The Parliament of the Republic of Ghana is currently debating a bill, which if passed into law, will authorise soldiers to shoot rural native gold miners on sight. The government claims among other things that these native miners called “galamsey” destroy the land and pollute water bodies. But they are not in this alone. There are other nationals illegally mining gold in Ghana as well. It is even rumoured that some members of parliament have dealings in this illegal mining. Any form of authorization to kill or punish people without due process of law is undemocratic and synonymous with martial law. Only judges can pass judgement in a democratic state. Native mining though now illegal, has taken place in Ghana for nearly 1000 years. I think there are better ways of protecting the environment than killing people.
What this bill means, if passed, is that anyone standing near a mining pit could be gunned down though she/he may not be an illegal miner. Once military and police officers are authorised by parliament to kill they are bound to err and shoot innocent people. I foresee something similar to the Marikana massacre in South Africa.
If these rural folks can find jobs in factories will they risk their lives mining in dangerous pits? There are more thieves in high places in Ghana than there are rural illegal miners. Yet we do nothing or only half heartedly tackle the problem of thievery, bribery and corruption. If this bill is passed into a law it will be the most undemocratic and unsound decision ever made by the parliament of Ghana simply because it undermines the principles of democracy and the rule of law. The following fundamental human rights are entrenched in the Ghanaian Constitution:
(1) No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in the exercise of the execution of a sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Ghana of which he has been convicted.
(2) A person charged with a criminal offence shall be given a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court.
(3) A person charged with a criminal offence shall be permitted to defend himself before the court in person or by a lawyer of his choice.
(4) ….In the case of an offence the punishment for which is death or imprisonment for life, a person shall be tried by a judge and jury and the verdict of the jury shall be unanimous.