Tag: President John Mahama Dramani


Massive Inter-party Applause as Nana Addo relegates Galamsey to History

Governments have come and gone, presidents and heads of state have come and gone, ministers responsible for lands and mineral resources have come and gone but none of these were able to stop galamsey or relegate it to the abyss of forgetfulness. Indeed Nana Addo has done what all the others could not do. The reason why this illegal mining could gain roots, thus becoming untouchable and unstoppable was that, influential people including top executives, politicians, chiefs and even top police and military officers, all had a stake in the galamsey by condoning, and conniving with young boys to do illegal mining for them.

Galamsey which was a crude form of the statement, “gather them and sell,” is an illegal mining activity by both young and old with the full support and connivance of big and influential men in the society. This illegal activity started long before Ghana gained its independence. Ghana happens to be the 10th leading producer of gold in the entire world and 2nd in Africa. This illegal mining activity became a blessing and a curse and this will be explained in detail in the article. The curse far outweighed the blessings due to health hazards, environmental degradation, the destruction of farm lands and the indiscriminate pollution of water bodies.

Mining itself is a major economic activity in many developing countries. In Ghana, small-scale mining was once a respected traditional vocation. In the late 80s, the government officially legalized small-scale mining. This decision brought to the fore some challenges, including the mechanism by which the government granted concession to peasants. The process was very cumbersome and slow, thus compelling many to mine illicitly. Galamsey began in earnest and boomed from regime to regime, only to intensify during Mahama’s regime. Since then galamsey became a source of livelihood for those who live near the legal mining communities. They were motivated to enter the illegal mining due to unemployment, poverty and increase in price of gold in the world market. As a result many people including the jobless have swarmed the mining areas to engage in galamsey. Even those whose cocoa trees could not yield much, have abandoned farming and joined the galamsey business.

Ghana is naturally well endowed with fresh water sources. The abundance of water sources was an envy of most countries that have no such water sources. Sadly enough, these illegal miners are busy polluting and destroying our enviable, fresh and drinkable water sources right under the very noses of governments, local authorities and concerned Ghanaians. Environmentalists and climate scientists have consistently warned the local population that if the destruction and pollution of the water sources persist, within the next 20 to 30 years, water will have to be imported from other countries. These shameless and illegal miners do not think or are even conscious of any precautionary measures to be taken to abate the nuisance. The mighty river Supong which runs in Asiakwa in the Eastern region is a pathetic example of continuous pollution. Supong River which once provided cool, clean and extremely refreshing water to drink has now turned smelly and yellowish. The river is now filled with mud, algae and weeds.

The situation became worse when the Chinese travelled to Ghana in their numbers and directed their journeys towards the gold mining areas in the Ashanti, Western and Eastern regions. Their presence was much felt during the rule of former president Mahama. Majority of them joined the illegal mining. Some of them were fronted and aided by Ghanaians to register small scale mining companies. Since they had a lot of money, they were able to pay the local chiefs for land to be released for their mining activities to begin. Even cocoa farms were sold to them to be destroyed for gold mining purposes. Heavy machines including excavators and tipper trucks were brought from China to help in their search for gold. Soon they began to destroy more farms and water bodies with cyanide and other dangerous products used to fish for the gold.

Concerned Ghanaians protested against the Chinese involvement in galamsey and small scale mining. The Chinese met the anger and protest of Ghanaians with force. So far not less than ten Ghanaians have been shot dead by the Chinese and not even a single Chinese was put before court. The gaping holes created by illegal mining have trapped and killed many children, women and farmers. Yet they are heavily protected by police and retired soldiers in military uniforms.

Small scale mining and not galamsey could have been an important source of livelihood for relatively low-income Ghanaians, as well as highly significant for the economy as a whole. Sadly enough, this area has been taking over by Chinese in contravention of the Mineral and Mining Act 206 and Act 703. These Acts outline clearly that small scale mining is strictly reserved for Ghanaians. If the law says so, why then do we allow Chinese citizens to enter and completely take over small-scale mining? The Chinese are smarter. They put Ghanaians in the fore-front to register the companies on their behalf.

