Wednesday, October 10, 2007
A REVIEW OF THE TELEKU-BOKAZO-ANWIA
RAMPAGE-WHAT LESSONS TO LEARN?
By: JOS ANYIMA-ACKAH
TELEKU-Bokazo and Anwia are small farming communities in the Nzema East District of the Western Region.
More precisely, they are dotted along the untarred by-pass road linking Aiyinasi, Nkroful and Essiama on the Elubo-Takoradi trunk road. By their remote location little is heard about them.
However, last two weeks Teleku-Bokazo and Anwia came into the news, hitting the headlines and serving as a topic of discussion by the general public. It was a painful and pathetic news, unbecoming of the two secluded, quiet rural settlements.
Indeed, it can hardly be imagined that the serious incident could happen there, creating panic, anxiety and fear among the people in the communities.
The gist of it is that the youth went on a rampage in protest against a surface mining project that is being carried out in the area. The result of the fracas is fairly extensive. It involves injury to two policemen, damage to equipment, vehicles and property; seizure of rifles (which have already been retrieved) and arrest of several suspects of the crime.
Besides, it necessitated the direct intervention of the Western Regional Minister, Regional Security Council (REGSEC), the Member of Parliament for the area and the mobilization of the Mobile Police Force from Takoradi to restore order.
But it is an uneasy calm situation, since it is reported that some of the rampaging youth have taken refuge in the bush, resorting to guerrilla attacks to outwit the police. They sneak in and out at night to cause havoc and, allegedly have issued death threats to the chiefs for granting permission to a foreign mineral exploration company to undertake surface mining in the area.
As a matter of urgency, there is the need to review the incident and the mining project, taking due cognizance of the ramifications and implications on the socio-economic development of the area and the people.
Furthermore, the experience of communities in the country that have been affected by surface mining operations must be considered as relevant to the situation on the ground. Indeed staggering evidences exist here and there for easy reference.
First of all, it must be noted that the rampage did not erupt all of a sudden. It had loomed large over the years since the concession for the mining came to light, resulting in random disputes between the chiefs and the youth. The start of the prospecting activities by the mining company triggered off the riot.
Sources of information indicate that the youth had registered their protests over the project, urging the chiefs to abrogate the deal or abdicate their positions. Petitions had been forwarded to the authorities concerned, and meetings held to that effect had been futile.
Apparently, all the stakeholders, authorities and security agencies are aware of the volatile issue but have swept it under the carpet, much to the chagrin of the exuberant youth. They believe that their concerns and fears have been ignored in a grave matter that has impact on their livelihood.
The reality is that surface mining which involves ruthless excavation of the top soil, does more harm than good to the environment, destroying farmlands, water-resources and polluting the surrounding atmosphere with a haze of dust that is dangerous to health. Its extensive nature more often than not leads to a resettlement of the communities in the area, whereby they lose their traditional and cultural identities and values.
On the other hand, good things accrue from surface mining operations. The inhabitants benefit from the payment of compensation for the disposal of their land, provision of infrastructural facilities, social amenities, generation of employment opportunities and improved quality of life.
To the national economy the advantages are a boost of the mining sector, increased exports, foreign exchange earnings and sustainable growth and development.
Currently, the government is vigorously promoting foreign investment in the country. The Teleku-Bokazo and Anwia surface mining project if part and parcel of this programme. But as the saying goes, experience is the best teacher. The practices and attitudes of some of the surface mining companies in the country leave much to be desired in terms of adequate compensation, poor quality housing units as well as other benefit packages and premises that are provided in piecemeal or never fulfilled.
The discouraging aspect of it all is the haphazard reclamation exercise. Whatever is done does not restore the original fertility of the soil as well as the flora and fauna of the land. More or less, everything around becomes artificial. As a result, the communities lose the natural goodness of resources in the area.
In this regard, matters concerning land concessions for surface mining in particular must be handled with utmost caution and full understanding of the entire members of the communities, considering the long-term repercussions on their lives.
Observingly, lapses seem to have occurred in the case of Teleku-Bokazo and Anwia whereby the youth were not taken into confidence in granting the permission for the mining activity, which no doubt, has inherent benefits to a large extent.
This is not to endorse the violent action of the youth. Like the storm, violence rages and rumbles leaving in its wake havoc and suffering. This is exactly what has happened at Teleku-Bokazo and Anwia. This situation must be condemned outright in vehement terms.
In any case, the solution to the problem is not cowing or intimidating the youth to acquiesce in the matter. Perhaps that might work for a while when the security force is in control of the affairs. But in the long run the issue will boil and burn so far as the youth remains disgruntled with it.
It is also not proper to disregard the authority of the chiefs and their elders who are custodians of the land and opinion leaders in the communities. Perhaps they too might yield to counsel. But that would mean despising them and creating a vacuum of disaffection and friction between them and the youth.
These tendencies would certainly not augur well for the smooth business operations of the mineral exploration company, and most probably other potential foreign investors who might see such developments as warning signs. The end result would be a halt to the investment promotion programme.
In the final analysis, the fair and lasting approach to rampage is a sober reflection on it vis-à-vis the surface mining project, taking into consideration its far-reaching consequences in the short and long term. The lessons to learn will determine the action to take on the matter.
To this end, there is the need for a cool, calm and peaceful atmosphere to return to Teleku-Bokazo and Anwia.
The Ghanaian Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2007 Page: 8