By; Gabriel Edzordzi Agbozo
Chinese illegal mining in our country is no more speculation but a reality. Some time ago, they overtook the Adansi and Amansie West districts. As we expressed our resentment towards the newcomers, some Chinese miners reached for weapons to defend their operations. In other words, the former Gold Coast is hardly glittering above ground. In June 2009, some seven Chinese were arrested for illegal mining in Amansie West. The Chinese fired guns to disperse a group of town youth attempting to stop their illegal mining activities. The incident came after a group of armed robbers attacked Chinese individuals in Manso Nkwanta and allegedly killed one of them. Police said the robbers stole cash, mobile phones as well as some gold nuggets. A similar incident was reported in neighboring Fiankoba. It is no wonder that almost every Chinese in Ghana knows Obuasi. The appearance of Chinese miners in Obuasi corresponds with an increased spate of illegal activities in the area. The town, located in the Adansi district bordering Amansie, is home to the country’s biggest mine, which is operated by mining giant AngloGold Ashanti (AGA).
Speaking at the Ohumkan Festival of the chiefs and people of Akyem Tafo in the East Akyem Municipality in the Eastern Region in August 2012, the then Vice President, Mr. John Mahama warned that the Government will not continue to sit down for any foreigner to come in and flout the laws of Ghana by involving themselves in illegal mining and those who will be caught will face the full rigours of the law without any discrimination. To date, we have not prosecuted any of these defaulters of the law.
On January 10, 2013, it was reported that, heavily armed galamsey (illegal mining) operators have invaded the main intake points of the Ghana Water Company (GWC) on the Prah River in the Mpohor Wassa East District in the Western Region. The illegal miners completely blocked the company’s intake points at Bosomase and Daboase and officials of the company have to employ manual labour at very high cost to clear the blockage. It is estimated that there are more than 300 different groups of illegal miners, made up of over 5,000 individuals on the Pra River operating from Beposo to Assin-Praso with their self-styled floating dredging mining equipment and using mercury and other dangerous chemicals to extract the gold. It is common to see these illegal activities going on along all the rivers and streams that take their source from the Atiwa rang notably the Birim, Subrani, Amo, Sushen, Berempong and Asikasu rivers. Most of these groups consist of foreigners.
The consequences of the activities of these people have very devastating effects on us. There are great environmental damages done to the surrounding natural habitat. Water bodies are contaminated with heavy metal to the release of mercury, which is used to extract gold, into the environment. Exposure to mercury can cause kidney problems, arthritis, miscarriage, brain damage, memory loss and psychotic reactions. It is very dangerous for babies and children’s health. Cocoa and other agricultural farms like plantain and cassava are now denuded of greenery and have no agricultural activity. In 2011, floods swept the nation’s cocoa growing Eastern region, killing at least 5 people. More than 100,000 people were also reported displaced by the floodwater, which destroyed houses, roads and farms. Investigations showed that illegal miners had blocked the main river passage and diverted its course for their convenience. During the flooding some affected formers in towns like Akim Akrofufu near Anyinam could not return home after their farming activities and therefore have to use tall trees as their rescue place for number of days.
The Minerals and Mining Act 2006 (Act 703) must be enforced to the later. Locals also worry about the environmental destruction being caused by the mining. Some activists feel compelled to take the law into their own hands. It seems our governments over the years have turned a blind eye to the situation. We don’t want to believe that the recent 2.4-billion euro loan that the Chinese Development Bank (CDB) granted to Ghana was supposed to seal the mouth of our authorities to clamp down on them. The earlier we all work to dispel this very dangerous phenomenon, the better for us all as a nation. The days of colonial rule are over. The Chinese must not be allowed to visit another form of colonization of our own mineral resources. Let us assert our sovereignty without any fear or favor.
God bless our homeland Ghana.
Ghana just had a successful election. This is another feather in our cap. The whole world saluted us and parted us on the back. Christmas followed the elections. This saw the use of illegal fire-crackers and burning of tires on streets. Few days after, the fire festival has spread across the country and destroying several properties.
