Chasing Asia Huang's shadow: A case full of xenophobic gesticulation

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I applaud the outcry and the passion being displayed by the Ghanaian media and the populace regarding the problems associated with illegal mining. I, however, have some deep concerns about the approach with which we want to deal with the problem. In my humble opinion, the prescribed treatment we have assigned to this canker is not lacking some element of xenophobia.

Mention “illegal mining” to an average Ghanaian and what pops up in the mind are unscrupulous “Chinese foreigners”. This concept is wrong and highly uneducated. If one may bother with the statistics, they may realize that most of the people damaging our water bodies are Ghanaians.

I agree that there are Chinese financiers and participants in some illegal mines but I suspect most of them are facilitated by our own who seek out the Chinese with promises of wealth and high returns if they came to our country to participate in the illegal activity.

The “galamsey” problem in Ghana is not a Chinese problem. It is an endemic Ghanaian problem that has gotten out of hand. Small-scale mining has always existed in Ghana, it was just too small to cause major problems in the past. But when one considers the exploding population growth, and the high unemployment rate that we currently face, it is not surprising that our “small” scale mines are not that small any longer. It no longer attracts only the simpleton and basic school dropouts but even graduates with the requisite knowledge and skills to transform the industry into a highly profitable one.

The potential for high-profit margins has attracted investments from more affluent persons not excluding our politicians and foreigners. Without the Chinese or other foreigners, I am sure the problem of “galamsey” as we experience it now would still exist. Illegal mining was a disaster waiting to happen in the absence of the laws that are supposed to check those activities. Fortunately, the laws exist but unfortunately, we are a nation with little respect for laws.

Beginning with the business partners of the Chinese small-scale miners, who facilitate their entry into this country, to our chiefs who grant them the permission to abuse our lands and the unemployed youths who are employed to operate the mines. We all contribute to the problem. It is easier to push the blame on foreigners but that only amounts to chasing shadows while the real issues slip through our fingers. In my opinion, the “big men” in leadership roles in this country who are also stakeholders in illegal mining and who have used their power to castrate our law enforcement agencies are the real culprits.

I digress. Now back to the issue of xenophobia. I have heard and read the many scandalous accusations against China Asia Huang. Starting from Kweku Baako’s blackmail allegation against her - I dare to say without any evidence - to her subsequent arrest. I have followed the news with interest as she has been held without bail since her arrest whiles the police and immigration service built a case against her. I have heard people on radio stations raise unsubstantiated allegations against her. Even some porn clips were circulated on social media that tried to link Asia and some politician. In my mind, this is a distraction from the substantive issues of illegal mining and the threat it poses to our future.

Today, I read that Asia Huang was sent to court. I expected to finally hear something concrete regarding the scandalous allegations against her. I was sorely disappointed. What instead happened was that the Attorney General (A-G) withdrew the initial charges against Asia and resubmitted with additional charges against her. The old and new charges are summed up as the illegal employment of foreign nationals and undertaking in illegal mining contrary to Ghana’s mining laws. Her request for bail was denied with the excuse that she could influence the investigations.

I cannot help myself but to wonder if this woman is that powerful?

The allegation of blackmail was not brought up even though it is considered a crime in Ghana. Despite what we have all heard about her alleged scandals and blackmails, there was no charge in that regard. Yet, that is her “crime” that runs foremost in the minds of Ghanaians. It is unfortunate that most of us have already tried and declared her guilty of blackmail and clandestinely manipulating powerful men in our country based on mere hearsay.

The mere fact that her bail was refused on the grounds of influencing the investigations buttresses my opinion on the matter. She might have committed crimes in our country but I sincerely hope we do not mar justice with xenophobia in a bid to satisfy our conscience regarding the abuse we have helped inflict on the environment.

Before I sign off, I will like to leave you with these lingering questions I continue to ponder even as I watch a tearful Asia Huang being led out of court.

How can we solve the “galamsey” problem if we shield the Ghanaian partners who dominate the industry and target only their Chinese counterparts?

Why has Kweku Baako freely divulged the names of the Chinese women, he alleges, have corrupted some “powerful Ghanaian” men but refuses to identify any of those powerful men?

Who is Asia? How did she come to be in Ghana and how did she get involved in illegal mining?

What is our Government currently doing to regularize small scale mining in a manner that ensures minimal damage to the environment and how will such a policy be enforced?

Here is a wise saying I deem appropriate for this occasion.

“The most likely culprit who will hurt us the most is not the stranger who comes to beg acceptance, but the brother who we refuse to reject despite the mountain evidence.”

God bless Mother Ghana!