THIS ‘GALAMSEY’ THING HAS BECOME A WAR!
BY CAMERON DUODU
Very little about Ghana alarms me these days, for my “alarmometer” has been almost walloped senseless by occurrences the like of which I had never imagined could ever take place in this country,
Nevertheless, I was totally caught unawares when I read on the website of JoyFM on 27 January 2014,that the galamsey people have been attacking Lake Bosomtwe!
An excellent report of the sort which hardly makes it into our newspapers these days, filed by Correspondent Ohene Tawiah, told us that :
“Ghana risks losing one of its treasured natural resources, as illegal miners carry their nefarious activities to the banks of Lake Bosomtwe, the biggest natural lake in West Africa. The development highlights [the] wanton destruction of [Ghana’s]water bodies, farm land and forests, especially in six districts of the Ashanti Region.”
Yiee? Lake Bosomtwe too is in danger? I thought it was a sacred lake that was protected by law?
Protected or not, Lake Bosomtwe, was, when I was in school, one of the few natural wonders in Ghana that everyone had heard about. For every year, one of our middle school classes went on an “excursion” to the lake. It was a great adventure for the lucky pupils, for it meant sleeping in another town other than good old Asiakwa.
What was a lake? We didn’t know! How was a lake formed? Ask me another! What else was there to see at Lake Bosomtwe apart from water? You had to wait until you went on excursion to see for yourself. Yes, the big fellows tried to explain it to us small ones. But we could never get a good picture of it in our minds. So we looked forward eagerly to the day when it would be out turn to go on excursion to the Lake.
I was personally very unlucky, for in the year my class was due to go on the excursion to Lake Bosumtwe, I left Asiakwa to go and continue my education at Kyebi. But that does not mean that I have no fond memories of the Lake. At one time, I spent a whole week at Kumase, on assignment for the Daily Graphic. One of our drivers in Kumase, Mr Tweneboa Kodua, got one of his female friends to become my temporary cook. Her soups were out of this world! She used aperser and other bush-meat delicacies, but not quite satisfied with that, she invariably added fresh-water fish caught in Lake Bosomtwe.
The fish was expertly “soft-broiled” to give it a taste that simply confounded one’s taste buds. You haven’t eaten delicious fish unless you have eaten Lake Bosomtwe apatre that has passed through the hands of a woman who knows what cooking is about. The only other fish I can compare it to is fish from Lake Nyasa, in Malawi, to which I was treated by my great friend, the late Malawi politician, Kanyama Chiume.
So the galamsey people want to kill this sacred Lake, as well, do they? They’ve already killed the River Supong, from which I drank as a kid. They have nearly killed the River Birem, of which Supong was a tributary. They are killing – or have killed – the Prah, the Oti, the Ankobra and many other rivers which, in times past, were considered formidable water-bodies.
If you want to go and see Lake Bosomtwe before it expires completely, thanks to the handiwork of the galamsey criminals, it is located 30km south of Kumasi — a drive of about 45-minute drive. You can reach the Lake via Abono or Edweso. (Edweso, by the way, is where the most famous Queen Mother of Ghana, Nana Yaa Asantewaa, our Warrior Queen who fought against the cannon guns of the British, reigned, before the British deported her to the Seychelles Islands, where she died. There is a shrine to her at Edweso, which can be visited to or from the Lake.)
I think that trying to destroy Lake Bosomtwe is the tipping point in galamsey activities in Ghana. This is WAR!
If any of one neighbours sent troops to come and destroy our `fresh-water sources, what would we say? We would march to the United Nations Security Council and complain bitterly that our neighbour was committing aggression against us, no so?
What the galamsey operators are doing is no different.. Yet we are watching them do it. Day after day. Night after night.
Our President has laudably set up a Task Force, which has arrested and deported hundreds of foreigners engaged in the galamsey,. But what about their Ghanaian partners bent on rendering their own country uninhabitable by destroying its water resources? What should we do to such idiots?
Well, I hope our President will permit me to give him a few suggestions. The first is this: Mr President, please kindly instruct your Minister of the Interior to present a Bill to Parliament, UNDER A CERTIFICATE OF URGENCY, worded as follows:
SHORT TITLE: The Protection of Water Resources and The Environment Bill
OBJECTIVE: A Bill to provide for the imposition of a prison sentence of not less than ten years, and a fine of five million cedis, or both, on any person found guilty of illegal digging for minerals, also known as “galamsey”, in any part of Ghana, that results in (a) the pollution or drying-up of any water bodies; (b) the desiccation of farmlands and forests and (c) the destruction of the environment generally, including the habitats of protected flora and fauna. Our able Parliamentary draughtsmen can turn those bare bones into effective legislation in two days, Sir. Just ask them and see.
Secondly, ask your newly-beefed-up information outfit to assist your Task Force in giving wide publicity to its actions against galamsey, so that the public will be left in no doubt that your Government intends to root it out.
Mr President, the seriousness of the situation is proved by the fact that one of your regional security officials is extremely worried about what he has found on the ground:
QUOTE: [The] Regional Security Liaison Officer, [Mr] Bimpong Marfo, says only intensified anti–galamsey operations can save the country from total destruction. UNQUOTE
(The JoyFM report adds: Armed galamsey operators now work in the night to outwit the regional Anti-Galamsey Taskforce which has been in operation since last year. Over 100 foreigners and locals engaged in the illegal mining have so far been arrested. Hundreds of excavators, assorted machines and other equipment, including one known as ‘champhi’, designed by the Chinese, have also been seized. Amansie West and Central, Atwima Mponua, Bosome Freho Districts as well as Obuasi and Asante Akim South municipalities are the most devastated by illegal mining.)
Meanwhile, Mr Bimpong Marfo continued: “Six of our districts are so devastated; as for Amansie West, I don’t know how that district can recover. If you go to Amansie Central, it is the same situation there. If you go to Atwima Mponua area along the Offin River, it’s the same. My worry is now that the thing has been carried over to Bosomtwe where the lake is”.
(JOYFM: Rivers Oda, Offin and Prah have all been heavily polluted. The social fabric of the people is not spared as security officials point to increasing rate of teenage pregnancy in these areas. Now galamsey operators have turned their attention to gold deposits in Lake Bosomtwe, which prompted a recent meeting of Regional Security Council.)
MR BIMPONG MARFO: “That is what prompted the Regional Security Council to [meet to] find a way of dealing with it because we have one of the major natural lakes that this nation and Africa have. If we don’t protect it and this illegal mining gets there, as [has] started”, Mr. Bimpong Marfo warned, ….. you can see what is going to happen (to Lake Bosomtwe). We need to find the resources to combat it”.
CORRESOONDENT OHENE TAWIAH adds this comment: “A worrying trend of the galamsey menace is the use of sophisticated weapons by operators, in addition to widespread abuse of narcotics such as cocaine and marijuana. Two months of undercover investigation .. last year, revealed proliferation of arms across Ashanti and Western Regions, following the ejection of Chinese illegal miners. The anti-galamsey task force has since seized 55 weapons, including 25 pump action guns, 24 single-barrelled guns, six pistols and a quantity of ammunition. Mr. Bimpong Marfo says the situation poses a security threat.”
What is there to be added? Nothing, really, These people are at war with Ghana. And the only person charged by the Constitution with protecting Ghana when war is waged against it, is our President. The ball is right in his court.