The situation in the mining areas had gotten out of hand. Cocoa trees and other crops were being uprooted and destroyed by the Chinese to give way to galamsey and small-scale mining. The environment was being destroyed, water bodies were being polluted, gaping holes were being abandoned in the forest, abandoned holes have ensnared and killed many and the Chinese are gunning down and hacking people down at random. Several complaints and protests were launched by concerned Ghanaians for an effective leader and government to emerge to save the mining areas from illegal miners.

Happily in January 2017, a courageous leader, a visionary, a disciplined and an incorrupt man, Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo was sworn in as the fifth president of Ghana. One Friday in

galamsey ‘queen’ Aisha Huang

Kumasi, few months after assuming power as a deputy Minister for lands and mineral resources, Madam Barbara Oteng Gyasi disclosed in Kumasi that the NPP government would soon apply force and technology to fight illegal miners and warned those involved to refrain  from the practice.

Her message fell on deaf ears. Military men and police officers were deployed to the mining areas and with the help of detective devices they were able to drive illegal miners away and all their excavators and other equipment were seized. A die-hard, stubborn Chinese woman named Aisha was arrested three times for illegal mining despite the government’s ban. She was released three times because she blackmailed the powers that be with tapes and videos she commissioned Chinese women to have sexual encounter with Ghanaian power brokers. After her startling revelations, she was arrested for the fourth and this arrest may probably be the last and she may either be imprisoned or repatriated to China.
Already majority of Ghanaians are applauding Nana Addo for his determination to relegate illegal mining into the abyss of forgetfulness and to ensure that small scale miners conform to the laws. The government has a great job on its hand to clean the polluted water bodies and to fill all the gaping holes to prevent further accidents.

By Stephen Atta Owusu

Do Citizens of Brong Ahafo deserve this treatment? What next?

The Brongs have always been excited and proud of Mahama for choosing a wife from the region. However, their love, trust and confidence for Mahama were badly shaken when the president disappointingly failed to help frustrated customers in the region whose accounts with three micro-finance companies were frozen through no fault of theirs, as a result of closure of these banks by the government and the Bank of Ghana. They have vowed that if their brother and son-in-law, President John Dramani Mahama, does not intervene to hasten the release of their monies locked in the frozen accounts, they will turn Nkoranza and the other affected areas into a living hell for government employees. The banks that were closed down include DKM and God’s Love micro-finance companies. They were closed down in May 2015.

cocoa farmers in Brong Ahafo

cocoa farmers in Brong Ahafo

Let me give a brief history of the Brong Ahafo region. The region was created on 4th April 1959 by the Brong Ahafo Act No.18 of 1959. The Act defined the area of the Brong Ahafo Region to consist of the northern and the western parts of the then Ashanti region. It also included Prang and Yeji areas. Before the enactment of the Act, these two towns formed part of the Northern region. Brong Ahafo region has a vast amount of rain forest, timber trees and cocoa farms. Their serious approach to farming has created many rich men and women in areas like Berekum, Dormaa, Nkoranza, Techiman and Kintampo. Many Brongs who travelled to Germany, USA and other countries in the late 70s and 80s were heavily sponsored by these rich cocoa farmers and when they became successful they bought Mercedes Benz and other luxury cars for these farmers who sponsored them. The Micro-finance companies went into these areas because of the riches in the area and the unsuspecting innocence of the people.

