Dec
20

…AND NOBODY CARES!

… AND NOBODY CARES! Read the rest of this entry »

Dec
16

HOW CAN ANYONE WATCH A GALAMSEY FILM LIKE THIS AND — JUST DO NOTHING?

HOW CAN ANYONE WATCH THIS GALAMSEY FILM AND — DO NOTHING?
By CAMERON DUODU

I have been crying in my heart for many months over Ghana’s galamsey problem. (See elsewhere on this website Cameron Duodu )

Everyone makes noises regretting the continued existence of the treasonable and heinous practice.

Anas Aremeyaw Anas made a vivid film about it, which was shown to the WORLD on Aljazeera TV.

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/africainvestigates/2011/11/2011113071310331931.html

When I saw that film, I foolishly imagined that our Government would take action against galamsey right away. For how can our Government’s representatives stand in front of world leaders and plead for aid, when they are sitting down to watch the heritage they have sworn to preserve being destroyed by their own fellow-citizens, in collaboration with Chinese illegal gold-seekers?

Imagine telling an IMF or World Bank delegation – or a British DFiD mission that includes the current British High Commissioner in Accra – to grant Ghana a rescheduling of debts, or new funding for, say – new water projects. And these guys have seen on Aljazeera that you have allowed illegal Chinese and Ghanaian gold-diggers to turn some of your most important rivers into yellow-coloured, mercury-polluted pools of water that can no longer sustain the life of man, beast, or fish, or provide underground irrigation to your forests and farms? Ha! I’d like to be in the room to hear how they would retort.

Haha! I read the other day that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe had uttered some unflattering words about Ghana. This hurt some of our people, including former President John Kufuor, who tried to explain to the Zimbabwe leader that things are not that bad in Ghana.

Fortunately for President Kufuor, Mr Mugabe limited his comments to our educational system. For how could Mr Kufuor have come to the defence of Ghana if Mr Mugabe had told his Zimbabwe audience: “Listen, don’t compare Zimbabwe to Ghana! You know why? Ghana is a country whose politicians do not understand what their own national heritage is.

“We in Zimbabwe went into the bush to risk our lives to wage an armed struggle against Ian Smith and his white racists, in order to win back control over our country. We fought to take back our country’s mineral wealth, its water resources and its lands. But in Ghana, their leaders are watching the very rivers of the country – which give the people water to drink in order to continue to live – destroyed by illegal gold-diggers! Let anyone try that in Zimbabwe see. Did we and our dead comrades go into the bush to court death for nothing? Let anyone try to pollute the Zambezi! We would have him shot on the spot! … Do you think we are stupid? How can you compare us to people like that?”

President Kufuor, I can see how your pride is legitimately hurt when someone like Mugabe – who has run his country’s currency so much into the ground that it now has to use American currency instead of its own! – has the audacity to belittle Ghana. But can you honestly place your hand on your heart and refuse to admit that we deserve to be mocked, whilst galamsey goes on relentlessly in our country?

Ha – I saw a nice picture of President John Mahama the other day chatting merrily with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya in Nairobi. I wondered what Mr Kenyatta might be saying?

Did he protest, “Do you know, John, when we complain to Aljazeera about how it reports some of the events here in Kenya, their guys turn round and ask us whether we are not aware that they also report on countries like Ghana, where the activities of illegal gold-diggers need to be exposed?! That stomps us, Mr President, for over here, we are seriously combating the harm done by charcoal-makers, who are destroying the trees in our forests and thereby removing the shade that the trees provide to our water sources. Do you really — as Aljazeera has shown with pictures — actually allow your rivers to be turned upside down by illegal gold-diggers?”

How tall would Mr Mahama have stood if he had been confronted like that?

Such thoughts have raided my mind because I have just watched another heart-breaking film on galamsey, called “Trading Ghana’s Water For Gold”. It is good! Very good indeed! And it was produced by a courageous team of freelance film-makers led by Edem Srem and Gifty Andoh Appiah. I emphasise freelance because it costs a lot to produce a film, and when you have no definite sponsor behind you, it takes enormous courage to start such a venture. I cannot praise them enough.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6qaiPSbZsQ

The film, which was launched at the British Council in Accra, has now won the first prize ($2,500) in a competition run by the French News Agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP). More than 40 journalists from 10 countries across Africa submitted entries for the award.

