ONLY OKYEMAN CAN SAVE ITSELF FROM GALAMSEY!
By CAMERON DUODU
urgent update: GALAMSEY HAS NOW BECOME A ‘NATIONAL ISSUE’– ASANTEHENE
Friday, 31 May 2013
Stay off galamsey or face my anger – Otumfuo warns sub-chiefs
Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has warned his sub-chiefs to stay out of illegal mining activities, otherwise known as ‘galamsey’ or risk dealing with his wrath.
“You must appreciate that if I get reports about galamsey and we trace it to any particular chief, we know what to do with that so let us appreciate that,” he warned. According to him, the negative existence of illegal small scale miners is a national challenge and must be contained.
“In terms of galamsey, we know it’s a national issue, but I don’t think we should allow that to come to this place. “Nananom, you are here and I am saying that we don’t have to allow that to come to this place. No matter what, no matter who has whatever money, you don’t have to allow this to come here,” he stressed. His warning follows a working visit he paid to Newmont Ghana mines in the Brong Ahafo Region.
END URGENT UPDATE
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In the circumstances prevailing in Ghana, where rural poverty is everywhere to be seen but is completely ignored by a predatory state that looks only after those who are supposed to manage its resources in trust for all its people, it may sound heartless to point a finger of condemnation at poor people who have found a way of trying to make a living.
Indeed, when I first heard of the “galamsey” phenomenon, I just laughed. It was the language that caught my attention. Who on earth had jumbled together the words, “Gather-am-and-sell” into such a neat, simple construction as “galamsey”?
I just relegated the word to the back of my mind, unwilling to dwell on an unpleasant undertaking that often ended in death or injury for its practitioners. After all, people did go into the bush all the time to do dangerous things. Some went to deprive bees of their honey – only to be painfully stung doing that. Sometimes, people actually died from an over-dose of bee-sting.
Rat-catchers were also exposed to serious danger at times. They could be surprised by poisonous snakes that popped out unexpectedly from the holes which they thought contained bush rats that they sought to smoke out and kill, sometimes with hunting dogs. Well, if a black mamba whose eyes had been reddened by smoke charged at you, your dogs would run and leave you, and you would learn that there are easier ways of making a living than by trying to smoke bush-rats out of rat-holes. Who ever knew exactly what a rat-hole contained?
As time went on, however, one heard that it wasn’t so much the normal risks associated with bush activities that were dogging the galamsey operators as their own handiwork. One read that as many as ten or more people were sometimes buried in one “mine accident” alone: deep holes they had themselves dug to find gold would have caved in on them. Occasionally, the number of casualties was even higher. Pity was one’s main emotion on reading about such calamities.
But then, a new concern was forced on one – the destruction of the countryside. You see, ‘panning’ sand or soil in order to win gold from it, needs water; a lot of water. And so “galamsey” was necessarily carried out near rivers and streams whenever possible.
But these rivers and streams are, of course, the very heart and soul — no less — of our countryside. The rivers and streams all have a tiny “source”, usually in a hill or cave far away from human habitation. As they descend down the hills and rocks, they join, or are joined by — tributaries that are on a similar journey. By the time humans find the water attractive enough to make them wish to settle near them, the streams and rivers would have become quite large; well — “viably” big enough to convince those who founded all our villages and towns that they’d come across a good site for permanent settlement.
For the people of olden days were extremely careful in everything they did. Without a year-round supply of good, clean water that was not only safe to drink but pleasant to the taste, no settlement could survive. And they were determined, above all, not to allow their descendants to be, as they put it graphically, “burned out” or decimated. (Wɔmma wɔn ase nnhye da!)
So once a river or stream had been selected as the principal source of water, strict rules for its preservation were issued and taught to the new generation. It was forbidden, for instance, to fell the trees that shaded the banks of the rivers and streams. This was to prevent the running water being exposed directly to the harshness of the sun and drying it up or making it too warm to give a refreshing drink to humans. Also, no-one was allowed to farm too close to the rivers and streams, as the roots of the food plants would suck up too much water from the water-table which replenished the river’s waters. Of course, this rule was in the farmers’ own interest, as rivers and streams could burst their banks during heavy rainstorms and overrun the food the farmers had planted too close to a river or stream.
