Monday, March 27, 2017

Ghanaian Media Must Combat Galamsey To Save The Nation

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Water bodies contaminated by Galamsey activities in Ghana
Here are two African proverbs about the environment: “A tree that is not taller than you cannot shade you”- Congo. “Man’s greed leads to the destruction of the environment” –Ghana.
On Thursday, March 23, 2017, the Daily Graphic carried a banner headline on its front page thus: “Graphic, GIBA, media to stop galamsey”. The said story was developed on Page 54 of the paper under a sub-heading: “Graphic, GIBA, media partners to launch campaign to stop galamsey.”
The call for campaign against galamsey was attributed to the Editor of the Daily Graphic, Mr. Randsford Tetteh at a ceremony where Kasapreko Company presented some cartons of its bottle water to the Graphic Communications Group Ltd in connection with the World Water Day.
Mr. Tetteh is reported to have lamented the country’s water bodies were being heavily polluted by illegal mining of galamsey operators. “It is a campaign to protect our water bodies. The Pra, Tano, and Birim are almost gone.” Then he added, “It is only the Volta that is reliable. We need to fight this menace or we will end up importing water,” he opined. When I read that part of the story that, “It is only the Volta that is reliable”, I laughed mentally. Who told my visionary former GJA President that “the Volta is reliable?”  
The object of this article is not to pretend to be an expert on galamsey issues. But if I were permitted I would share some findings of my MA Research Paper (RP) in Development Studies at the International Institute Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague, The Netherlands, as recently as 2013-2014 academic years.
It will be recalled that in May 2013, former President John Dramani Mahama, inaugurated a high-powered inter ministerial committee against illegal small-scale mining in the country. That committee was simply dubbed ANTI-GALAMSEY TASKFORCE.
The powerful taskforce was made up five solid ministers of state, the military, the police, the national security and other security agencies and mandated among others to find a lasting solution to galamsey menace confronting the nation. In fact, their terms of reference included but not restricted to seizure of equipment; arrest and prosecution of both Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians who fail to obtain licenses or renewing of their licenses before mining; deportation of illegal foreigners engaged in galamsey.
 Above all, the taskforce was empowered “to hold MMDCEs and their DISEC accountable for any illegal mining activities in their areas of jurisdiction.” This was contained in the speech delivered by President Mahama on the day the ANTI-GALAMSEY TASKFORCE was inaugurated. I accessed it on GBC website in 2013 and it formed the basis of my Research Paper. When the actual taskforce’s operations took off in June 2013, the whole world was set on an urge like anxious spectators watching Mohamed Ali and George Former in super heavy weight championship fight in 1974 in Zaire, now DR Congo. It was ‘butu-bubu.tubu’ apologies Kwatriot of yester year.  When some foreign galamsey offenders were arrested, detained and taken to their respective embassies for deportation, the episode caused global stir in some diplomatic circles and the international media. Ghana was seen as a xenophobic country.
It was against this backdrop that later in 2013, when I had the opportunity for further studies   abroad, I decided to do a content analysis of media coverage of galamsey for my thesis. I wanted to find out how the media do “frame” galamsey or illegal gold mining in Ghana, within the framework of sustainable development. So, my topic was “ENVIRONMENTAL COMMUNICATION IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: A Content Analysis of Media Coverage of ‘Galamsey’ (illegal gold Mining in Ghana – 2013-2014”.