Fire has gutted some shops at the Bogoso Junction in Tarkwa in the Western Region in the morning of Monday January 14, 2013. About five shops and a car have been burnt to ashes by the fire, which was later brought under control by personnel from the Ghana National Fire Service. Fire has in the past few days, gutted shops, houses and businesses in Suame Magazine in Kumasi, ECOMOG near Nkrumah Circle in Accra, and B.B.C. Industrial Company Ghana Limited in Tema. The Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) has recorded a total of two hundred and fifty-four fire outbreaks so far in 2013.
Prince Billy Anaglatey, the Public Relations Officer of Ghana National Fire Service, was quoted to have cited the harmattan dry season as the catalyst for the emergence of this fire festival in Ghana. However, we cannot always blame these fire outbreaks on natural occurrences. It has been discovered that about seventy-five per cent of fire outbreaks in the country are caused by smoking, fifteen per cent out of ignorance and ten per cent out of accidents. This reveals that the Ghanaian is not educated enough about the causes of fire and immediate actions to take when fire breaks out. We might have done some education but so far as the recent fire outbreaks seem uncontrollable, we cannot part one another on the back.
Ghana has enacted a law to ban smoking at public places but whether this law is being enforced is another issue. Each day, we see people walking on pedestrian walkways, sitting in drinking bars or in “trotros” smoking freely as if it were legal. Under the Act 537, people who wanted to build were supposed to obtain Fire Safety Certificate from the Ghana National Fire Service before building their houses. But how many citizens of our nation know and do this? The ECOMOG fire outbreak during the weekend is an example of the lack of compliance to this law.
Available statistics show that Ghana lost 1.74 million Ghana cedis to fire in the first quarter of 2012 and 1.62 million Ghana cedis in 2011. It is also estimated that ninety-nine per cent of market fire outbreaks were preventable but due to the poorly structured nature of the markets, most of them end up in flames upon a small spark of fire. These preventable fire outbreaks cannot be allowed to continue. The law enforcement agencies should be up and doing. The Public Relations Officer of the Ghana National Fire Service recently noted that that vehicular traffic and periodical shortage of hydrants are hindrances to putting out fires. People should endeavor to switch off their electrical gadgets after using them or when going to work. Ghanaians should always include fire safety measures in their building plans. The Ghana National Fire Service should collaborate with the Ghana Police Service to mount exercises to ensure that people comply with fire safety regulations. Hydrants should be made available in market places and traders should be trained on the basic skills in fire fighting in order for them to prevent such situations.
All Ghanaians must make personal pledged to curb this undesirable phenomenon which in recent days is becoming a characteristics of our country. All hands must be on deck
By: Gabriel Edzordzi Agbozo
According to the Oxford Dictionary, encroachment means to take another’s possessions or rights gradually or stealthily or to intrude gradually, stealthily, or insidiously upon the rights, property, etc., of another. Some types of encroachment, per the classification of engineers, are Major encroachments and Minor Encroachments.
The encroachment of school lands is a worrying phenomenon. In December 2011, the Head of Security of Ghana Atomic Energy Commission said that about 30% of the total land of about 2000 acres belonging to the Commission has been encroached upon. The encroachment on Achimota School, Odorgonno and Christian Methodist Senior High Schools’ lands in Accra, the Takoradi Community Development Vocational Institute, my alma matter Sogakofe Senior High School, T.I Ahmadiya Senior High School in Kumasi and others elsewhere across the country, are still fresh on our minds. Statistics show that as at 2012, there are about 496 senior high schools, 7,656 junior high schools and 13,510 primary schools whose lands are encroached upon by private developers.
In the case of the Sogakofe Senior High School, all attempts by the current administration of the school with support from the old students to build a fence wall around the 319 acres of land allocated to the school has proved futile as encroachers and local settlers ended up destroying large portions of the wall. Although the lands commission has directed that the development be discontinued, private developers still continue to build. It is also alleged that local officials of the ruling party bought building plots in the middle of the 319 acre SOGASCO property, managed to secure permit and developed them.
