Our Chiefs And Galamsey

Our chiefs occupy a place in our psyches that is difficult to define.

We offer them respect and loyalty automatically without pausing to ask ourselves why exactly we are doing so. Strange as that may seem, there’s nothing we can do about it. For our relationship with them was determined long before we ourselves were born. Our ancestors realised that our ethnic groups would only survive and prosper if they had the proper leadership to be able to face the ever-present dangers posed by hostile neighbours, natural disasters or any of the other menaces that we are exposed to, due to our location in the tropics.

That last bit about our location in the tropics is relevant to what this piece is about – galamsey. Survival in the tropics has its own peculiar challenges. Diseases are more widespread here than elsewhere on the globe. Ditto crop failures. Drought. Floods. Poor food storage.

And as the sun gets closer to extinguishing humanity by punishing humanity’s suicidal addiction to the creation of emissions that cause global warming, it has become obvious that we in the tropics may well be the first to go. If you doubt that, just look at the Sahara Desert. Apparently, there are underground waterways beneath those huge mounds and dunes of burning sand. Is that probable? I am afraid it is.

When global warming begins to bite really hard, there will be “water wars”.

What we are seeing in the Mediterranean Sea – thousands of people drowning weekly in the cold sea, as they flee from unbearable conditions at home and try to reach what they hope will be a better life in Europe – will become the norm.

And our social cohesion will dissolve into thin air. Unless we have good leadership at the local level. But can we count on that?

From the evidence to hand, we cannot be sure that we shall be offered any leadership at all. The evidence? Yes – the destruction wrought by galamsey on once-mighty rivers such as Bia, Tano, Ankobra, Pra, Ofin, Birem, Ayensu and Densu (to name a few) indicates clearly that by the time global warming unleashes its full effects on us, we ourselves would have done half its diabolical job for it.

The people of Ghana will have no water to drink. And even if they did, they would have no food to eat, because plants need water to grow, and when the rivers dry up, the soil loses its ability to absorb water from the underground waterways fed by the rivers, and cannot transmit moisture to plants through their roots.

Now, the strange thing is that our institution of chieftaincy was created with well-tested social tools that make it impossible for any chief not to know what goes on in his locality. In the Akan areas (which I know well) a chief is supposed to work with a council of elders (MPANINFOƆ) who are made up of the heads of families or clans (Abusua). Every person in a village or town belongs, by birth, to an Abusua and if he/she encounters any problem in relation to how he/she has been treated by someone else, he/she first goes to tell his own elder (Abusuapanin) who may approach the elder of the person against whom a complaint has been made. It is only when such informal attempts to solve the problem have failed that the matter reaches the chief and his council of elders.

In other words, no situation that is potentially capable of causing a conflict in the society can be hidden from all the elders and the chief of a town or village. At least, one person in authority would hear of it and if he is a person of responsibility, he would convey the information to the chief, with a view to resolving the problem.

That is why a lot of people think that some chiefs are in league with the galamsey operators in the destructive enterprise with which they are laying waste to the waterways and forests of Ghana. So, I was absolutely delighted when the President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, appealed to the National House of Chiefs to help eradicate the galamsey “phenomenon” from our society.

QUOTE [The President] … “expressed concern about the involvement of some traditional rulers in activities that affect the environment, especially illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey.

There are occasions when…there are chiefs who are complicit in the decisions that are taken about galamsey operations,” he said…“He therefore asked the chiefs to rather take initiatives that would protect the environment.

I think it’s important that all of us in Ghana recognize that if we don’t make a stand against this wilful degradation of our environment, sooner than later, we will all get up and find we have devastated the country and its future..”.The president stressed the need for all Ghanaians “to make sure that we bring this phenomenon under control.

“He … [urged] the National House of Chiefs to support proposals his government intends to make to Parliament to control the degradation of the environment.”UNQUOTE [DAILY GUIDE 8 February, 2017]

Indeed, the chiefs can start the campaign for eradicating galamsey off by consciously reviving the “Asafo” groups that used to play such an important role in our society but which have been allowed to die in many places due to sheer neglect.

In the past, the Asafo were organised in military formations and were the first line of defence against marauders and encroachers of all types. But instead of integrating them into the national crime prevention programme, our governments, following the British practice blindly, isolated them from the police.

Now, the people of our towns and villages are totally confused. When they observe crime, they report it to the police. But they can’t do anything if the police don’t act on their complaints! The time has come for an imaginative new approach to galamsey. Thank God for Nana Addo’s government.

By Cameron Duodu