For methodology, I relied sorely on secondary data collection by accessing galamsey related- articles through online research for the period under review. I used specific criteria to determine which media outlets published most articles on environment and galamsey issues since the inauguration of the Anti-Galamsy Taskforce. Based on that, I selected the Daily Graphic, Myjoyonline and the Ghanaian Chronicle from the local media outlets.
With the help of my supervisor, I picked BBC, China Daily, and the New York Times. Upon identifying my Problem Statement and formulating my Research Questions and objectives, my Assumption was that galamsey was causing environmental havoc to Ghana. In other words, before the study I assumed that it was only the environmental problems that galamsey was posing to Ghana. 
However, after critically reading through about 50 different galamsey-related stories from the six selected media outlets, and doing what was referred to as Sample Coding Sheet based on the raw data, for “Framing Assessment”, I was shocked to realise that apart from environmental havoc, galamsey was causing socio-economic, politico-cultural, safety/security as well as diplomatic problems for Ghana.
Thus, in terms of environmental problems, rivers and water bodies were being contaminated and poisoned by heart; farmlands were being devastated and forest reserves were being destroyed beyond imagination. In terms of socio-economic problems, because of the use chemicals such as mercury and cyanide by the galamsey operators, some rural women have been taking their children into the mines, thereby exposing their innocent kids to serious health hazards. Another social vice identified was that, in some deprived communities in the country, school children were dropping out of schools because of galamsey, while galamsey operators were luring rural girls into child prostitution.
In terms of safety and security, it was found out that most galamsey operators were being exposed to danger of having their hands amputated due to explosions in the mines. Worse still, some illegal miners were being buried alive in galamsey pits on daily basis. Some of these incidents were hardly known to the public. It is only when the media exposed some of the major pit collapses that claim many lives that the public gets to know about these dangerous events.
Again, the content analysis of the foreign media indicated that they were not too bothered about the environmental havoc of pollution of water bodies in the country. They focused on how the reduction of galamsey operations was affecting the price of gold on the world market.
Most of foreign media “framed” galamsey in such a way that emphasis was placed on deportation of foreign miners by Ghanaian authorities. The foreign media hardly explained to their readers the reason for the deportation of illegal miners. This framing of galamsey projected a very negative image of Ghana to the outside world. Some high-powered foreign delegates came to hold talks with Ghanaian  authorities to tamper justice with  mercy;  treat illegal foreign galamsey operators with human face. This is where the “environmental diplomacy” of galamsey emerged.  
Furthermore, the study revealed that galamsey was producing armed robbers and illegal gun traffickers and drug users who have been terrorizing our brothers and sisters living in galamsey operating communities in the country. And the executive, the legislature and the judiciary seemed to have been rendered powerless; and were only watching like ‘legba’ while galamsey activities were polluting water bodies with impunity. As for the ANTI-GALAMSEY TASKFORCE, only Jesus knows whether it is still in existence or it has become a toothless something.
It is therefore, recommended strongly, that the Ghanaian media must stand up and be counted.  They must respond to the call by the Graphic Communications Group Ltd, by putting all political differences aside and take the fight to the doorsteps of galamsey operators. This must be done through fierce campaign and public education to prick the conscience of greedy compatriots to save the present and future generations of our beloved Mother land Ghana.

