Prosecute culprits in galamsey acts – Alliance of CSO’s in agriculture-Ghana tells government

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Mr Anthony Morrison, CEO Chamber of Agribusiness Ghana, addressing the media.
Mr Anthony Morrison, CEO Chamber of Agribusiness Ghana, addressing the media.

Alliance of CSO’s in agriculture-Ghana has urged government to implement policies and budget that respects and invest in community actions and rights, ensuring that the little gains in our hard-fought efforts do not go into waste.

The group stressed that, government should demonstrate that indeed no subject or person is above the law. Government should bring all known politicians, traditional authorities, policy makers, businesswomen and men and influential people involved in the business of illegal mining to scrutiny and prosecution.

Addressing the media at a conference in Accra on 3rd June, 2021, the convener of the Alliance of CSO’s in agriculture-Ghana, Mr Anthony Morrison, who is also the CEO of the Chamber of Agribusiness Ghana, stated, “We cannot deceive ourselves with conferences, government must act and lead and communities will rise to support in the fight against illegal mining activities.

Since winning a second term, the government has renewed efforts to fight illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey.

Government has appointed a new and youthful minister and held national and on-going regional consultative dialogue on Small Scale Mining in Accra and the Ashanti Region respectively.

During these sessions, the President has been very categorical that
(1) it is absolutely crucial that deliberations at this consultative dialogue be candid, and devoid of partisanship or narrow parochial interests;

(2) that we must understand that small scale mining, and the requirement to do away with illegalities in that sector, should be beyond partisan politics; and

(3) I urge this forum to insist that illegal small-scale mining, and matters relating to it, should be one of such issues requiring national effort.

We felt a great sense of leadership when the President said, during the national consultative forum, that “We want to learn from our shortcomings, and receive productive inputs from this forum for purposes of enhancing the regulation of the sector.”

Whilst welcoming these renewed efforts and spirit of dialogue, we have come to one solid truth and believe that the fight against galamsey, remain a mere rhetoric and government is not courageous to deal with the root causes, making it a joke. Communities genuinely like to rise to support, but they live in fear and panic.

We have taken note of the following recent concerning developments in our country:
1. At the regional consultative dialogue in Ashanti region, the Asantehene clearly revealed, without hesitation, that 30 percent of Ghanaians know those involved in galamsey…If only we would be truthful, instead of deceiving ourselves with conferences.

2. The Asantehene has alleged that prior to the Regional Consultative Dialogue on Small Scale Mining in the Ashanti Region, he had been urged by the Ashanti Regional Minister, Simon Osei Mensah and the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor to stick to reading government written statement and avoid making controversial comments.

3. The Asantehene has challenged government to be truthful in the fight against illegal small-scale mining in the country and call out persons involved in the act since they’re known in higher places.

4. The Asantehene, the President of the Western Regional House of Chiefs, and well-meaning individual and interest groups have all spoken truth to power by indicating that Politicians, traditional authorities, policy makers, and very influential people are involved in galamsey and these individual are beyond scrutiny of government. We ask: where is the rule of law, Mr. President? Why is government bribing well-meaning persons, like Asantehene, to live in perpetual silence?

We stand here today with fresh evidence from the field to reveal the level of impunity in the fight against illegal mining and show the rate of forest loss to illegal galamsey, destruction of precious and critical water sources for forest fringe communities and how the illegal miners have left huge trails of mud and toxic waste such as deadly mercury, poisoning water sources used by our local and vulnerable communities.

The effects on water bodies is already burdening the Ghana Water Company in terms of water quality and treatment.

Historically, illegal gold miners’ presence on community land has threatened the health of isolated and forest fringe communities through spreading diseases, via the harmful use of mercury used to extract gold (and most recently COVID-19), water pollution, poor health and safety, and child labor impoverishing the communities and destroying their very livelihoods.

It is clear this is a crucial moment for environmental protection and the protection of the local population against unscrupulous political and traditional authorities whose interest is parochial.

While community members, particularly community groups like the Landscape management board in Juabeso and Sefwi are willing to partner with government and rise to support, or interactions with the communities reveal a state of apathy and a culture of silence.

Communities members have taken the following key position:
(1) Local people, like the people in Sefwi, face unprecedented threats while trying to protect their land and hence the planet for all of us. The local people feel that the government has weak environmental legislation and unable to sustain enforcement of the fight against galamsey. To community members, the current proliferation of illegal mining is the result of non-performing government institutions, corruption, and licensing procedures that are not fair, transparent and inclusive.

(2) While local communities believe that government cannot fight this fight alone, and they have contribution to make, they want to first see commitment, action and leadership of the government to stop known political leaders, traditional chiefs and influential business women and men to face the law.

(3) Community members blame the high incidence of illegal mining on their lands on four main factors, namely, lack of effective law enforcement, corruption on the part of officials, lack of political will, and complex involvement of traditional authorities. Their message to government is simple: “Kukru kukru no gyae a, keke keke nso begyae” as sang by famous Nana Kwame Ampadu I.

(4) Community members are aware that illegal mining activities have increased in intensity because of weak enforcement, lack of coordination, and incomprehensive collaboration and consultation among relevant stakeholders.

Our message is therefore very simple:
(1) We want government to implement policies and budget that respect and invest in community actions and rights, ensuring that the little gains in our hard-fought efforts do not go into waste.

(2) We want government to be aware that fighting illegal galamsey is a collective action, but planning will fail when community members are continuously excluded, when communication is distorted by government and powerful interest groups, and when government fail to show leadership and action.

(3) We want government to demonstrate that indeed no subject or person is above the law. Government should bring all known politicians, traditional authorities, policy makers, businesswomen and men and influential people involved in the business of illegal mining to scrutiny and prosecution.

(4) The communities and civil society groups will play its part, but we urge all other stakeholders, particularly government, traditional authority, and politicians to play their roles and live up to expectation.

This is our land; this land is dear to us.

This is the only land we have; Our forebears gave their blood so we would inherit it.

This land is our land; we have the responsibility to pass it on to our great grand children
This land is our land; only courageous truth can save it.”

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