The winning entry, “Trading Ghana’s Water For Gold”, is, according to one foreign reviewer, “a hard-hitting video report that exposed misleading claims by the government in Ghana to have eradicated the risky practice of alluvial gold mining in the country”. The winners were selected by a jury of prominent media figures chaired by Eric Chinje, chief executive of African Media Initiative.

Explaining his project, Edem Srem says: “In my country, Ghana, many leaders make public statements about action they plan to take in particular issue areas, but then don’t deliver on their promises. Unfortunately, some journalists simply report these claims as fact”.

He explained that Galamsey has been contaminating water sources in the country. On rivers, dredging vessels called “totototo” pump gravel upwards from riverbeds to extract gold. The process leads to the rivers being silted and contaminated. Materials such as mercury, lead and cyanide are used to extract the gold from the gravel. The waste is then released back into the river, poisoning fish and rendering the water unfit for consumption.

Srem gives a list of unfulfilled promises, made by Ghanaians in authority, to eradicate galamsey. The Kibi district, in Akyem Abuakwa, a gold-rich area in the Eastern Region, was described as the “headquarters” of galamsey in a January 2014 statement made by President Mahama. Back in 2010, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, the King of [Akyem Abuakwa] had vowed to clamp down on illegal miners in the district. In May 2013, another of Ghana’s influential kings, Otumfuo Osei Tutu of the gold-rich Asante Kingdom, similarly promised to lead the fight against the menace.

“That same year,” [Srem continued] “the government got on board, with the President setting up an anti-galamsey Task Force. Barbara Serwaa Asamoah, the Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, said the government was working to eradicate the practice, with the Task Force from the land and water ministries working with [the] police and the military to apprehend illegal miners. A year later, [the] Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Inusah Fuseini, told me in an interview that the Task Force had shown success – particularly on the country’s water bodies.

[However], “Our investigation into the truth of these claims showed a very different picture: galamsey operations were, in fact, on the rise. Our investigation took six months to complete….

“In the Kibi traditional area, we discovered that the King’s promises had never materialised; worse, galamsey had increased. The Birem River, which serves Kibi Township and its environs, had become so heavily polluted that it was difficult for even the Ghana Water Company to draw water from it [for treatment at their plant].

“In the Asante Kingdom, the Offin River had suffered a similar fate, debunking the [Asante] King’s promise of clamping down on illegal miners. At that point, no action had been taken to address the problem. In all the areas we investigated, illegal mining on water bodies had increased, proving the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources’ claims to be false.”

Srem concludes: “After our documentary [was] aired, the President and his Ministers visited some of the areas where we had shown illegal mining activity to be on the rise…[But] galamsey is still taking place in various areas, including Twifo Praso, Bempong Agya, Appiah Nkwanta, Kyekyewere, Diaso, Bawdie and Dunkwa-on-Offin…

“I believe that misleading claims can kill. They also hold back a nation’s development. Where this occurs, journalists have a responsibility to fact-check their stories and find the truth behind the statements of the nation’s leaders…The citizens of Ghana have a right to know the truth about illegal mining activities in the country and their effect on common water resources.”

Well said, Edem! In Nigeria, when 300 or so girls were abducted by Boko Haram, a movement was spontaneously formed immediately called BringBackOurGirls which has, despite attempted intimidation, sought to bring continual pressure on the Government to try and rescue the girls. In Brazil and other Latin American countries, one hears of pressure groups that fight against armed bandits hired by forest-destroyers, who want to build ranches on virgin forest lands, to try and preserve the habitats of native peoples the bandits want to evict.

But here we are in Ghana, although we can see with our own eyes that some people are ready and willing to destroy the water resources of all the 25 million people who live in this country, what do we find? People watch videos like Trading Ghana’s Water For Gold, tut-tut in a resigned manner
and – DO NOTHING!

I just cannot understand that.

REPEAT: I just cannot understand that!

