Protest and Condemnation of Harassment and Intimidation of Activists and NGOsPublished by MAC on 2003-08-18
Protest and Condemnation of Harassment and Intimidation of Activists and NGOs
18 August 2003
Press Release from National Coalition of civil Society Groups against mining in forest reserve, Ghana
We wish to welcome you to this press conference. The purpose of holding this press conference is to register our protest against and also condemn the continued harassment and intimidation meted out against some colleagues and groups engaged in the campaign against injustices by mining companies and mining in forest reserve.
You would recall that on May 7th 2003 the National Coalition of Civil Society against Mining in Ghanas Forest Reserve held a press conference and issued a declaration demanding that the Government of Ghana rescinds its decision to allow mining in forest reserves and withdraw any mining leases on forest reserves if already granted. The declaration also demanded for a clear cut regulatory framework that prohibits mining in forest reserves and the political will and commitment for the protection and conservation of the countrys forest estates by strengthening the capacity of state institutions responsible for the protection and management of these reserves.
Four main reasons informed the action of the coalition to make these demands. First Government is not able to demonstrate clearly the justification for mining in the forest reserves. Second, over the last two decades Ghana has experienced growing foreign direct investment and production in its mining sector. Unfortunately, the result of the growing investment and production has been appalling on the national economy, the environment, community livelihood and human rights. Third, the forest reserves must be protected for their own sake because of the vital economic, social and environmental functions necessary for the kind of life we live on earth. Fourth, mining in forest reserve is in contravention to international conventions such as the convention to combat desertification, the convention on biological diversity and the Kyoto protocol which Ghana is signatory.
Rather than addressing these issues the industry especially Ashanti Goldfields Company (AGC) backed by the District Chief Executive for Adansi West Mr. Kwadwo Boampong and a section of the traditional rulers in the Obuasi area have resorted to a pattern of intimidation and harassment of some members of the coalition.
Two of our activists namely Benjamin Annan (assemblyman for Sanso electoral area) and Clement Kofi Scott (a community volunteer who live in Obuasi) have been subjected to various kinds of intimidation and harassment because of their role in sensitizing the local communities to defend their interest and rights vis-a-vis that of the interest of mining companies in the Obuasi area. They have over the past weeks been singled out and harassed by the District Chief Executive of the Adansi West District and the Traditional Chief of New-Edubiase under the pretext that they have been mobilizing communities in the area to demonstrate against mining in the Adansi west district
1. On Sunday July 20, 2003 Benjamin Anan was summoned to the New-Edubiase Chiefs palace and made to stand in the Scorching Sun for four-five hours. While standing in the sun Benjamin was subjected to insults and forced to render an apology for petitioning the President on human rights issues AGC allegedly violated against the Sanso community. The Chief made unprintable derogatory tribal remarks about Benjamin Annan.
2. Prior to this summon Benjamin Annan had been receiving threatening and anonymous telephone calls to dissociate himself from advocacy groups in the interest of his life.
3. On July 1,2003 Benjamin was also invited to Obuasi Central Police Station on the instruction of the Sansu Chief Nana Bawuah. The allegation was that Benjamin was creating chieftaincy problems in Sansu. Unfortunately, they could not establish any proof of Benjamins role in any chieftaincy problem in the Sanso area.
In the case of Scott, he was arrested and detained at the Obuasi Central Police Cells on the 8th of November 2002 upon instructions from AGC security officials when he went to AGC to deliver a letter from some communities. These are communities who expressed their grievances for redress by AGC. Scott was also released without any charges preffered against him. As if that was not enough he was also confronted by the DCE of Adansi West at Kubi and asked why he went to Kubi without permission from him. This confrontation occurred in the presence of Abdulai Darimani and Mike Anane who happened to be at Kubi to observe a public hearing on the Supuma Forest reserve. The Chief Executive at the public hearing threatened advocacy groups for unfounded reasons. Since then Clement Scott has been instructed not to visit any community without permission from the District Chief Executive of Adansi West.
It is becoming increasingly clear that Ashanti Goldfields Company is behind these threats, intimidation and harassment because the Chief of New Edubiase stated that the Managing Director of AGC-Obuasi Mines Mr. Owuredu indicated that they would not undertake development in their area if they do not compel Benjamin and his associates to stop their advocacy work in the area.
Quite recently, the 23rd July 2003 issue of Daily Graphic reported the Chief Executive Officer of AGC Dr. Sam Jonnah who said some mining advocacy NGOs are working out of malice.
We are deeply concerned about these threats, intimidation and harassment against activists. Situations like these do not create the desired atmosphere for democracy. We wish to protest and also condemn these acts in the strongest terms.
We also wish to inform the DCE, the Chiefs involved and AGC to stop these acts and allow advocacy groups, individuals, and the communities to have freedom of expression and the right to protect their interest. Mining investment should not be at the expense of citizens rights to freedom of expression, movement and association.