals and other resources. T he Refugees hunted wildlife
for bush meat. Elephant populations seriously declined as a result of ivory
poaching. A survey by the WWF showed that the hippopotamus population in
one national park decreased from 29,000 thirty years previously, to only
900 in 2005. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) listed all five parks as ‘world heritage in
danger’. Another

scenario is the Niger delta conflicts which took place around 1990(s). The
oil-rich Delta region of Nigeria was plagued with political instability,
weak governance, and continuous conflict, which has made local communities
in the Niger Delta remain as some of the poorest communities in the
world. Conflict
in Nigeria was worsened by competition for oil – both between
multi-national corporations and the Nigerian Government. As a result, fish
stocks have been negatively affected, mostly due to the regular oil spills
and leakages from the pipelines in the Niger Delta. Furthermore, Nigeria’s
wetland areas have also been damaged. In addition, frequent disruptions –
such as seditious attacks on oil pipelines by the Movement for the
Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) – characterize the Niger Delta.

It has been reported that nature and location of natural resources to some
extent influence the occurrence of war. Two main types of resources have
been identified. First, there are *point resources* such as minerals; these
are non-renewable, geographically concentrated and their extraction
requires little labour input. Second, there are *diffuse resources* such as
soils and water, these are renewable and geographically spread and they are
used in the production of crops and livestock usually mobilizing large
amounts of labour. The argument is that countries that are abundant in
point resources are more likely to experience conflict than countries that
experience only diffuse resources, especially when the later also undertake
land reform. For example, in Congo-Brazzaville where there is one mineral
resource, offshore oil, it was necessary for the rebels to capture the
capital city, the centre of the state apparatus, and the main port,
Ponte-Noire during the 1997 civil war. In contrast, Angola’s two mineral
resources, offshore oil and alluvial* *diamonds in the interior*, *enabled
both the MPLA government and Unita rebels to engage in a protracted
conflict for decades. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, the diversity of
resources and their geographical spread led to the development of warlords
and a highly fragmented conflict between a weak government and numerous
armed groups controlling resources in the interior.

Ghana is endowed with so many natural resources such as gold, bauxite,
diamond, timber, fishery, rich national parks et cetera and has currently
been blessed with oil; which often referred to “black gold” due to its
significant value, surprisingly, the required development that we hope
these resources would brought us continues to be illusive. Has Ghana
really learned her lessons from other African countries?
Unlike many other Africa countries, Ghana has seen peace since independence
and continues to safeguard this peace before, during and after this year’s
election. Campaign against factors such as ethnicity, violence and the use
of intemperate language which have currently characterized our politics has
been initiated to condemn such practices in order to protect the peace of
this nation in the upcoming election. However, it must be noted that,
inequitable distribution of natural resources in a nation could also bring
about civil war. It is against this background that, the underdeveloped
regions of Ghana such as northern and Volta and so forth should be given
the needed attention. The unfortunate thing is that these natural
resources-endowed regions are among poorest regions in Ghana; however
proper management of any natural resources must first seek to benefit the
resource dweller. Initiative like Savannah Accelerated Development
Authority (SADA) by government is great. Resource managers of this project
should be moved by the plight of their own fellow Ghanaians or be motivated
by history to make sure that the nation gets the best. Private investor
should explore opportunities in these areas. The funds given by American
president recently against hunger should target these areas and be used
accordingly. The road that leads to Baubeng Fiema and Mole National park
should be constructed to enhance easy access to boost its annual income.
The current surroundings and management of paga crocodile sanctuary, and
Kintampo WaterFalls is evident of poor resource management and therefore
needs enhancement. Government should be committed in developing the
deposited villages into modern towns with the necessary amenities that go
with it. That is the only way we can prevent Niger Delta in Ghana. Obviously,
the aftermath of any type of war destabilizes countries and flout human
rights. A story told by A 23 year old Congolese woman to Human Rights Watch
that the soldiers "*raped us and dragged us to their camp which was not far
away. I stayed there for one month, under constant supervision. Even when I
went to fetch water, he came with me to ensure that I did not run away....
There was no conversation between us; he had sex with me at any moment,
when he felt like it, and with a lot of violence. I spent my days crying. I
begged God to free me from this hell.*" In countries where the benefits of
resource exploitation such as those of oil extraction and mining have only
profited some corrupt elites and foreign companies due to poor negotiation
by governments, the local populations habitually suffer from social,
political, and economic problems which eventually lead to civil war. More
often than not, this is the case in African countries.

“War does not determine who is right - only who is left’’