Dec
12

A DEVASTATING FILM ON GALAMSEY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6qaiPSbZsQ

CONGRATULATIONS TO EDEM SREM AND GIFTY APPIAH ON AN EXCELLENT PRODUCTION WHICH SHOULD HAVE MADE THE GOVERNMENT OF GHANA STOP ”GALAMSEY” THE MOMENT THIS FILM WAS SEEN BY ANYONE IN POWER. WHO IS ABLE OR WILLING TO HALT THE DESTRUCTION OF GHANA’S WATER BODIES BY GALAMSEY? WHO, I ASK, WHO?

if we continue to allow this, our children’s children will grow up to curse us for being the most stupid BEINGS on earth — creatures who sit down and watch whilst their country’s very lifeline is destroyed by greedy gold-diggers. We want the Government to halt it, right? But if it is too callous to do it, why should we sit down and allow it to go on? Where has PEOPLE’S POWER fled to in Ghana? In Egypt and Tunisia, they put their lives on the line for political gains. Here, we are losing the very right to exist! And yet, people watch films like this, tut-tut and just get up and go home. To do nothing….. Is this the Ghana where “”OSEEEEE YEEEEE” WAS BORN AND NURTURED? — CAMERON DUODU.

Dec
10

GOODBYE TO THE DEAR DEPARTED

UNDER THE NEEM TREE

Goodbye to The Dear Departed by CAMERON DUODU

From New African Magazine December 2014

So far, almost all the stories I have told readers of New African who chose to sit Under The Neem Tree with me, have been funny ones.

But in doing that, I have not done justice to the concept of sitting Under The Neem Tree. One of the most important aspects of the experience is to teach the young about things of which they might have heard but which they do not have direct experience about.

For instance, when I was growing up, it was Under the Neem Tree that we learnt how to play the games that taught us how to cope with the vicissitudes of life.

Of these games, the most ingenious was the game of marbles (nter in the Twi language) . First, you had to go into the bush to search for and collect the nuts of the nter tree. Where did one find them? Lesson Number One!

If you were successful, you brought them home and then applied fire to one side of the nuts to bite “legs” on it, which enabled the nuts to “dance” on a special mat prepared for the game. You won other people’s nuts if you could knock them off the mat with your nut. I shall give a full description of this game one of these days: trust me one can imbibe a lot of philosophy from it if one is an educable type of person. Nter It was only for boys, which can give you a clue as to the simulated psychological machismo attached to it!

Another popular game was oware. This could be played by everyone – old lovers as well as boys and girls at their pubescent best as practitioners of disguised eroticism. Oware could make you laugh like a jackal or make you cry like a wounded civet cat.

Like nter, you had to brave the hazards of the forest to collect the nuts. But it was worth it, for this was a game that taught one mental arithmetic plus long-term strategising and clever deceptive manoeuvres of a tactical nature. The language that went with it was suggestive, to say the least. For instance, the term for winning an opponent’s pieces was the same as is used for describing the sexual act itself!

For the girls, there was ampe. Although entirely physical, ampe too taught its players how to anticipate and defeat another person’s moves.

Then, there was a mixed gender game called tumatu, in which squares were drawn on the ground and sharp brains were needed to remember where other players had conquered territory, in order to avoid stepping into them. The Scramble For Africa in miniature or Political Education 101? I leave that to you!

But not all the games were dedicated to fun. Some made us delve into the Reality of Death. In all the games we played, you could lose out – or “die” as a player and become a mere by-stander. Or go home. With your tail between your legs.

Or you could watch your siblings, your tactical “allies”, or real and feigned “friends” defeated. Without being able to help them survive, even if you try, surreptitiously, to support them. Thereby, you learnt empathy, sympathy and resignation. All at the same time.

So, Under The Neem Tree, you acquired the knowledge that “all days are not equal”. In fact, sometimes the learning moved away seamlessly from the metaphorical to the real.

You see, we chatted and told stories whilst playing. For instance, it was during an nter contest that I learnt about the death of a very strong bully called Kwa’Ntwi, who bestrode the twin-villages of Saaman and Dwaaso, about five miles from my home-town, Asiakwa. He was used to terrorising the entire area, as far as Osinor. He would force women to give him some of the foodstuffs they were carrying home from their farms. But one day, he made a mistake: he intercepted a hunter who were carrying the game he had bagged home.