These micro-finance companies announced an incredibly high interest rate of 50% on any amount one saved. The people began to open accounts with the financial institutions. Many customers, including farmers, businessmen and women, politicians and students lodged vast sums of money into the accounts with the hope of retrieving 50% interest on their savings. One weeping customer confessed that he savedghana_cedi GHc2.5million which was money sent to him by his brother living abroad, to use for the storey building he intends to build. Other customers had saved between GHc3000 to GHc15million! Yet Bank of Ghana could not alert the customers that no bank can pay 50% interest to customers. According to some of the customers, they were encouraged or lured to save there because of the encouraging recommendation of these companies by the first lady, Mrs Lordinna Mahama – an allegation she flatly denied. To the utter disbelief of customers, the Bank of Ghana closed down the three micro-finance companies and all accounts were frozen. The establishment and closure of these institutions clearly revealed the incompetence and deliberate refusal to oversee or supervise these financial institutions. As a result they took undue advantage to operate illegally as they failed to comply with the terms and conditions stipulated in their licences. They also failed to hold sufficient assets to meet their liabilities to depositors. The former Governor of Bank of Ghana and the officials allowed the micro-finance institutions too much room to operate and therefore must be held responsible for making these unsuspecting customers worst affected by their actions and inactions.

 

It was a red-letter day for the people of Brong Ahafo, especially the customers, who were badly shaken. The customers could not contain the shock and it was confirmed by the MP of Berekum East that three customers collapsed and died.

wpid-nigerian-banks-are-financially-stable-cbn-channelsThis unfortunate situation has created general poverty and frustration for the people in the affected areas. In Nkoranza alone, about 90% of people living there had deposited their monies with those micro-finance companies. Pupils and students are the worst sufferers in the affected areas. Most of them remained at home due to the inability of their parent’s to pay their fees. Farmers in these areas who saved heavily in these companies can no longer invest in their farming businesses, and even when they fall sick they cannot go to hospital because all what they worked for have been locked in these accounts. They have no hope of getting their monies back. Out of worry, frustration, hardship and poverty they have threatened to invoke curses on both the government and government workers if their accounts are not released.

 

Concerns have been shown by many including the Brong Ahafo regional security council. The latter held series of meetings with Bank of Ghana and the micro-finance companies in a move to resolve the crisis. How far did all the meetings go? Those desperate customers still have no idea when their monies would be released to them. Eric Opoku, the Regional minister, also added his voice while supporting the position of the Regional Security service (REGSEC). He called on the Bank of Ghana to consider de-freezing the accounts of the aggrieved customers and the affected companies. Why is Mahama and his government so silent and adamant? At what point will the president intervene?

 

President Mahama

President Mahama

The recent step taken by the Bank of Ghana to take DKM to court and put their hands on their properties does not convince the troubled customers. According to them, what the Central bank should have done even before these micro-finance companies could establish in Brong Ahafo was to have checked on how much money they were going to inject into their operation, whether these companies were legally and fully registered to commence business or not, whether these companies had beefed up their staff strength with persons with requisite qualification and, lastly, whether a competent board had been put in place. All these were not checked and before their illegal operations and diabolic intentions became known, they had swindled these unsuspecting customers of millions of Ghana cedis. Despite the customers’ mistrust of the Bank of Ghana, they see the action taken by the bank to be in their supreme interest which is geared towards protecting them from losing both their monies and interests. Despite all explanations the affected customers still believe that Mahama and his government have a hand in their plight.

 

The entire members of parliament of Brong Ahafo have expressed their regret over the plight of the Bank-of-Ghana-BoG-buildingcustomers in Brong Ahafo and the action of the bank which has brought sorrows to many and sudden deaths to three customers. The Brong Ahafo minister also added his voice and confirmed that the action of the bank has affected customers emotionally, economically and psychologically. The region’s MPs came together in one accord to put pressure on Bank of Ghana to speed up investigations so that affected customers can ultimately get their money back. However, Dr. Kwabena Twum Nuamah, MP for Berekum East, in his interview at Joy News said that the situation is terrible and that he sees no light at the end of the tunnel with many customers losing all their capital. He warned of a massive demonstration if nothing positive is heard from Bank of Ghana.

