Thursday, March 26, 2015

For How Long Must Ghana Allow ‘Galamsey’ To Decimate Her Environment To The Detriment Of Sustainable Development?

Asks Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath
Galamsey scene in Ghana

Do you know that our so-called illiterate ancestors, who some people had the temerity to characterize as ‘primitive’, had wisdom to admonish that: “If you rear a tiger puppy it may grow up to devour you?”
Ghana is Africa’s second largest gold producer after South Africa. But several research projects suggest that ‘galamsey’ (illegal gold mining) has affected the country’s environment and poses a great danger to our rural dwelling brothers and sisters.
 Last year this writer did content analysis of media coverage of galamsey using framing methods for his MA at the International Institute of Social Studies ISS of Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague, The Netherlands. The findings were mind-boggling!
Security threat
On Monday, March 23, 2015, the Daily Graphic published an article headlined, ‘Galamsey’ destroying East Akyem” on its Regional Page 23 of that day’s issue No.19723. The opening paragraph of the story authored by Erasmus Solomon, Kyebi reads: “Ghana appears to be losing the fight against illegal mining, popularly referred to as ‘galamsey’, particularly in the Kyebi area in the East Akyem District in the Eastern Region.”
This story alone seems to have confirmed 47 articles I used for the content analysis of my thesis. Sources of data collection for my research were news archives and databases of online publications of six media outlets. They were made up of three local media including Graphic online, Chronicle online and Myjoyonline.
I also collected data from three foreign media namely BBC, The New York Times and the China Daily. I simply wanted to find out the extent ownership or form of media (state-owned or public, corporate or private) influence the way in which journalists frame galamsey problems for their audiences.
For example, in paragraph six of the Graphic story quoted above, the writer wrote: ‘According to residents in communities in the East Akyem District where illegal mining is rife, the activity poses a major security threat.” So, straight away, apart from posing environmental problems for the nation, this journalist frames galamsey as a ‘security’ issue to his audience or readership.
Anti-galamsey taskforce 
I think Erasmus Solomon merits national award for this article. The National Security must endeavour to contact him and possibly co-opt him to join hands with the Inter-Ministerial Committee against illegal small-scale gold mining dubbed Anti-Galamsey Taskforce. Why? When President John Dramani Mahama inaugurated the high-powered Anti-Galamsey Taskforce in May 2013, he stated among other things:
 […] “As you know, I have had occasion to speak publicly about the dangers ‘galamsey’ is posing to our nation in terms of forests being degraded, farmlands being destroyed, water bodies being polluted and the resultant health implications for the people.
“In the very recent past, we have all witnessed the devastation galamsey has caused to some of our water bodies and its effect on the production and supply of water to various communities. There has also been casualties and loss of lives arising from conflicts in some areas where illegal small-scale mining is taking place. Other negative consequences of this activity include the lawless and criminal behavior exhibited by Ghanaians and some non-Ghanaians involved in the illegal act. 

“We do clearly have a problem, and as government we have been working to prevent it from generating into a crisis. But it is clear that we need to strengthen, broaden and coordinate better our efforts in tackling the challenge of illegal mining…”
The question is, almost two years after the inauguration of the Anti-Galamsey Taskforce, has the galamsey problem generated into a ‘crisis’? If yes, then what are we doing about it as a country?   Or as the President has noted and rightly so, did we strengthen, broaden and coordinate our efforts in tackling the challenges of illegal mining as a nation?  The President is just an individual and if he initiates an action as expected of him as leader, little can be achieved if the people who are supposed to execute that action plan to go to bed.
Is it possible for the Anti-Galamsey Task-force to come out to inform, educate and allay the fears of Ghanaians that they are on course after two years of their inauguration? For all they know they may elicit some public support or even obtain some more creative ideas that will aid them in their herculean tasks. Constant communication and interaction with the public will win them more public sympathy if people are made aware of some of their challenges. 
It appears they are working very, very hard but nobody has an idea about their where about now. Are they still in existence?  Meanwhile galamsey is dealing deadly blows to the jaws of some communities as reported in the Graphic story under review.
The ‘Galamsey Pentagon’
Before embarking on my research project, my assumption was that galamsey problem was principally environmental in nature. Thus, I was amazed after reading all the selected 47 galamsey related stories published within the first 12 months of the inauguration of the Anti-Galamsey Task-force (May 2013 – May 2014).
And upon doing what is known as ‘coding sheet’ the result shows that there are five major galamsey problems confronting our beloved country. The problems include livelihood/economic, security/safety, socio-political/cultural, environmental degradation and environmental diplomacy.
The most shocking problem was the security/safety related one. That explains why the Graphic reporter deserves national award.
The research findings lead me to develop what I term as  “the Galamsey Pentagon.”  The concept of ‘Galamsey Pentagon’ simply refers to the five major galamsey related problems. The concept can be used as an environmental communication model for public education purposes by individuals and institutions charged with the responsibility to finding solutions to galamsey problems facing Ghana. 
The research which was conducted under a the topic “Environmental Communication for Sustainable Development: A Content Analysis of Media Coverage of ‘Galamsey’ (Illegal Gold Mining in Ghana – 2013-2014”establishes the following as some of the consequences of galamsey operation in the country: That any time there is an incident like the collapsing of galamsey pits, most of the operators including women and children end up being buried alive just like that. So precious human lives are lost on regular basis out of galamsey operations. But in Ghana who cares double hoot about human life?
That the galamsey operators engage in violent crime by killing themselves over the sharing of the booty. They also terrorize innocent citizens in communities where galamsey activities take place. Is there any thing that can pose more security threat to a nation more than galamsey? 
The result also shows that the media constantly express concern that galamsey activities are destroying farmlands including food and cash crops. The media sees this problem as rendering poor farmers even poorer. One of the most shocking findings reported in the media is the fact that some cocoa farmers are selling their lands to galamsey operators for quick money.
Meanwhile government is making efforts and encouraging the youth to go in agriculture and cocoa farming in particular. What a contradiction!
Furthermore the result shows that the media report that most of the contaminated rivers and water bodies tend to be the only source of drinking water for most rural communities. Thus galamsey problems are making life even more difficult for rural women. Some of our ever suffering rural mothers, wives, aunties and sisters, with their babies dangling at their backs had to trek long distances in search of fire woods and potable water all day long.
Other consequences of the galamsey problems are health hazards confronting the rural poor because of dangerous chemicals like mercury being used in processing gold nuggets by galamsey operators.
Sustainable Development
So galamsey which is also known as Artisanal Gold Mining (AGM) and was traditionally done with basic implements like hoes, pick axes, shovels and so on are today being operated with sophisticated earth-moving machines, some of which are technologically designed to be planted right in the middle of a river to scoop up gold nuggets from the belly of the earth.
By so doing rivers are polluted beyond treatment for human consumption. Is it the case of Ghana rearing a tiger puppy that has grown up to devour it? 
And if Sustainable Development, according to Brundtland Commission’s report of 1987 is defined as the   development that guarantees the ability of the present generation to meet their needs without risking the chances of future generations to cater for their own needs, then for how long can mother Ghana stand and stare for the notorious galamsey to hold the sustainable development of our nation to ransom?  Oh, noble men and women of Anti-Galamsey Taskforce of our generation! Where are you?