When the hunter warned him to stop harassing him, Kwa’Ntwi clutched the five fingers of his right hand together, beat his chest very hard with the first and shouted at the hunter, ”What can you do?”

Then he charged at the hunter. The hunter sidestepped him neatly. He then cocked his gun. And warned Kwa’Ntwi again.

But Kwa’Ntwi got up and tried to rush the hunter again.

“TI-REEEEENG!” the hunter pressed the trigger of his gun.

There lay Kwa’Ntwi, bleeding to death and chewing the gravels on the ground.

The boy who told this story made it sound as real as it would have been had he been standing there when it happened. We knew he wasn’t there, but that was the beauty of being Under The Neem Tree: everyone who had any talent was allowed to display it there. The boy with a good flair for story-telling taught us that you could push people too far. (Apparently, Kwa’Ntwi’s killer was acquitted of murder – on the grounds of self-defence against a well-known bully and tyrant).

Another bully we heard had about was the chief of Abenne, in a state called Kwahu that was adjacent to ours. He thought no-one could kill him because he had gone and “’eaten” [subscribed to the protection of] a powerful juju in Northern Ghana. He too was left sprawling on the ground by a fearless man who shot him twice with a “double-barrelled” gun after being slapped about by the chief. This was a true story, for there was a cloth called “The useless talismans of the Chief of Abenne”.

So we learnt about how death can come for anyone. When death did come for my friend, the former Ghana Airways Pilot, Captain Peter Dorkenoo, Peter wasn’t in the best of health. Nevertheless I mourn him as if he was a young man cut off in his prime.

For that was how I remember him: I was doing a story on him for Drum Magazine when he was flying for the West African Airways Corporation (WAAC), in the early 1960s. He was big news for he was flying the DC-3 (Dakota), an aircraft that was so temperamental it needed both physical strength and good brains to pilot it through the West African skies, what with the strong winds that accompanied tropical storms, and the low visibility that occurred during the Harmattan season. It was unheard of for blacks to become Captains in WAAC, so Peter and a comrade of his, Captain Thomas Agyare, were pioneers of the highest order.

Indeed, Peter was one of only four black Africans who were the first to be trained by the British to become Pilots in the mid-1950s – two from the Gold Coast and two from Nigeria. When Ghana Airways was formed in 1962, both Peter and Agyare were trained on Viscounts and became Captains on that aircraft as well. Then they moved on to jets – the VC-10 to be exact. At that time, the VC-10 aircraft was the most sophisticated on earth, and to see the two Ghanaians not only skippering it and flying it so smoothly that the passengers often clapped their hands for the Pilots when they landed their aircraft, was a great boost for Ghanaian – and African – self-confidence.

Peter Dorkenoo, who was also Champion [Sports Car] Driver of Ghana, died aged 84 at the end of September 2014. He enjoyed life to the full: I can testify to that because he taught me a great deal about the finer things of life – among them, lovely cars, jazz music and good films. May he rest in peace.

Another person who taught me a great deal and has left this life was Professor Ivor G Wilks, who has died in Wales, in the UK, aged 86.

I met the late Prof Wilks at a New Year School organised by the University of Ghana’s Extra-Mural Studies Department at Legon at the end of 1954. He was lecturing in a seminar on international affairs which I joined. He had been a lieutenant in Palestine before coming to Ghana and his lectures were extremely interesting, because the Middle East was in ferment at the time. The “Baghdad Pact” was in the news and the Anglo-Israeli-French invasion of Suez (1956) on the horizon.

When I became a reporter on a magazine called New Nation, my first major assignment took me to Northern Ghana, and I discovered there that Prof Wilks was the Resident Tutor of the Department of Extra-Mural Studies, based in Tamale. Although I had only been his student at the New Year School and hardly knew him, he very generously put me up at his bungalow in Tamale, and gave me ideas regarding where I could go for stories. Most important, he taught me where I might stay in Bolgatanga, Navrongo and Bawku, without straining the tiny budget New Nation had given me.

It was due entirely to the assistance given to me by Prof Wilks that I obtained my first-ever scoop – a funny, fact-based story entitled “How I deceived The Tongo Fetish.” By the time I became editor of Drum Magazine, he had done original research in Ashanti, Northern Ghana and beyond, which had enabled him to break new ground with the publication of a small but explosive book entitled “The Northern Factor in Asante History”.