These rules were well known to every indigenous son or daughter of a village or town, and there were hardly any cases of disobedience that could lead to punishment. If one’s fellow villagers saw someone breaking, or about to break one of these rules, he or she would immediately draw the attention of the person breaking the rule to the fact that he or she was doing something that was “not done”. Usually, the person henceforth desisted from the action and nothing more was heard of it. However, a recalcitrant person who disregarded a fellow citizen’s friendly warning and did something wrong would be reported to the chief of the town or village.
Merely being summoned before the chief and his ten or twelve elders would be shameful enough. But the whole town or village was entitled to go sand listen to what was happening. If the recalcitrant person was found guilty, he could be punished by being asked to provide the assembly with a pot of palm wine, a bottle or a half-bottle of the powerful, locally-brewed spirit called akpeteshie, several boxes of matches, or even actual money.
But it wasn’t only the fine that was painful. Before the fine would be imposed, the assembled elders and townspeople would be entitled to go to town about the guilty person’s bad behaviour. At such a time, one should pray not to have an enemy within the group of elders, for that enemy — or others who had stored a resentment against one of which one was probably not even aware — would take the opportunity to tear one to pieces (so to speak) in front of the whole public. This would continue as and when the drink one had been forced to purchase was being drunk.
As more people got drunk, so would the condemnation that issued forth from the gathering. So one was made to provide the means of one’s own character assassination! And God help one if one protested! One of the chief’s guards would come and give one a slap — the greater the amount of drink the guard had consumed, the mightier would be the slap and the even sharper insults that accompanied it!
You see, in our traditional society, everyone’s business was literally everyone else’s business, and for a very good reason. If the water dried up because of an individual’s stupid behaviour, everyone would suffer. So why should a fool be left to go on being foolish? If he was not checked, what would he do next to endanger everyone else’s existence?
Communal action was so dear to the heart of our villages and towns that they had special names for the particular exercises in which everyone was expected to take part. The most common of them was akwanbɔ (clearing the roads and paths to the rivers and streams as well as to farms.) Weeds were also regularly cleared from the environs of the water-courses, in case the weeds grew over the banks and strayed into the water, obstructing its free-flow. Occasionally, desilting and strengthening of the river banks were carried out.
Good husbandry of this sort enabled rivers and streams to survive and remain healthy, and they, in their turn, ensured that the people of a locality remained constantly supplied with good, clean water — the essence of life for every man and beast alive. Other community actions included keeping the latrines clean by weeding and sweeping their environs (pra dua anaa atonko so) and apportioning land for farming (twitwa anaa kyekyɛ asaase).
For hundreds of years, if not thousands, such activities had been the hallmark of the relationship that our people had evolved to be able to tame Mother Nature. They looked after their environment and their environment looked after them, each ensuring the other’s survival. Indeed, so crucial was it to preserve the balance between man and environment that sometimes our clever ancestors even resorted to “magical” or “metaphysical” elements to protect our lands and water sources. For instance, many rivers and streams were given human names and regarded as superhuman entities! On on their “name-days”, people were not allowed to go near the rives to fetch water, or cross them to go into farms.
I have empirical knowledge of this: in my own town, Asiakwa, one river, Twafoɔ, was named “Yaw” (born on Thursday) and on Thursdays, its environs became a “no-go” area. Only strangers or the wilfully unenlightened would go anywhere near it on that day. Whoever disobeyed the taboo would be told of it by any townsman or townswoman who saw the taboo being broken. A second offence would end in the chief’s court — as already described. “Twafo Yaw” had his own priestess, who officiated at ceremonies meant to reinforce his sacredness. This lady, in her element, had an onomatopoeic way of imitating the way a river runs over rocks: gbi-gbi-gbu-gbu-gbi-gbi-gbu-gbu! She was particularity in evidence during festivals, such as Ohum and Odwira, during which she could be heard declaiming the appelations of her river:
A memene Birem!