 

Despite these unfortunate incidents and the hardships brought onto the people with locked monies in those illegal financial institutions, the citizens of Brong Ahafo went back to their farms. The farmers, especially those in the Sampa area, harvested tons of cashew nuts. Foreign buyers were on the spot to buy tons of cashew nuts from the farmers. As if what the micro-finance companies did to the Brongs were not enough, the Ministry of Trade and Industry imposed a ban on raw cashew exports and said that they were going to buy and process them before exporting them. According to the ministry, this would add value to the product and create jobs in the area. What angered the farmers was the ridiculously low prices they were going to offer farmers. The foreign buyers have disappeared and tons of cashew nuts that could have reached foreign markets got rotten due to the ban imposed on the commodity by the Ministry.

 

Spontaneous and effective protests were launched by both farmers and MPs in the affected areas cashew-prices-009because apart from buying them at lower prices, the factories available have the capacity to process only 35,000 bags out of the 950,000 produced by the farmers. This means that what the foreign buyers could buy at a go will be left to rot. Serious concerns and threats were issued by the leaders of the cashew farmers. One of the leaders, Mr. Mumuni Issah, said that if the ban is not lifted by the end of May 2016, the processing plants will not be allowed to buy cashew from the region. This is because the farmers have invested a lot in the expansion of their farms and they will need enough money to pay for their loans and also money to ensure their livelihood and that of their families. But with only two processing plants available, and the lower price they give coupled with the Ministry’s inability to buy all the 950,000 bags, the farmers will remain impoverished as they are going to be at the mercy of the two processing plants. Luckily enough, the Ministry of trade and Industries could not contain the pressure from the farmers and the Brong Ahafo MPs and they finally gave up and lifted the ban.

 

The people of Brong Ahafo are no fools. The region has hardworking farmers who have greatly contributed to Ghana’s development in terms of food products, timber and bush meat. They should be held in high esteem and not be taken for granted. With the resignation of the governor of the Central bank, the prospect and hope of the affected customers to get their monies back have dwindled. The indifference of president Mahama and his government is not helping matters.

 

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads
Email: stephen.owusu@email.com

Ghana’s Gitmo dilemma

In the same week that Ghana’s interest rates soared to an eye watering 17.7%, a US Embassy official admitted Ghana would be sharing the upkeep costs for two Guantanamo Bay ex-detainees.

Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef (left) and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby (right)

Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef (left) and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby (right)

Yemeni Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Saudi-born Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby were transferred on 6 January by the US to live in Ghana for two years.

The transfer followed an agreement between the two countries that reportedly has been going on for a year.


Truth and lies

Daniel Fennell, head of public affairs at Ghana’s US Embassy, said on TV3’s ‘Hot Issues’ programme that upkeep expenses were being shared by the two countries.

No sooner was that information circulating, Fennell then reportedly retracted his statement, falling in step with the

President Mahama has denied that Ghana is footing the bill for detainees' stay

President Mahama has denied that Ghana is footing the bill for detainees’ stay

official government line in Ghana. The country’s president John Dramani Mahama has denied that Ghana is footing any part of the bill or that he received $300 million for the detainees’ stay.

More revelations are emerging, namely that these men’s involvement in terrorism was downgraded to a minimal threat. According to the Wall Street Journal, the US misled recipient countries. It seems Ghana wittingly or unwittingly accepted this advice without conducting independent checks.

No doubt most Ghanaians are outraged. Ghana enjoys an international image as a friendly and safe country compared to some of its neighbours. In such uncertain times when countries such as Burkina Faso and Egypt most recently, and latterly Nigeria and Mali faced terror attacks, preserving that haven of relative tranquillity is paramount.

Whether you believe the men, who were interred for almost 15 years without trial, pose a threat to Ghana or not – the process taken to agree their transfer to Ghana is dubious. These men are reportedly self-confessed terrorists with Atef believed to have trained at an Al Qaeda camp, according to Joy FM and Wall Street Journal reports.

Yemen in particular, where Atef is from, is considered to be a hot bed of terrorist activity. This is probably why US president Barack Obama recently signed a defense authorisation bill barring detainees from being transferred to Yemen.

