Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Asks - Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Burning of e-waste with its environmental pollution and health hazards in Ghana
Once upon a time, Ghana was like the Garden of Eden! In fact, Ghana was Paradise, really! But now, it appears Ghana is slowly but steadily migrating from Paradise to Hell itself.

On Wednesday, April 9, 2014, a fellow MA Student of the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of the Erasmus University Rotterdam, located here in The Hague, The Netherlands, posted a link a popular UK-based online newspaper - Mail Online on the Agrarian and Environmental Studies (AES) 2014 webpage). The headline of the link reads: "The Worlds largest e-waste dumping ground." 

Because I was interested in ecological issues like other colleagues of AES, I did not hesitate at all to click on the link. Then the opening paragraph of the story reads: "Think your television is recycled when you get rid of it? This is where it is likely to end up...dumping grounds such as this one, dubbed the world's biggest e-waste site."

As a Ghanaian, I knew of a similar situation in my country so my heart jumped into my mouth at once. And I decided to read further. And true to my fears, the story was about that very place called Agbogloshie in Accra, the capital city of Ghana. The story was filed by one James Rush with heart-breaking pictures by Kevin McElvaney for illustration. And innocently, the youth who were involved in the venture with their very lives at stake posed for the photographer to snap them. I wonder how much was paid them anyway. But that is not the focus of my point here.

There is a saying that, "You don't wash your dirty linens in public." But because what I saw on the link has far more dangerous health implications for the people of my country, and the fact that the story has already been put not only in the public domain, but on global stage for the entire world to see, it could no longer be described 'washing  dirty linens in public.'

 What puzzles me is whether the environmental protection authorities in my country know of this global e-waste dumping grounds or not. But I know they know. Because our local media have been writing and talking about this particular "ecological tsunami" in our capital city. But who cares? We are waiting for 100 people to die at ago one day before we will start acting. That is Ghana for you!

The object of this article is not to try to cover up or sweep the gravity of this story under carpet. Rather to expose it  the more for those who did not see it on the UK paper to see it on my blog and even send the story to other leading media houses in my country to make noise about it. After all that is one of the duties of the media - to expose the rut in society. There is also this Ghanaian proverb which says, "If your hear is dirty and you don't go to the  barber, nobody will cut it for you." 

But before I link this deadly story of the Mail Online let me say one or two unique thing about Ghana. Ghana is a magnificent small country on the West coast of Africa. It bathed by the Atlantic ocean with some nice beaches. About 95% of all slave castles in Africa can be found in Ghana. Ghana is approximately the center of the world one can fly easily from any parts of the globe to the country with ease. It has 25 million mouths to feed now.
Ghana is endowed with rich natural resources as well as human capital. It has gold - that is why it used to called the Gold Coast before independence. It has diamond, bauxite, cocoa, arable lands and now oil and gas just to mention a few. Ghana's human capital is epitomized by the Former UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan.

Besides the Queen of England who was represented at the time of dependence in 1957 and danced with our first President Osagyfo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, many, many Heads of States from Africa itself, Asia, the Americas, Europe and Australia, have trooped to Ghana to savour the proverbial hospitality of the people of Ghana. The most striking  fact is   that three Presidents of the only world super power on the face of the earth  today - the United States of America,  have visited Ghana between 1998 and  2011. This is not common phenomenon in Africa at all. Ghana was accorded this honour because the country is seen as the beacon of democracy in Africa.
Political ecology
If Ghana is seen to be doing so well diplomatically in global politics, why is the country faring so poorly in political economy and political ecology? At this threshold of the 21st century when global warming and climate change have become a focal point in global environmental politics, Ghana seems to be retrogressing terribly.

As I write this piece, there is an animal in Ghana called |”GALAMSEY.” Galamsey is not an animal at all. It is illegal small scale surface mining also known as ‘artisanal mining’. The phenomenon has virtually destroyed almost all forests; degraded all farmlands and polluted all rivers and water bodies in the country. The situation became so dire that in May 2013, the Ghanainan President Mr John Dramani Mahama had to set up an Inter-ministeral Committee dubbed “Anti-Galamsey Taskforce to find lasting solution the problem.

The American way
Ghana more or less sees America as a role model economically, politically and socially. In fact, most Ghanaians would want Ghana to be like America more than any other country on earth. So, I will also expect Ghanaians to ecologically imitate America.

The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was recently reported to have stated that climate change poses multiple threats to U.S. and global security. In his view, climate change is likely to exacerbate economic and social inequality, and increase competition and conflict over agricultural, marine, and water resources, he said.  “It can result in the massive displacement of people, including those whose livelihoods depend on these resources,” Mr. John Kerry noted.

According to The Secretary of State, the case for  climate action ‘is rooted’ in sound science and economics. Mr. John Kerry pointed out that The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has laid out clear and compelling scientific evidence of climate change and its link to human influence. And I totally agreed with him because the e-waste dumping in Ghana  has nothing to do with natural disaster but purely human activity.

Other effects of climate change which the powerful man of America underscored which must engage the attention of the entire globe were that “Glaciers are melting, heat waves are more frequent and longer-lasting, and sea levels are rising more quickly than anticipated,” The U.S. Secretary of State disclosed. 