(Here he is,
The tiny stream
That swallows the mighty Birem )
Now, Birem was the biggest river in Akyem Abuakwa, and the boast of the Twafoɔ priestess was predicated on the fact that Twafoɔ and Birem both originated from the Atewa hills and joined each other at one point in the hills. It would be unthinkable for our ancestors to have invented a lie and make Twafoɔ swallow Birem, if it was not based on solid fact.
For one thing, some of them crossed the Birem on their way to nearby viillages such as Agyɛpɔmaa, Asafo, Bunso and Maase, and given their belief that rivers possessed strange powers, they would not have dared to ‘downgrade’ Birem in favour of Twafoɔ, as Birem, when it was in flood, was a pretty mighty and angry body of water. It was known to drown, on occasion, even people who had not offended it in any way. How much more those who deliberately ‘downgraded’ it in favour of a much smaller stream like Twafoɔ? Anyway, what did it matter whether Birem was a tributary of Twafoɔ or vice versa? They each held a vital key to the sustenance of life in Akyem Abuakwa, did they not?
That was probably one of the reasons why fishing in Twafoɔ’s waters – not only on Thursdays but on any day – was asking for real trouble. One Asiakwa man who thought that the very fat tilapia and mud-fish in the river were too good to be allowed to go to waste and thus helped himself liberally to them, with a net — no less — came to a mysterious end. He apparently believed that (1) because he had been baptised as a Christian and (2) he had seen military service fighting the Japanese in Burma in World War Two (where he had been exposed to some really awful atrocities committed by both sides in the War) he had been “liberated” from all “superstitious” taboos.
What happened to him was that he soon began to develop very odd patterns of behaviour. He would hold military parades — all by himself. For example, he would march “in line” on our streets, all alone, occasionally shouting: “Attention!”
At this, he would stop dead. Then he would say (with a faint smile on his lips) : “Haaaaatayze!” [at ease).
He would now stand still for a minute or two, arms akimbo, before setting off again, marching in a straight line while shouting: “One-two!” … One-two!”
After this man had been doing this for a while, children crossed the street away from him and walked the other way (or even in another direction) whenever they saw him coming towards them. He never hurt anyone, but that was probably because no-one gave him the chance to do so. You know….!
Eventually, the man began to talk incessantly to himself, smile and occasionally, even break into a broad smile or laugh. Some said that when these peculiar events occurred, occurred, he was remembering how he had used a “bennet” [bayonet] to kill people in Burma. Others speculated that he was remembering what had happened when he had visited brothels in India and East Africa, on his way to and from Burma, when he and other soldiers being shipped to the war-front were given a day or two’s “shore leave”. The really wicked gossip-mongers swore that he had contracted syphillis during a visit to one of the brothels and that the disease had entered his mind and chewed it up.
Needless to say, the man died not too long after he arrived back home from Burma. Almost everyone who knew the man’s story believed that the River Twafoɔ had taken revenge on him for “eating its (the river’s) children [the fish]”
Our other river, Supɔng, was not so ‘belligerent’ and it was loved rather than feared. It was much bigger than Twafoɔ, and perhaps because it stood a greater chance of survival, not so many taboos were erected to accord it protection from the populace. It was given a name all the same – Kwasi (born on Sunday). But fishing in it was allowed. And there were many deep sections along its course which were turned into delectable swimming pools by used by kids.
Water from Supɔng was amazingly cool, for it flowed down from thickly forested hills in the mist-topped Atewa Range rainforest. I’ve never drunk any water as delicious as water from Supɔng, cooled in my other’ ahina (large earthen water-pot). She usually re-baked this pot upside down, over a hot fire into which she had placed dried husks that had once contained palm-nuts from an oil-palm tree. As the wisps of smoke rose from the burning palm husks, it scented the inside of the pot and gave the water that was put into the pot, a faint taste of dried palm husks. I know this is a matter of personal taste, of course, but I swear I have never drunk any water that was as lovely as water from Supɔng that had been given my mother’s special treatment.
I don’t know how the women of Asiakwa got to know of this technique of turning their water-pots into “nectar-breweries”, but almost all my women relatives did it in their own homes, too. So, if I was coming home from school at noon-time, I made for the first house in which one of my relatives lived and was sure to get a cool drink that immediately managed to take my mind off the pangs of hunger that were making my tummy rumble at that time of day. Well, until I reached my own home.