The Author works with Information Services Department ISD in Accra.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Nobel Prize for Honourable Members of Ghana’s Parliament
By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Ghana's honorable members of Parliament attentively listening to their President
The wisdom of our African ancestors is reflected in this proverb that says: “What cat saw and quietly closed its eyes, dog did not see even its shadow before it started barking ‘hooo’-‘hooo’-hooo’!”

Since Ghana embarked on its democratic dispensation of the 1992 Republican Constitution I have been monitoring, observing and watching the attitude, behavior and comportment of Honourable members of Ghana’s Parliament.

Thanks to the Daily Graphic for its opinion column where everybody is free to give his or her views I also want to express my opinion at this moment free of comment. As I was saying, the first term of Parliament under the 1992 Constitution, which took off on 7th  January 1993, there was not opposition in the House.  Why, the then leading opposition NPP boycotted the parliamentary election after the presidential one and wrote a book entitled ‘The Stolen Verdict’.

Consequently, the opposition outside parliament christened the first term of NDC1 (1993-1996) Parliament under the ‘speakership’ of the Right Honourable Mr. Justice D.F. Annan as ‘rubber stamp parliament’. Period! At that time it was the Ghanaian media that took the mantle of opposition to check government in power. In fat, the then Ghanaian media both public and private did a yeoman’s job. They were fair and balanced in their   reportage. They were analytical  and critical in their criticisms but not abusive and insulting or unprofessional as is the order of the day with some media institutions today.

In 2000 when NPP won the Presidential and Parliamentary elections and NDC became opposition in Parliament (2001-2008) the attitude, behavior and comportment of some minority members in the House became questionable. Sometimes, when President John Agyekum Kufuor went to deliver the State of  the Nation Address in Parliament he was booed and jeered. The then minority in Parliament did not accord due respect to the President of the Republic. Thus, their attitude towards President Kufuor was condemned by all fair-minded people of society both home and abroad.

But then in 2008 when the NDC won general elections and President John Evans Atta Mills of blessed memory became President the opposition NPP in Parliament hit below the democratic belt. For three-and-half years or so ((January 2009- July 2012) when President Mills ruled the country, majority of the minority NPP members in Parliament demonstrated little decorum towards the learned Professor.

In fact, if in 50 years the audio/visual documentary of the attitude, behavior and comportment of NPP Parliamentarians towards President Mills are played back to their grand children they would drop their jaws like a yam in disbelief. To the extent that the very last Sate of the Nation Address presented by President Mills before his transition, he noted” I knew I would be heckled, but I did not know it would so gargantuan.”  But some other things that the minority members of parliament did towards President John Mahama when he took over from the late President Mills could not be reprinted in an article of this nature. Just to mention that ‘dressing in red and black funeral cloths with some mind-boggling inscriptions, as well as flashing red cards in the face of a President in Parliament’ and so on were un-parliamentary to say the least.

Even in our own traditional customs and norms, which some so-called civilized people may prefer to describe as primitive, no village chief let alone a paramount chief from North to South or East to West would be subjected to such democratic humiliation in Parliament of all places.  Of course, some other politicians elsewhere may throw blows or smash their heads with chairs and tables in their legislature. But we in Ghana have our cultural values that do not permit us to look our elders in the face and spit into their eyes, no matter their offences against us.

It is against that backdrop that I wish to add my feeble voice to that of many meaningful Ghanaians to commend, praise and salute our honourable members of Parliament. The attitude, behavior and comportment they put up on Thursday, 26 February 2015 when President Mahama presented this year’s State of the Nation Address to the august House.

As the President used the analogy of the Ghana Black Stars to illustrate the resilience of the Ghanaian, our honourable members of Parliament especially the minority in opposition have proved beyond doubt that a Ghanaian is a Ghanaian! Their resolve to show respect to the Head of State and Commander –in- Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Ghana was outstanding despite our collective karma of  ‘dum-sor-dum-sor syndrome!’

Our noble Parliamentarians have proved that they are the symbol of national role models to the youth of Ghana. If I were to be somebody, but I am nobody now, I would have recommended that the entire Parliament of Ghana 2015 should be awarded en-block a Nobel Prize in Attitudinal and Behavioral Change of the 21st Century!

The writer works with the Information Services Department in Accra. <>