If citizens of advanced nations  and scientifically knowledgeable  people of the world are talking about climate change and its effects on human life  and nature like this, then the rest of the world, especially African countries with particular reference to Ghana must be environmentally conscious of what they do, how they do it and why.

Now, here is the ink to Mail Online News about  environmental pollution in  Ghana:

The author is MA Student (AES) at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam  The Haughe, The Netherlands

Friday, April 4, 2014


By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

20 years of Rwanda Genocide 
April 1994 to April 2014
Do you remember the popular axiom “Forgive and forget?” It is only God Who can forgive and forget. The closest man can reach is to forgive but not to forget. That is the summary of the story of Madam Beata Muarubuga of Rwanda. And she can be described as the SYMBOL OF FORGIVESS in Rwanda.
The day was a Friday, April 4, 2014. The time was approximately 3.30 in the afternoon, and the venue was the sanctum at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of the Erasmus University Rotterdam here in The Hague, the City of Global Peace and Justice. The occasion was what was dubbed as “KWIBUKA20 –Commemoration Genocide against Tutsi.” The precise Hall of the gathering is known as Large Aula ISS Building, Kortenaerkade 12, The Hague.
When everything was set, the Rector of the famous ISS, Professor Dr Leo de Haan was called upon to set the ball rolling  by welcoming the invited guests. But this knowledge Professor is a man of few words. When Prof Leo de Haan moved to the lectern, he spent less than three (3) minutes behind the microphone. But what he said was more emotional than the entire event. In fact, he set the tone for the occasion. He just reminded the audience somewhat to the effect that what happened in Rwanda 20 years ago was more than a human tragedy the global history of ethnic conflict. Then he quietly and solemnly resumed his seat on the front row.
Then H.E. The Ambassador of Rwanda in The Hague, Mr. Jean Pierre Karabaranga picked it  up the emotional tone from where Professor de Haan left off. He then opened the 'Pandora box' of emotions and as much as he tried to control his emotions, his voice betrayed him and tears started streaming in most faces in the auditorium. The atmosphere was tensed and emotionally charged naturally. It was pathetic when he ended his talk prematurely and appealed  not only to Rwandans but all Africans of goodwill and the entire world to ensure that Rwanda ’94 does not occur again in the history of humanity.
Then a candle light ceremony was followed with a minute’s silence. This was done when Rev.Walttraut Stroth, chaplain International Student Chaplaincy of ISS invoked the presence of  the Omnipotent and the Divine Intelligence and the only Forgiver of human imperfections. Her prayer actually brought down the Holy Spirit the Comforter to console many disturbed hearts of relatives of many victims of the genocide in our midst. That Rev might not be advertising herself on radio and television as some so-called men of God in Africa and elsewhere but she is a true woman of God in the true sense of the word.
Professor Helen Hintjens of ISS, who happened to have been an eye-witness of what actually unfolded in Rwanda in 1994, was called upon to chair the talking point of the event. The Conference was under the theme UNITE. When the eloquent Professor took the chair, she was so emotionally charged that her voice deserted her. She even forgot to give the chairman’s open remarks. She just went ahead straight and invited the first speaker of the evening to address the gathering. There might be some people among the audience who perhaps did not know exactly who the   speaker was. But because the occasion was overwhelming, the chairman could not remember to introduce him by saying a few words about him
So, Professor Mohamed Salih, the outgoing Deputy Rector of ISS in charge of Research also had no choice but to drag himself to the lectern. And his emotions were even heaviour than all the preceding activists so far. Prof Salih, put his speech on the lectern but his two hands were groping in his pockets most of the time during his address. He just managed to control himself till the end of his lecture without breaking down in tears.
Speaking on  the topic “What the Rwanda genocide meant for Africa,” Professor Salih started by admitting that it was a very challenging topic for him to handle. As an academician of many years of experience in continental affairs, he spoke as an intellectual and Research-fellow. He quoted and made references to what some leading magazines and newspapers in the Western world wrote about Africa  before, during and after the Rwanda episode.
When it comes to negativity about Africa, the Western media are the experts. How some of them described Africa as having gone back to barbarism of colonialism as if colonization and slavery had been tea party in human history. In fact, the good Professor alluded to the fact that  the genocides of the new world , perhaps referring to the genocide of indigenous Americans or red Indians as well as the holocaust of the Jewish in human history. Some of the western media capitalized on the Rwandan genocide to  portray Africa as the “ kingdom of the devil incarnate itself."
Prof Salih recalled that in 1993, just a year before the Rwanda episode, because of one man in Somalia holding the entire world to ransom, so, too, as he put it, 'the whole international community including Africa was watching one country to wipe  off itself from the face of the earth.' Prof Salih lamented and bemoaned that attitude of the international community towards Rwanda. ‘This was just unfortunate to say the least’ the Professor rested his case.
Enter the SYMBOL OF FORGIVENESS – Madam Beata Muarubuga. She was flown all the way from Rwanda to The Netherlands by the organizers of the event. You remember the popular saying that “Seeing is believing?” The brave woman of women of the world was not only an eye-witness of the Rwanda genocide. She was not a mere victim but she is a miraculous survival of a catastrophic tragedy!