Now, sad to say, Twafoɔ has dried up and Supɔng too has been reduced into a lean trickle whose dry riverbed sometimes contains no water at all but sand and brown mud!!
WHAT? Asuo Supɔng ampaa? [Really? You mean the mighty River Supɔng?]
Shall one weep? Can one’s tears fill the riverbed with the cool
clean water to which one was born and to which every person at Asiakwa and Nsutem owes his or her life?
What shall we tell our ancestors when we meet them in the afterlife? That we sat down and watched helplessly while chainsaw operators cut down all the protective trees that had kept our rivers and streams alive in the past? That we allowed galamsey operators to use cyanide and other chemicals to poison our drinking water?
Or that we continue to sit and watch with folded hands, as these same galamsey operators dig deep pits all around our villages and towns – in search of gold – which they leave uncovered and which, when it rains, become filled with water into which people can slip and drown or be injured? That there are galamsey pits and holes near a secondary school at Kyebi, our capital, that have killed at least one student? That people are in danger of injury, when they are engaging in their normal pursuit of going to their farms?
It is time to put a stop to it. I read that the Okyenhen, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, had made a plaintive cry to the Ghana Government to arrest people– “including chiefs” – who collaborate with galamsey operators and facilitate their operations in Akyem Abuakwa.
But I ask: Has the Okyenhen not got power to bring to trial before his State Council, and destool chiefs who act contrary to the interests of the people they have sworn a sacred Oath to serve?
By calling on the Central Government, I am afraid the Okyenhen is barking up the wrong tree. For everyone calls on the Government but neglects to do what they can do themselves.
Clearly, in the galamsey case, what is needed is self-help. In the past, when the survival of their people was at stake, our ancestors banded together to defend themselves. They had proper armies for wars, and “Asafo” (massed group) in peace time.
The first time I saw an Asafo in action was when a calamity occurred sat Asiakwa — a tree branch broke and killed a woman who was on her way back home from her farm. Within minutes of the “Kyirem” drums of the Asafo being beaten, MEN had assembled and gone into the bush to fetch her dead body home.
What indeed has happened to our Asafo groups? If the Okyenhen is serious about stopping galamsey from destroying his state, then I implore him, in consultation with his chiefs, to issue an edict asking them to re-form the Asafo of their towns and villages nd use them to engage in patrols around their own towns and villages, as they would have done in ancient times
The State Council should do this openly and even invite the police to come and co-operate in their exercises, if they like, so as to obviate any suspicion that they are up to political activities or something underhand — in these days of suspicion.
Little or no force will be needed to stop the galamsey operators in their tracks, once they realise that whole masses of communities are being mobilised to prevent them from destroying our countryside.
The people of Winneba have proudly managed to maintain their Asafo groups to catch deer during their annual Deer-hunt Festival. But the Winneba Deer-hunt is only a cultural event that has no bearing on their survival in their current habitat.
The Akyems and others who are facing the daily destruction of their territory should learn from the Winneba example that it is possible to maintain a traditional force [Asafo] in their area, which can deter wicked money-seekers from evicting them from their ancestral lands.
By destroying their sources of water and blocking the roads they use to go to their farms. what are the galamsey operators doing exactly?
No-one has the right to ask someone else’s nation to commit collective suicide. If the victims of galamsey sit down and do nothing, they will be committing suicide, no less.
The Akyems are fond of saying, “Yɛnnhwɛ mma Okyeman nnsɛe!” (We won’t watch to see the Okyeman going to ruin.)
But alas, the evidence suggests that “Okyeman asɛe awie!” (The Okyeman is already despoilt!)
What is needed is emergency rescue measures. And that is a task meant for REAL MEN. Has Okyeman still got any?
It is not Akyem Abuakwa alone whose water sources are being forcibly dried up or poisoned! Please read on:
(a) News of Monday, 20 May 2013
Source: Daily Guide
Queenmother cries over galamsey
Nana Difie said river bodies which serve as potable drinking water for the rural folks were rapidly being destroyed by the illegal miners.