In this book, Prof Wilks re-directed the epicentre of the history of the Asante empire towards its relations with North Africa and away from the hackneyed version, which concentrated almost entirely on Asante’s relationship with the coast – where , o0f course, Asante had battled for control against the British and other Europeans. Prof Wilks had acquired a knowledge of Arabic and he revealed – mainly through manuscripts some of which he unearthed himself whilst doing research in Asante, Northern Ghana and North Africa – that Asante’s relations with Northern Africa, through such trading posts as Djenne. proved that Asante was ready to modernise itself through contacts with the rest of the world, through the Mediterranean, and not just through southern Gold Coast. He thus changed the history with which we had been fed in school — “West Africa As Civilised By The Whiteman” to “West Africa As It Was When It Ruled Itself!” I was thrilled when he pointed out that Akan words like ponkor (horse) and djata (lion) were unmistakably imported from Asante’s Northern neighbours.

Prof Wilks later produced two authoritative books, Asante In The 19th Century, and Forests of Gold, which established him as THE foremost world expert on Asante history. Indeed, he did for Asante history, what Basil Davidson has done for African history as a whole. When he left the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies, he became a Professor, then Regius Professor, at North-Western University in Illinois, USA. I feel gratified to have known him and I wish him eternal, peaceful rest. And I send my heartfelt condolences to his children, David Amanor and Dede Esi Amanor.

Dec
02

AMERICA’S BLIND SPOT

AMERICA’S BLIND SPOT by CAMERON DUODU

As soon as I heard that a Grand Jury was to decide whether Darren Wilson, the white policeman who had shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old black youth, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, the question that arose in my mind was, “What is the racial mixture of the Grand Jury?”

The question did not arise in my mind because I am a rocket scientist. It is just that I know a bit about the nature of racism in America. This racism, very often sub-conscious and totally unrecognised by those who practise it, indicated to me that if there was a white majority on the Grand Jury, it would somehow manage to acquit the white policeman.

And yet the mainstream American media were not even saying anything about the racial composition of the Grand Jury, let alone predicting that the Grand Jury would decide the issue in such a way as to cause suspicion that its decision would be racially biased and possibly lead to riots! It was long after the Grand Jury had been composed that I learnt that there were six whites on it to three non-whites.

In a town where two out of three inhabitants are black!

Does that not flout the democratic principles upon which the United States is supposedly built?

I think the journalists who give us the bulk of the information that comes out of America are failing their country and the world. Many seem to shrink away from asking the simple but uncomfortable questions that make complex situations quite clear. If they did not live in a make-belief world that has been constructed in their own minds by the privileges they enjoy as whites, they would have sent out alarm messages to those responsible for setting up the Grand Jury, warning them: “Ferguson is a town in which about three quarters of the inhabitants are black. A Grand Jury is supposed to be representative of the people in a locality in which a crime has been committed. You simply cannot set up a Grand Jury with a white majority in such a place in a case in which a black youth has been killed by a white policeman. Remember that white policemen have been killing black youths all over the country and in inviting a biased Grand Jury verdict, you will be asking for trouble!”

But how could the media have blown the alarm on the potential threat that a Grand Jury with a white majority posed to Ferguson? After all, they had not blown the alarm over the fact that about 80 percent of the members of the police in Ferguson were white, whilst the population was 75% black. They had not sounded any alarm, either, over the fact that in such a locality, the prosecuting officials responsible for selecting the Grand Jury were white. Or that many of the important officials whose decisions affect the majority of the black populace were white.

President Barack Obama was hoisted over a horrendous petard by the trouble in Ferguson. He knew from his heart that the family of Michael Brown would be suffering terribly. It is bad enough for a black family to try raising a young man in an America where money counts and TV advertising instils envy into all young people. Brown’s family had raised him to reach the magical age of 18, at which point in his life he was supposed to begin contributing something back to his family. Now, he was dead. And most probably, not from ANYTHING he had actually done, but because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time; had been racially profiled by a racist white policeman, and been gunned down. Having grown up as a Blackman in Chicago, Obama knew the score perfectly well.