 

Republicans v Democrats

The Republicans are currently trying to push through a moratorium to prevent more detainees leaving the prison because they are considered a risk. And yet the official line from Ghana’s government remains that these men pose no threat and are under 24 hour surveillance.

Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay

Seems contradictory….. Why monitor them if they are considered low risk? And if they are so low risk why hasn’t the US taken them in? US law prevents the country from accepting these detainees. On top of that, there would be a public outcry.

Closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility has been an Obama pledge. So it’s unsurprising that he is keen to dispense of the prisoners even if – to some – it looks as though he is exporting terrorism.

The two prisoners, the first to be sent to a sub-Saharan country, are also the first of 17 due to leave the prison in early 2016. Obama is under pressure to reduce prisoner numbers below 100. With 17 due to go, the total facility population will drop to 90, according to online publication defenseone.com
Some have been already been sent to Uganda and Cape Verde off the west coast of Africa, and Georgia and Slovakia in Eastern European, according to multiple media reports. But where are the rest going to and can Ghana expect more?

 

Keeping mum

Those with authority in Ghana have been economical on these details. Under Ghana’s laws, people considered to have terrorist connections are barred from entering the country. So why would Mahama not only flout this legislation but also deny Ghanaians the right to this knowledge?

Most Ghanaians learnt about these revelations through US’ Fox News. Even with the cat out of the bag, the Ghanaian government is inadvertently stoking up fears and conspiracy theories by saying very little.

Joy FM revealed that those in Ghana’s security council (the interior and foreign ministers) were not fully aware of Mahama’s plans. Many have questioned why the Ghanaian public was not deemed important enough to be told. Possibly because the government knew the response would have been not too far away from the current reaction…Sound familiar? Didn’t Ghana follow a similar route in its reported involvement in Ebola testing in the country?

 

Friend or foe?

So what’s in it for a Mahama? Well, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended Ghana for its role in image.imghelping to combat Ebola. Taking on these ex-detainees may be another way Mahama can curry favour with the West and the international community …..even if it is at the expense of Ghanaians. Afterall, this may be his last few months as president….elections are scheduled for 7 November 2016.

Of late, Mahama has been saying the decision to take in the ex-prisoners was out of human compassion and because of Ghana’s alliance with the US. But wasn’t Ghana’s first president Dr Kwame Nkrumah a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961? And wasn’t one of the tenets of that organisation that members were not for or against any major power bloc?

With evidence emerging that the US may be have misled recipient countries, I wonder how Ghana’s decision will impact national security and that of her neighbours. Could the presence of these men have repercussions for Ghana politically or dissuade current or future investment?

It is unclear how much access these men have to the wider Ghanaian public or what level of surveillance there is on their telephone and internet activities. We are not clear what happens after their two years expire. Do they gain Ghanaian citizenship? Do they go home? Or can they invite their families over?

What we do know is that Ghanaians are struggling to survive as utility and fuel costs soar and Dumsor continues to blight the country.

Don’t Ghanaians deserve to be put first in their own country? Afterall, doesn’t charity begin at home?

By Kirsty Osei-Bempong (@MisBeee)

Ghana Elections: NPP to challenge NDC win

NPP & Akufo Addo aim to have final say on election result…

 

akuffo-addo_Me_FiRi_Ghana_dot_Com

 

Well we all knew what was coming as soon as the NPP (National Patriotic Party) refused to accept the results declared by the Election commission on 09 December.  Thus on 28 December 2012 the NPP (National Patriotic Party) finally filed a petition at the Supreme Court to challenge President John Mahama’s victory in the election earlier in December.

The NPP believed the election results were rigged in favor of incumbent President Mahama who they claimed colluded with some officials of the EC to manipulate the results. After analysing the data from 26,000 polling stations the party found irregularities such as cases of over voting and instances when people not registered by the new biometric finger-printing system were able to vote. Lastly the NPP had calculated that there were 1.34 million extra votes cast, which if withdrawn from the final tally would make Mr Akufo-Addo the winner.

