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Anger in Ghana’s Gold Fields …As factions clash

When a Chinese citizen can enter the Galamsey trade and make it her own in Ghana, then you know there is something fishy. And this is not about xenophobia. Any Ghanaian knows that there are only two trades reserved for the high and mighty. First it is the oil trade and its oil ‘blocs’ for those with recognizable names and access to state power came close to owning oil blocs. For the poor youth, the only option open to them. ‘galamsey’.

In the early days of what is now known as galamsey, it was a trade reserved for poor unemployed youth, those willing to risk limbs to dig and sometimes have the earth cave in after them. It was no trade for the faint hearted. Nevertheless, left with no option, the youth entered the trenches. Their foreign counterparts were at the high end of the gold trade. Mostly Americans, Australians and Europeans. These had the backing of the state and could dig wherever they wanted.

In today’s globalized world,  you know something is lucrative when you see Chinese and Europeans flocking to the sector. It is where vultures feed. When foreign investors of some sort show an unhealthy and unabashed greedy interest, then there is something stirring underneath the soil. So it is with the mineral sector, in particularly gold, in Ghana. But Ghanaian galamsey operators did not have government backing nor viable equipment. They used pick axes, hoes, shovels and brawn. With the entry of illegal Chinese miners came modern equipment to challenge the Europeans who were already in the trade. And with their interests also came Ghanaian business men and politicians with deep pockets, limitless ambition and no shred of conscience.

This changed the name of the game. All of sudden, gold is being discovered everywhere. The British did not name this geographical entity the “Gold Coast” for nothing. And if you believe the Ghanaian media, the Chinese are the problem. Not so fast. How about the Australians, the Americans and other Europeans? How about the Ghanaian politicians and business men and women who have entered the trade with gusto. And how about the Chiefs who lease land to these environmental polluters?

Enter sexy En Huang

None of these was interesting for the media. They had to find a sexy angle, and there came along 31-year-old Galamsey “kingpin” who happens to be a woman.  Madam En Huang also known as Aisha the ‘galamsey Queen’. She  is a woman with formidable interests, ambitions and connections in Ghana. All we are told is that she is Chinese. She was arrested allegedly for illegal mining. Some sections of the media believe that she is able to operate in Ghana “illegally because of her strong political backing”. More importantly, it is also alleged that she has threatened to “blackmail some politicians with sex tapes” if they interfere with her operations. Public Agenda could not verify any of these claims.

Obviously, she must have a reason to be in Ghana. And she is not the only one. But a sexy woman makes good social media stories, and in some cases, sells newspapers, especially if you can invent a video of her doing something interesting, regardless of the fact that it is a made-up story. We are also told that she has a mining concession in Bepotenteng in the Amansie Central District in the Ashanti region. Public Agenda has learned that if you need evidence of the powerful reach of the Chinese Galamsey Queen, look at the attendance list to parties and events of the high and mighty in the Ashanti region where it is alleged she is a regular participant.

Then came her arrest and release. Years to come, lawyers will be citing the ‘Republic versus En Huang’ case with all seriousness. Ms. Huang is involved in litigation with another company called Volta Resources Limited, a ‘minerals exploration company’. It is alleged that Ms. Huang was encroaching on the concession of Volta Resources Limited.

The sad twist to the galamsey story involves the lynching of a rising star, a young Army Officer who was lynched in another part of the country.

The demise of Major Mahama

The sad loss of Major Maxwell Adam Mahama adds another twist. Public Agenda cannot substantiate many of the different versions of the circumstances surrounding the lynching of the young Major. While the speculation and stories make their rounds, some questions remain unanswered and will remain so until the investigations into his sad demise are completed.

Meanwhile, it appears that galamsey has become so lucrative that some people at the helm of state institutions have seen a golden opportunity. How do we react to the rumour that some Ghanaian soldiers have been detailed to act as bodyguards or provide protection services for foreign illicit gold diggers (galamsayers)? The Spokesperson for the Army has denied these rumours.

The Angry youth

Recently, Ghanaian youths in the galamsey trade have become the victims of a hate campaign of some sort. They are being hounded by the media and the security forces, while foreign illegal gold miners are protected. This obviously creates bad blood between the youth who are losing their livelihood and the security forces sent to drive them out of the mines, or as some say, to protect foreign illegal miners.

The unanswered questions

Too many questions, few answers. In all honesty, the Government, the Army High Command, the various DCEs, and the security services need to be open and transparent about their role in this whole galamsey menace. We need to know the relationship between some sections of the security sector and foreign illicit miners. Will they also help unravel the mystery surround the death of the youth army Major at the hands of galamsey youth? What is the relationship between the security services and the youth who are losing their livelihood because of Ghana’s new found hatred for anything galamsey? The death of young Major Maxwell Mahama, as tragic as it is, offers an opportunity for us to ask the questions that we have failed to ask.

Media joins

galamsey fight

Then came the campaign led by the ‘Media Coalition against Galamsey’. This campaign  seeks to highlight the problems associated with illicit mining in Ghana. Some call it uncontrolled galamsey. Noble as it is, the campaign needs to be sustained while at the same time, engaging the youth who are likely to lose their livelihoods as a result of this campaign. galamsey communities are victims, not the cause of illicit mining. Campaigners and security services should by all means avoid collective punishment mentality. After all, galamsey, unemployment, and corruption of public officers belong to the same camp.

While galamsey blights the environment, poisons water bodies and pollutes drinking water, environmental protection agencies, the youth Ministry and the numerous youth employment agencies need to engage communities in a discussion of these issues. A Joint Commission of youth organizations, chiefs, communities’ leaders, the security services and government should discuss practical ways of involving the youth in the fight against illicit mining. Foreign illegal miners should not be treated with kids gloves while we smash the heads of our own children. The only lasting monument that Ghana can build to the memory of Major Mahama is one that addresses the relationship between angry youth and the security services. Ghana must show that through his death, it has learned vital lessons of how to engage communities in discussions about their own welfare, we must avoid the mob mentality and the over dramatization of serious political issues with cheap commentaries from politicians and commentators on air waves. Government should address the problems of young Ghana galamsey exiles.

As for Ms. Huang, or Aisha, she remains the crowned Queen of Galamsey, waiting for her King.

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