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD), Accra.

Monday, March 6, 2017

 Sixty Years of Nationhood: Achievements, Challenges and the Way Forward

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (M) 60 years ago
An Indian proverb admonishes that: “If you are 50 years of age and you have no patience then life has not taught you any wisdom.”

 The objective of this write-up is to make some basic observations as to how the affairs of this rich land has been managed or mismanaged in the last 60 years. It is common knowledge that in Ghana, public servants proceed on leave for compulsory retirement at age 60.  It implies that if Ghana were to be a human being, she would have reached her pensionable age on March 6, 2017. Are Ghanaians happy about the achievements their country over the past 60 years? 
 The fact that Ghana is such a blessed land, endowed with magnificent human capital and immeasurable natural resources including gold, diamond, bauxite, timber, cocoa, arable lands, fresh rivers as well as well as oil and gas, yet majority of people continue to wallow in abject poverty, most citizens may not be too proud of her achievements after 60 years of nationhood. But does it mean that the country did not make any progress at all since independence in 1957?  
Records show that at the time of independence in 1957, only about six million people were living in Ghana. Today, 60 years later, the country’s population is estimated to be over 27 million, or so. These are some factors that ought to be taken into account when analyzing the socio-economic and political progress of the nation.
It is also important to analyze the achievements of Ghana from the historical perspective within the context of the Africa continent. Ghana, like most of African countries, succumbed to the ravages of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade that depleted its human stock for over 400 years (15th -18th centuries). It is common knowledge that the slave trade led to the total underdevelopment of the African continent. In fact, most of the slave castles of the West coast of Africa including Elmina Castle built by the Portuguese in 1482 and the Cape Coast Castle built in 1662 are all located in Ghana.
  Besides these atrocious treatments of human against his fellow human, the then Gold Coast went through further excruciating pain of colonization for another 100 years or so.  It was against this backdrop that when Ghana wrenched her independence from the colonial Britain in 1957, she became the first black African country south of the Sahara under the charismatic leadership of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah to have achieved that feat. 
Undoubtedly, Ghana has chalked up some successes in some sectors of the economy such as education, agriculture, health and so on for the past 60 years. For example, at the time of independence, the only university in the country was the University of Ghana, Legon. It was established in 1948 as he University College of the Gold Coast.  For 100 years that the colonial masters governed the country, was the only university the nation deserved?  
Today, within a relatively short span of 60 years of independence, Ghana can boast of at least eight or so traditional public universities. They include the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi; the University of Cape Coast, University of Education, Winneba, University for Development Studies, Tamale, University of Mines and Technology, Tarkwa, University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ho, University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani and the University of Professional Studies, Accra.
Others are Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Ghana Institute of Languages (GIL), Ghana University College of Technology (GUCT) and the recently upgraded Polytechnics into Technical Universities in most of all the ten regions of the country. Further, a new public University of Environment and Sustainable Development (UESD) is under construction in the Eastern Region. As for the private universities, one can count over 30 of them. They are playing no mean a role to the advancement of the educational progress of the country.  
Without counting the over 38 Colleges of Education, numerous Nursing Training Colleges, Technical and Vocational Institutes, over 400 senior high schools and not mentioning a numerous junior high schools both public and private, it should not be far from the truth, to say that Ghana has made a tremendous progress in the field of education within the last 60 years.
But as far as the country’s youth population continues to grow at an alarming rate, one cannot be too proud of this achievement unless all children of school going age are actually in the class room. This is why politicians must stop paying lip service to “Free, Compulsory, Universal, Basic Education” as mandated by the 1992 Constitution.  I place premium on the education sector because education is key to development.  Any nation that neglects the education of its citizens should forget about rapid socio-economic development. This explains why the current government’s determination to implement the Free Senior High School programme in September 2017/2018 academic years is heartwarming. 
In the area of health care, the evidence is there for all to see.  Successive governments have made and continue to make efforts to provide quality health care to the citizenry since independence. . At least the past 60 years have seen some of the state of the art medical facilities such as the Greater Accra Ridge Hospital, the recently commissioned Medical Centre at the University of Ghana, Legon, in addition to the Korlebu, Komfo Anokye and Tamale Teaching Hospitals and others under construction is some other regional capitals across the nation are commendable.