Nana Akufo-Addo said it had not been an easy decision to go ahead with the challenge, but the evidence submitted was “mind-blowing and came as a shock even to sceptics in the party”.  He alongside Mahamudu Bawumia, his running-mate and Jake Otanka Obetsebi- Lamptey, chairman of the NPP filed the petition at the supreme court against the president-elect, John Dramani Mahama, the EC Chairman Kwadwo Afari- Gyan; and the EC itself.

When I initially thought about the ramifications if the NPP’s allegations are proved to be true, I could not help but think how damaging this petition may be to Ghana’s reputation as a tolerant and free democracy. However at the same time the fling of the petition shows democracy in operation with the NPP respecting the parameters of the constitution and filing the petition in accordance with the law. Moreover since rejecting the result the NPP have not sought to create unrest within the electorate but have remained calm and confident in collating their “mind blowing evidence”.

It remains to be seen whether the NPP have enough evidence to get the result overturned. The fact that international election observers described the poll as free and fair makes it seem unlikely. However if fraud is proven it will raise serious questions about the integrity of the Electoral Commission and its role in future elections. Whatever the outcome though, the Ghanaian electorate can be proud that they played an honest part in a peaceful election.

It is estimated the election challenge case is expected to be heard in three weeks. Meanwhile President Mahama is expected to be sworn into office on 7 January 2013.

Leave any comments below

Ben JK Anim-Antwi (@Kwesitheauthor)

Ghana a definite ‘model African democracy’

Election 2012: The people are the winners as the “model African democracy” that is Ghana shows it is divided as ever in another tight election

Ghana_Elections_Me_FiRi_Ghana_dot_Com

Seen as a model of democracy and stable governance in a sometimes volatile continent, Ghana lived up to that reputation with almost impeccably observed election. Current incumbent President John Mahama Dramani was declared the winner on Sunday night in tight contest which almost mirrored the contest of 2008.

The electoral commission said that Mr Mahama had won 50.7% against his NPP rival Nana Akufo-Addo on 47.74%. On a slightly sour note the opposition party, NPP claimed the poll was fraudulent and will contest the result, accusing the governing NDC party of conspiring with electoral commission staff to fix Friday’s poll. The NPP also claimed they had “enough concrete evidence” to prove that Mr Akufo-Addo had won the election.

Whether there is indeed evidence in existence to substantiate the NPP’s claims remains to be seen. What is clear though is the peaceful manner in which the Presidential ballot was carried out, and much of the credit for this must go the Ghanaian electorate themselves. Many voters turned up at the polls more than four hours before the sun was even up, standing inches apart in queues that in some places stretched 1,000-people deep. Each polling station had a single biometric machine, and if it failed to identify the voter’s fingerprint, or if it broke down, there was no backup. When it became clear that large numbers of people had not been able to vote, the election commission announced it would extend voting by a second day.

However this did not faze the Ghanaian people deeply attached to the tradition of democracy, with voters seen urging each other to remain calm while they waited their turn to vote. The result announced by the electoral commission showed how split the country is in regards to support of the two main parties and the direction the country should go. Naturally there will be a lot of disappointed NPP supporters at this time, however thankfully that disappointment has yet to turn into violence on a severe scale.

Ghana was once a troubled nation that suffered five coups and decades of stagnation, before turning a corner in the 1990s. It is now a pacesetter for the continent’s efforts to become democratic. No other country in the region has had so many elections deemed free and fair, a reputation voter’s hold close to their hearts.

In a country where the provocative style of politics followed by the two main parties does not help to diffuse tension between rival parties, the electorate did well not to rise to the bait dished out by some of their own leaders.

Whether or not we have heard the last of this election result, one thing is for sure; the people of Ghana should yet again be applauded for their tolerance of the democratic process.

Long live democracy in Ghana!

Ben JK Anim-Antwi (@Kwesitheauthor)