Yet what could he do? He mouthed platitudes: the American way of life was based on the rule of law, therefore the decision whether to charge the white policeman or not rested with the Grand Jury, he said. Yes, but what about the selection of the Grand Jury, Mr President? He didn’t want to go there. I have heard it suggested that he didn’t want to 1. go and visit Michael Brown’s family and 2. make any comments on the Grand Jury decision because the US Justice Department is investigating the possibility that the shooting of Brown might constitute a federal crime – in the sense that it had infringed his civil rights – and that the President must not be seen to be acting in a way that could be said to have the possibility of influencing the Federal investigation. All well and good, but what if he paid a quiet visit to the Brown family to comfort them but did not express any opinions whilst in Ferguson? Who in his right senses would blame a family man for visiting a family that had suffered a horrendous bereavement? And suppose someone blamed him – so what?

You see, if President Obama does not take care, he can go down in history as the man who salved the consciences of racists in America. For they can always boast that “a racist country could not have elected a Black President” (which is true!) whilst using that very fact to continue practising racism against blacks, especially young black men.

A non-racist America ought not to have so many black people in jail. The proportion of blacks in jail for offences which do not earn white people a jail sentence is terrifying.

A non-racist America ought not to have unemployment figures that show that blacks are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as whites.

A non-racist America also ought not to be unconcerned that blacks generally earn about one-third less income than whites.

And finally, a non-racist America must not tolerate a situation whereby, a mere telephone call from someone to a police department reporting that there is a young boy sitting on a see-saw in a park brandishing what looks like a “fake” gun, is transmuted into a racially-profiled report that says, “Dangerously-armed Blackman threatening people with gun in leisure centre; proceed with care!” And thereby, a twelve-year-old boy, just out to play in a park, loses his life.

I was incensed when I first heard reports about this particular shooting of the twelve-year-old boy. I knew instinctively that the boy must have been black, yet the BBC’s Radio 4 news programme, Today (on which I first heard the news) kept reporting that it was a “twelve-year-old boy!” This was quite clearly the sort of censorship which the mainstream American media indulges itself in, and alas, it had infected the BBC? I knew they knew that it was a black boy, for when last did the BBC hear that a 12-year-old white boy had been shot dead – whilst playing in a park – by the American police? Surely, apart from the anodyne Associated Press, there are other news sources which the BBC could have consulted before taking part in the charade that there are no racial groups in the United States, or that policemen from one race consistently victimise young people from the other race by practising a turkey shoot on them?

It is an altogether sad scenario. A country has all the ingredients that can make it great. Yet it won’t take the measures that will cement its greatness and make it permanent.

The USA ought to give black people real power by vigorously enforcing their right to vote. Then, Mayors, Police Chiefs, Governors and [elected] Judges would feel the need to make themselves acceptable to their constituencies.

The Federal Government alone can enforce the equal vote laws. It has taken upon itself, powers that enable it to apply Federal laws against terrorism in every corner of the land. But it won’t take the sort of action that will safeguard the civil right – especially the right to vote – of the very people it claims it wants so much to protect that it has had to take so much power unto itself. Including reading their emails and tapping their telephones. And going abroad to kill terrorists who might harm the American people! Protect them by fighting their would-be enemies abroad, but leave them to be gunned down by their known enemies – fellow citizens in law enforcement who are paid with everybody’s taxes? Hypocrisy of the first order.

All great nations carry within them, the seeds of their own destruction. The age in which we live makes it impossible to hide information for long, and as more and more black Americans discover the truth about their country, they could, one day, dare the privileged white minority to either massacre them en masse or restore their human rights to them in full.

Among the most important of their human rights is the right to walk their streets as free citizens without being targeted by racist policemen. The entire US national ethos is based on the notion that there can be “no taxation without representation”. Yet in many states, the police forces do not represent the taxed black populace; the school boards are also largely unrepresentative; nor are other bodies that, in a Federal Nation, ought to take account of the racial composition of the communities they are either elected or appointed to serve.

If it continues leaving things as they are, America will one day destroy itself. W E B Du Bois said, “The problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the Colour line.”Alas, it is also the problem of the 21st Century. One Black President ain’t gonna change that.

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