The soft spoken genocide survival narrated her story in French. And she started by singing a song that nearly led the entire auditorium drenched into a sea of tears. She typified the cultural spirit of an African. In Africa, everything is done in accompaniment with music or song. When a child is born, that child is out-doored with a song. When a typical African is busy working he or she would be singing simultaneously. And when a person dies in Africa, the corpse is sure to be sent to the grave amidst  music, drumming and dancing most of the time. So, it was not surprising that the  Rwandan brave victim of genocide decided to sing before telling her tale.
She started in French: “On a tue mon mari, mes cinq enfants, mon pere et ma mere. J’ai perdu mes soeurs, mes frères, mes oncles, mes tantes et toute ma famille” J’ai survecu seulement avec mon dernier enfant qui avait un an en ce tempts la et etait dans mon dos.”
All that she said is simply this: “They have killed my husband; five of my children have been murdered; my father has been killed; and my mother has been shot dead.” Then she went on. “My uncles have been killed; my aunties have been murdered; my sisters have been killed and my brothers and all members of my family have all been shot dead. I am the only one to survive with my little boy who was one year old at the time and was fastened   to my back,” she narrated with heavy heart.
And the chairman of the conference Professor Helen Hintjens who also doubled as the French interpreter was more traumatized than the victim herself. As a result, many people could not hear properly what she was saying because she could barely open her lips to interpret the mind-boggling story of the poor woman – THE SYMBOL OF FORGIVENESS.
Madam Muarubuga explained that her name was Beata which means blessed. But after she had lost her husband, her children and her parents she decided to change her name. ‘How can I be called Blessed if I have lost all my family members during a genocide?” he asked rhetorically.
And if you listen to how she escaped death by the skin of her teeth, then you know that God is a mysterious God. According to her, one day, the killers arranged about 400 Tutsi to be killed. The killers dug a deep  ditch or gutter so that as you are shot, you fall in to the ditch and die and be buried there all at ago. Among the killers was a young boy who happened to have been her school pupil or student because she was a teacher.
Then the boy-killer spotted her among those to be killed, he approached and asked, “Are you a Tutsi?” Then the boy told her that he could not kill her because one day, when his fellow school mates were laughing at him because he did not get a pen, it was she the mistress who gave him a pen. “Because of that the boy pushed me away from those to be killed. Then the boy told me: ‘Run into the bush because tomorrow we will go from house to house and any Tutsi found will be killed.’”
This brave woman pointed out that for three months, she was in the bush with her one year child trapped to his back and was roaming the bush day and night. She said it was during raining season, too, life was horrifying.
To cut a long story short, the woman’s story depicts what innocent men, women, children Tutsi and moderate Hutus went through during the legend Rwanda Genocide. And when the dust settled over one millions (1,000.000) souls had perished within three months in the glare view of the international community.  
Now Madam Beata Muarubuga, after years of extreme 'traumatization,' went through counseling and has managed to forgive the perpetrators including the very one who killed her beloved husband. “This particular killer of my husband wrote a letter to me from prison. And it was his mother who brought me that letter. ‘And I asked her you, your son is alive in prison and you are caring for him and mine were dead, not so?” she disclosed.  
Why did Madam Beata forgive her enemies? She concluded with an African proverb: “If honey bee stings you and you leave the sting inside your body, the body  will continue to swollen until you remove the sting.” So, as she tries to remove the bitterness in her she is now feeling better and coping with life. In fact, Madam Beata has not only become a Counselor of Rwanda Victims to Active Citizens Women in Rwanda, but she is also a three-year University Student pursuing further studies to better herself to support her numerous adopted  orphan children of the genocide.
When the floor was open for questions and contributions, the auditorium regained some life through very interesting and lively discussions. This writer reminded the audience that when the international community and most African countries deserted Rwanda in 1994, there was at least one African country that stood by them. That was Ghana of West Africa.
According to Wikipedia, “During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, a Ghanaian contingent led by General Henry Anyidoho was deployed to serve in UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda) under Canadian General Romeo Dallaire. Anyidoho, who had experience in peacekeeping missions in Lebanon, Cambodia, and Liberia served as General Dallaire’s Deputy Commander in addition to his role as head of the Ghanaian contingent. In Dallare’s book, "Shake Hands With the Devil", Anyidoho and his men are frequently singled out for praise for their courage and resourcefulness, and are given credit for sheltering thousands of Tutsis and Hutu moderates, saving them from certain death”
The author is MA Student at the International Institute of Social Studies ISS of Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Hague, The Netherlands

Prof. Dr Leo de Haan, Rector, ISS at the lectern set the tone
for the sad and emotionally charged event
Candle lights symbolising souls
of millions  who lost their lives in the genocide
Lighting the candles in memory of departed souls

Prof. Mohamed Salih managing his
his emotions with his hands in his  pockets
Prof. Helen Hintjens (middle) in the chair
for the conference session could barely open her mouth 
The solemn audience depicts the mood of the occasion
Can humanity co-exist on this planet in peace and harmony?