Basic schools need land, for the construction of additional classrooms to meet the increasing enrolments as our population also rises, while secondary school put up new departments, boarding facilities, recreational facilities, sick bays, school farms and bungalows for teachers and other staff members among other necessary needs. Universities which are whole communities by themselves need a great amount of land for very varied purposes.
The encroachments affect the expansion of school facilities and limited the enrolment of more students. It affects the administration of the school including effective teaching and learning as teaching and non-teaching staff reside outside the schools. Discipline is at its low ebb when staff cannot monitor the daily activities of students especially in the second cycle institutions. Encroachment on school lands also create tension between the schools’ authorities and encroachers which are mostly permitted by the traditional authorities. There are also legal battles these acts of encroachment bring about; sometimes disrupting the productive activities of the schools involved causing great disadvantages to innocent students.
In 2011 it was announced that a nationwide exercise by the Ministry of Education to reclaim and protect school lands that have been encroached upon is to commence soon. The Head of the Public Relations Unit of the Ministry of Education said the programme to retrieve the school lands, which would be done in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, would involve traditional rulers and district assemblies. We are yet to see this reclamation programme take off.
There is the need for a permanent solution to this very disturbing phenomenon. Kwara State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for example formed a Committee on Land Encroachment to deal with the issue. We can also adopt same approach. There should be a body that should be the sole custodian and responsible for the acquisition of lands for schools. Proper demarcation and documentation of school lands should be carried out in earnest by the appropriate authorities. While we hope the government and other stakeholders in the education sector should appeal to traditional leaders to desist from selling undeveloped school lands and any leader found culpable should be brought to book.
Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. If Ghana needs to develop, education should be approached with all the seriousness it deserves. Let us not consider the protection of school lands as peripheral to the provision of quality teaching and learning facilities for our students. A conducive school environment engenders quality education and the total development of students.
April 22 is International Mother Earth Day. The International Mother Earth Day was established in 2009 by the UN General Assembly under Resolution A/RES/63/278. The Resolution was introduced by the State of Bolivia and endorsed by over 50 member states. It recognizes that “the Earth and its ecosystems are our home” and that “it is necessary to promote harmony with nature and the Earth.” The term Mother Earth is used because it “reflects the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living species and the planet we all inhabit”. This day, according to a former UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann “… promotes a view of the Earth as the entity that sustains all living things found in nature. Inclusiveness is at the heart of International Mother Earth Day; fostering shared responsibilities to rebuild our troubled relationship with nature is a cause that is uniting people around the world.”
As Africans, this day should be held in high esteem. Many African peoples regard the earth as a female deity, a mother-goddess who rules all people and is the mother of all creatures. The earth lives and gives birth to ever new generations of beings. She makes the grass grow when heaven gives her rain and if there is no rain, she withdraws into her own depths, waiting for better times to come. Indeed there is a Zulu myth in which people go in search of the milk-lake under the earth, from where the milk is absorbed by the grassroots so that the cows and goats have milk from the earth. Where else could the milk come from? Our own flesh is earth; even the name Adam means ‘earth’.
Taking care of the Earth is not just a responsibility. In his message to celebrate this year’s International Mother Earth Day, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the day “is a chance to reaffirm our collective responsibility to promote harmony with nature at a time when our planet is under threat from climate change, unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and other man-made problems. When we threaten the planet, we undermine our only home – and our future survival. On this International Day, let us renew our pledges to honor and respect Mother Earth.”
It is not uncommon, especially in Ghana, to see people degrading the earth with impunity. Human activities cause imbalance of the ecosystem. These activities which are mainly for obtaining food and the other resources to make life more comfortable, include farming along water courses, deforestation (timber, charcoal burning, wood for construction and sale), soil winning for building construction (roads, bridges, fields, buildings), mining, discharge of harmful chemicals in water bodies, fishing and discharge of waste (solid and liquid). These activities have tones of effects on climate change in Ghana. These are; destroying plant and animal species, increasing chance of all the types of erosion, the washing away of all nutrients and organisms that fertilize the soil among others.