The Maponghemaa wondered why the government and appropriate agencies had failed to protect the environment.
Nana Difie disclosed this while speaking to a section of the press in Kumasi during the fourth and final segment of the Service Management and Leadership for Traditional Authorities programme in Kumasi.
Organized by the Osei Tutu II Centre for Executive Education and Research, the educative programme is geared towards enhancing the knowledge of the traditional leaders.
Nana Difie insisted that it was unacceptable for government to sit aloof and watch the destruction of river bodies and the environment.
She accused the government of not providing potable drinking water for the rural folks, adding that it should assist the rural dwellers by protecting the river bodies.
Nana Difie was not happy with the indifference of chiefs in the wake of the destruction of river bodies in their localities as a result of illegal mining, adding that chiefs were not doing enough to protect river bodies.
The Mamponghemaa charged chiefs to boldly drag government to court in a situation whereby the government sanctioned illegal mining in their localities.
She appealed to the queen mothers to courageously stop illegal mining in their areas.
Nana Difie said the rural dwellers also deserve better in terms of access to potable drinking water, cautioning the perpetrators to stop the destruction of river bodies in the country.
The traditional leaders studied ‘Leadership and Financial Management’ in the final part of the four-month programme. They previously undertook courses such as Service Management and Innovation, ICT and Land Administration and Contemporary Issues in Leadership.
(b) Illegal mining threatens water bodies In Central Region –Daily Graphic 11.05 2013
Illegal mining activities continue to pose a threat to water bodies in the Central Region. The Pra River which flows through Twifo Praso, Assin Praso and Sekyere Hemang is one of the rivers that has barely survived the ravages of illegal mining.
Apart from the situation of water bodies, officials of the Ghana Water Company at the Sekyere Hemang Water Works have complained that the activities of the illegal miners also pose a great danger to the health and lives of people.
Some of the threatening activities are the equipment used in illegal mining that are dumped with no protective cover in the raw water source, polluting the water that is a source for domestic and other uses.
The Central Regional Police Commander, Deputy Commissioner of Police Mr Ransford Ninson, told newsmen recently that the police would take the battle to the doorstep of galamsey operators to preserve the water bodies in the region.
He indicated that the galamsey operators continued to pollute the various water bodies in areas such as Sekyere Hemang,Twifo Praso and Dunkwa-on-Offin in the Central Region, contributing to the acute water shortage being experienced in parts of the Central Region, especially in Cape Coast.
He said the police would mount swoops on the illegal miners to curb such negative activities.
“These miners are doing these things for their own selfish gain and we will take the battle to them,” he said.
Mr Ninson pledged the regional police command’s commitment to significantly reduce the incidents of crime in the region, noting in particular that the police command would improve on activities in areas such as Kasoa, Winneba Junction, Swedru and parts of Dunkwa-on-Offin, where criminal activities had been observed.
He urged the people in the region to support the police to combat crime.
Chinese miners kill two locals in Obuasi
Chinese traffick compatriots to Ghana to work as miners
Daily Graphioc .
A number of Chinese arrested by the police for engaging in galamseyEmerging evidence indicates that some Chinese are engaged in trafficking their compatriots into Ghana to force them to work in illegal gold mining camps to pay for their fare to Ghana. Among their modus operandi is that the traffickers apply for work permit for the Chinese entering the country, often describing them as construction workers in non-existent real estate companies and others as tourists.The patrons then seize the passports of their arriving compatriots and move them to the mining camps, mostly in the Western Region, to work as labourers.
Sources at the Minerals Commission told the Daily Graphic that since the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) and the Ministry of the Interior were also responsible for recommending visitors for work/resident permits to the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), the Chinese patrons had started using that as a channel to traffic their compatriots into the country.
According to the sources, anytime some of the trafficked Chinese were arrested in the camps, accusing fingers were pointed at the commission, although staff of the commission were not permitted to enter those illegal mines.
It said at the moment one Chinese firm had been granted permit in the Northern Region as a mine support service provider.
Daily Graphic investigations have also shown that trafficked Chinese are mainly concentrated in camps located in the Amenfi East, West and Central, as well as the Prestea, Enchi and Mpohor, districts of the Western Region.