 .  But what does it benefit a nation if it can boast of gigantic and picturesque hospital buildings but its citizens are swimming in the sea of filth, while others are dying of communicable diseases like cholera at the threshold of the 21st century?  Did I read somewhere the other day that Ghana is 2nd on the league table of open defecation in Africa or globally? What a shame? After 60 years of independence, the country could have done better in health care and sanitation. Most of the country’s beaches do not attract any tourists when it rains. If we citizens of this beautiful land do not change our attitudes towards sanitation, even the Master Jesus Christ cannot cast away that evil spirit of sanitation in us into pigs.
Road infrastructure is one sector of the economy that has seen appreciable improvement in the last 60 years, especially in many regional capitals including the capital city of Accra. Any Ghanaian citizen who has been away for the past ten years or more will not be able to recognize certain places of the Accra if he or she returns today.
 For example, from the Kotoka Airport to the Airport City area, which is now a cluster of skyscrapers by our standard, a citizen who has been out of the ‘coverage area’ for the past twenty years or so, will be mesmerized on arrival. As for the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Interchange a.ka. “Dubai” it may take a taxi driver to point out the direction of Kaneshie from the Vodafone end of the interchange to a visitor or citizen who has been away for the last ten years. This is something achieved in last 60 years, but we could have still done  better, though.
Objectively, one particular sector of the economy that some observers feel Ghana could not do well at all in the past 60 years is agriculture. It is unbelievable to think that a country that prides itself as an agriculture country, cannot adequately feed itself. How come a country of vast arable lands with abundant rivers and water bodies of fresh water should have its children go to bed without one square meal a day? The first time this writer got to know that Ghanaian market women had to travel to Burkina Faso to buy fresh tomatoes and vegetables to sell in Ghana, he could not believe his ears.
For the purpose of this article, it may be relevant to share this personal experience with the reader. In October 2011, I participated in a training programme for ECOWAS science journalists in Abuja, Nigeria. The theme for the workshop was “Making ICT more accessible for the development of Africa” I was to speak from the point of view of the Ghanaian experience.
  During the open forum, there ensued a fierce debate between a Nigerian Professor and myself. The bone of contention was that, the Professor was of the view that Africa had done very well in terms of the use of science and technology for the development of the continent. But I held a contrary view. As the argument became hotter and hotter, I used a very simple analogy not to defeat him, but to make him agree with me.
.  I asked the learned Professor to take a critical look at countries like Israel and Singapore for instance, in terms of scientific and technological advancement as compare to the situation in Africa. I only focused on food production in the two countries. I pointed out that, I was told that Israel has no arable lands per se. That they have only an average of ten days of rain fall in the whole year. Yet, they were able to produce enough food not only to feed themselves but to export as well. The reader may click on this link to read about how Israelis and Arabs are turning barren lands into green belts in the Middle East:
Then I related the situation in Singapore. Fortunately, I have had the privilege of visiting Singapore before. And I was amazed to realise that, even though Ghana obtained independence in 1957, about nine years before Singapore attained her independence in 1965, the scientific and technological advancement of that country was beyond compare.
Singapore is a city state that has no land even to cultivate. They plant tomatoes in the air. They themselves have a joke that “because we have no lands, we sleep on top of one another.” In other words, they have no choice but to make sure all their apartment buildings move vertically towards the skies only. Unlike Ghana where individuals have the luxury to build their houses horizontally, spreading uncontrollably like, say, from Kasoa to Winneba in no time.
Thus, I contended that if Singapore or Israel was to be allocated the arable lands we have in Ghana, they would feed the entire world as well. Eventually, the learned Professor concurred with me and the debate ended amicably.
Why Ghana could not make effective use of her resources in the last 60 years? It would be recalled that in the early 1960s, Ghana was the number one cocoa producing country in the world. Today, Ghana is trailing behind Cote d’Ivoire. So, what went wrong with Ghana’s agriculture? Ghanaian women had to travel to some land-locked countries like Burkina Faso to buy vegetables to sell to citizens of this blessed land to eat.
 Some observers are of the opinion that military coup d’états are one of the major causes of Ghana’s retrogression since independence. Another worse factor was and continues to be corruption. If within a relative short period of Nkrumah’s rule from 1957 to 1966, the country was able to achieve so much, including, Akosombo Dam, Tema motorway, Tema Harbour and others, the country should have done better in 60 years.
 For Ghana to move forward in the next 60 years, it is suggested that the Ghanaian military who are gurus in their chosen profession nationally and internationally should no longer have anything to do with politics. When it comes to international peace-keeping duties, they have no classmates in Africa. They must be allowed to defend and protect humanity. Period!
Again, Ghana can make tremendous socio-economic progress in the next 60 years if corruption can be reduced to the barest minimum across board. Fortunately, since the advent of 1992 constitution, Ghana has become an icon of democracy and political stability in Africa.
Hopefully, if this democratic governance system chosen by the people of Ghana for themselves by themselves is maintained, sustained and supported by strong, independent and vibrant media, Ghana will be a paradise to live in by the next 60 years of nationhood.

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD)