Ghana national security service involved in illegal mining

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A flag map of Ghana (image: courtesy of Gordon Johnson)

The Ghana law enforcement services are being criticized for blatant violation of human rights, bribery, racketeering, incompetence and more. Illegal mining or galamsey as it is called in Ghana (we will use that term in the rest of this piece) has come under pressure for the environmental destruction it causes, the corruption that comes with it, the violence it engenders, diseases, and many other negative consequences. What the average Ghanaian finds disappointing is that individuals, dressed in military or police uniform, armed with sophisticated guns have been caught, practising galamsey. Most of the time they pretend to be on a mission to arrest illegal miners, when their real interest is to get their share of the bounty generated from this crime. If the national security officers are corrupt enough to descend to the level of such crimes, one wonders where Ghana is heading. Many lament that they are living in a failed state and accuse the government of having a laissez faire attitude. What cannot be denied is that the phenomenon is growing.

Who will arrest bandits and criminals who haunt the daily life of citizens? How fair is it when a poor young man who, out of hunger, grabs a bunch of plantains and bolts away, or steals a goat with the intention of selling it for money to buy food, languishes in jail, while these hardened criminals in national security uniforms are free to patrol the streets and intimidate people? This rot is reaching gargantuan proportions.

.A look at the genesis of the phenomenon takes us back to the Atewa Forest in the eastern region of Ghana, a forest reserve that used to be one of the natural jewels of the nation. Some sources claim that the award-winning movie Beasts of no Nation (2015) was shot in that forest. On 19 May 2021, national security officers were arrested in the forest for indulging in illegal mining. Environmentalists are lamenting the fact that this beautiful icon of biodiversity is being decimated every day, especially by the numerous authorities in charge of the protection of the environment, the most known among them is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which has numerous offices in the territory. The Environmental Protection Agency is inefficient but delving into that will require a dedicated article. The media reports that in 2021, 65 illegal miners or galamseyers who claimed to be members of the state security were arrested. These fraudsters had heavy equipment and logistics, and lethal weapons, as I mentioned initially, and most of the time, they are simply “neutralized” by residents. But, the surprising thing is that the government or the department directly in charge of the fight against this crime is doing nothing. In most cases, people are told that the arrested “national security officers” have been handed over to the police for further investigation and everything stops there. This is the narration of the pitiful criminal operation of one of such groups: “The suspects invaded the reserve in Akyem-Akateng with a Toyota land cruiser under the guise of embarking on an operation to clamp down on galamseyers on Tuesday, 4 May 2021.With the help of the community members and forest guards, the tyres of the V8 in which the alleged security operatives were driving, were deflated. The damaged vehicles included a Tundra with registration number NR 9706-20, Toyota Hilux with registration number GT 9683-14, and Nissan Patrol GR with registration number GW 1966-12. According to the Asamankese Divisional Police Commander ACP Kankam Boadu, the suspects have been moved to the Eastern Regional Police Command to continue with investigations”. Rumour has it that top officials in the government support and protect these security officers cum bandits.

The more national security service officers are involved in illegal or criminal activities, the more the reputation and efficacy of the law enforcement service itself is undermined. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise when two years after the Atewa Forest scuffle, three youngsters were arrested for, allegedly, attacking police officers, in the western region of the country. The weapons retrieved from the three young men were astonishingly sophisticated and it is very difficult to imagine how they could have been in possession of such arms if law enforcement or “barons and untouchable tycoons” were not supporting and equipping them. This statement by the Ghanaian media attest to the fact that complicity lies behind the so-called attack: “Public Affairs [Division] of the Police Force said on 9 March 2023 that the Axim Divisional Police Patrol Team reported an attack on the team by a gang that, allegedly, seized the magazine of a service rifle together with some mobile phones belonging to the police officers…. It is said that a pump-action shot gun, two machetes and eight BB refilled cartridges were retrieved from the suspects’ unregistered Honda CV vehicle”. Many more items were listed, and, as usual, such coverages ended up in a travesty of investigation by the same police.

There are three reasons for this state of affairs: the police are corrupt, utilized by political parties, and ill-trained. It is no secret that all security services in Ghana today operate on a “protocol” recruitment policy, which means that the recruits are simply youngsters who have acquaintances or relatives who are either politically influential or financially well endowed, so in most cases, a certain amount of money is the “criterion” for aptitude. This is a sure recipe for the production of an incompetent national security service. The armed forces claim their innocence and distance themselves from such illegalities but that has to be investigated, since many sources contend that the opposite is true.

More and more tragedies that expose the Janus-faced characteristic of law enforcement in Ghana abound: a suspect apprehended some days ago, allegedly, claimed that he is an informant and threatened to reveal key national security officials who are involved illegal mining. This issue was quashed on the spot. It led a blogger to voice her anger thus, summarizing how all the resources of the country are being traded by politicians and their thugs in search of money to fund their political campaign: “ …two of the nation’s foreign exchange earners, gold and cocoa are under siege, our forest is under unmitigated depletion, our lands are under attack and our waterbodies are in muddied death throes while corruption is at a sure optimum surge in need of radical surgery…. The shady conundrum of campaign finance is a real  corruption octopus with galamsey tentacles and systemic cover-ups”. The Aisha Huang syndrome (Aisha Huang is the Chinese Galamsey Queen of Ghana) is, therefore, continuing its journey, accumulating more grandeur and doubtlessly adding to the woes of the country.

Moussa Traoré is Associate Professor at the Department of English of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

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  1. How can a country develop with such attitude.
    How can a country develop with such crop of people.
    God have mercy on Ghana and Ghanaians.

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