The investigations also established that some of the Chinese take advantage of the country’s porous borders to traffic their compatriots through unapproved routes on the west and the east.
The Western Regional Police Commander, Deputy Commissioner of Police Mr Kofi Boakye, told the Daily Graphic that some illegal Chinese miners who were recently arrested and screened had permits that did not allow them to work in the mines.
He said some had no entry visas at all, while others came under the pretext of providing one service or another in the mining sector but ended up mounting huge machines in forest reserves to do serious mining.
When contacted, the Head of Public Relations at the GIS, Mr Francis Palmdeti, said the passports of some Chinese were often not found on them anytime they were arrested, reports Emmanuel Bonney. He said it was in the course of investigations that “you have someone coming with their passports”.He said it could be that the passports were held by those who had brought their compatriots into the country until the new arrivals performed the task for which they had been brought in.Mr Palmdeti said the GIS had started looking at the issue of human trafficking, adding that “although it has not been established, we cannot rule that out”.Checks at the GIPC, however, landed the Daily Graphic in a cul-de-sac, as Mr Tom Quarshie, the Public Relations Officer, asked this reporter to write to the chief executive officer of the centre for an official response on the matter.
Story: Moses Dotsey Aklorbortu, Sekondi
President John Mahama has set up a high-powered inter-ministerial taskforce to deal with the galamsey menace in the country. The taskforce which will be led by the Lands and Mines Minister Alhaji Inusah Fuseini has the herculean task to ensure that activities of illegal small scale miners come to an end.The committee will include the Ministers for the Interior, Defence, Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration as well as Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation.Inaugurating the committee at the Flagstaff house President Mahama said galamsey is becoming a security threat that needs to be halted before it degenerates.President Mahama says it is unacceptable that lives are being lost and our water bodies being destroyed as a result of activities of these illegal small scale miners.He says the committee’s work takes immediate effect and should report on monthly bases to the Chief of Staff.He charged the taskforce to actualize his determination to bring “sanity” into the mining sector, and to also ensure that the small scale mining sector is reserved for Ghanaians.“I am sending a clear signal to the offending individuals and groupings that the government will not allow their activities to cause conflict, dislocation, environmental degradation and unemployment when in fact the sector should rather benefit our communities and our country.”The president also gave directive to the committee to seize the equipment of small scale miners who have refused to register their activities and prosecute them.Foreigners caught engaging in small scale mining should be deported, the president ordered.He also asked the taskforce to revoke the license of Ghanaians who have subleased their concessions to foreigners.
A processing plant for extracting gold at the siteFive persons, including four foreigners, have been arrested for allegedly engaging in illegal mining at Sekyere Obuasi in the Wassa East District in the Western Region.
The suspects are Prince Baidoo, a Ghanaian and Managing Director of Dippong Construction, and Cincenzo Stajone and Cielo Dandiela, both Italians.
The rest are Wei Jin Jie and Ian Zhang Zhang, both Chinese.
They were arrested on the orders of the Deputy Western Regional Minister, Mr Alfred Ekow Gyan, during his visit to Sekyere Obuasi on Monday, May 13, 2013.
The suspects were operating an illegal gold mine 80 metres from the Pra River.
But Prince Baidoo told the Deputy Western Regional Minister that he was only prospecting for gold under a prospecting licence issued to his company by the Minerals Commission.
He explained that the foreigners were technical assistants who were assisting the company in its mining operations.
According to him, Dippong Construction had a 47-kilometre square concession and denied allegations that the company was driving farmers from their farms.
At the site, a trench had been dug to pump water from the Pra River into a processing plant.
After the gold had been extracted, the chemicals and the water were released back into the river, a practice which leads to the pollution of the river.
Mr Gyan condemned the illegal mining which was affecting the quality of the River Pra.
Additionally, he said, the law which prohibited foreign nationals from engaging in small-scale mining, which is reserved for only Ghanaians, should be enforced.
He said apart from the cost incurred by the Ghana Water Company in dealing with the pollution of the Pra River, the supply of water to Sekondi and Takoradi was eventually affected by the mining operations.
Story: Fred Otoo