Our national income must not go into repairing these. We all must make efforts to keep our neighborhoods clean. If we see trash on the ground we can pick it and put it in a dust bin. We must stop dumping waste into gutters. We must recycle cans, bottles, and papers. This can create jobs for the teeming number of unemployed Ghanaian graduates and increase our gross domestic product. We must help keep the air clean by reducing the rate of gas emission into the air. Cars that release bad fumes must be banned from working on our roads. We can help save water and energy. The establishment of a 200-member National Sanitation Task Force is a great move in the right direction. We hope they will work hard to improve our sanitation situation in Ghana.
Let us all remember that the nation that destroys its earth destroys itself. I wish all Ghanaians a happy International Mother Earth Day.
THE CONCEPT OF HOME IN THE POETRY OF KOFI ANYIDOHO
by, Gabriel Edzordzi Agbozo
African writing springs forth from the historical condition of the continent and her journey through the different phases of that condition. The continent suffered a long period of slavery and colonization. These periods are marked by certain negative notions about the continent.
Ghanaian literary culture one may say is very uniquely born from this campaign in the sense that it exhibits a sense of historical awareness.
The campaign of redemption has taken a centre stage in Ghanaian writing adding to the corpus of works geared towards reconstructing the continent. Prominent among the post-colonial Ghanaian writers, who successfully added his voice to this reconstruction, is Kofi Anyidoho:
As a poet he [Kofi Anyidoho] belongs to that select group of verbal craftsmen and women who have successfully fashioned a distinctively African voice out of that ambivalent legacy of colonialism… (Mensah: 5.)
Throughout his writing career, he pays very keen attention to the concept of home. In this essay I examine what the idea of home means to him and his audience.
HOME AS THE PLACE OF THE POET’S BIRTH
The desire for home, in African culture, is a cherished desire. This desire is also a highly preferred issue in African poetry and oral traditions. In this chapter, I explore the concept of home and its accompanying images based not only on the language used but also on the beliefs and location of the people from whom Anyidoho descends: the Anlo-Ewes of Wheta. I discuss home as the place of the poet’s birth bringing out such issues as home being a place of strong emotional attachment, a place of fond childhood memories, a place of diverse communal activities that bind people together and a place of comfort.
HOME AS THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA
Anyidoho often writes about the fate of his country, as other writers such as Syl Cheney Coker, Ama Ata Aidoo, Alan Paton and Nagub Mafouz do. In speaking about Ghana as home, issues like the portrayal of the country as a place of continuous political instability, a nation led by corrupt leaders who mismanage her affairs, a chaotic nation, a nation of hope, a nation which has fair whether friends, a place to which one would like to return though the situations in it are bad and a place with its unique traditional justice system.
AFRICA AS HOME
A recurrent feature of African literature in the post-colonial period has been the tendency for writers to express their profound nostalgia for Africa as their ancestral home. Writers such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Alan Paton, Ferdinand Oyono, Ayi Kwei Armah and Kofi Awoonor are noted for expressing this nostalgia. The varied agonies that the continent endured and the enthusiasm to better the lot of the land becomes the inspiration to the African writer. Anyidoho has contributed a lot to this nostalgia about Africa. In this chapter, I discuss the poems in which Africa means home. In discussing Africa as home, Africa as a continent with a history of pain, Africa as the land of valiant people, Africa as a betrayed land, the lack of commitment by Africans to truly liberate themselves from the troubles that the continent faces, disgust at the mismanagement of the resources of the land and the African Union agenda are the issues I discussed.
This essay has studied the various ways in which home is given significance by Kofi Anyidoho. Home carries a variety of meanings for the poet and each meaning is presented with a cluster of associated images.
Congratulations to us! Let us not fail the hope of those who trusted that we are the people who can do it. God is always on our side. We shall sail through all storms. From today, when we wake up, let the national pledge become one of our prayers before the beginning of the day’s activities. Indeed we are all involved in building our motherland.