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.
“Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.”
~ Bertrand Russell
When a common person on the street steals a bottle of palmwine or a few fingers of plantain he can receive up to two years prison sentence – even if he did it because he was hungry. Now if the law can be applied equally across board so that corrupt public servants are also prosecuted the same way and handed two years sentence, I honestly believe Ghana will change for the better. The new government is introducing the special prosecutor’s bill (Office of Special Prosecutor) and I honestly hope this office succeeds in prosecuting the bigger thieves and doesn’t become politicised. Presumably, this office is being introduced because the Attorney General’s department is highly politicised and is in murky waters.
At the moment the most corrupt people in Ghana are public servants. The politicians and their ministers are just a tip of the iceberg. They steal and steal and steal and whenever there is a change in government, they clandestinely set their offices ablaze in order to destroy documentary evidence of any financial crimes. Sometimes instead of facing the law when accused of corruption, bribery or theft and even if evidence is provided, public servants are simply transfered to another department or ministry so that they can continue to steal. The public accounts commitee hearings is a waste of time and effort. Because though the committee is ascribed the powers of a high court it has not succeeded in prosecuting anyone.
The entire system condones thievery and all the vices you can think of and ironically the most guilty walk about freely. You have to be a crafty criminal before you can succeed in this country. Recently many common people who have served various years were released from prison. Why? Because it was found out that their cases never went through trial. Why then were they in prison? Because they had no lawyer to defend them and the detective just dumped them in prison (on remand) and went back to business. The worst part is most people in the society don’t see anything wrong with this chicken and goat justice system, where the same offence, having same technicalities, can have two contrasting legal outcomes depending on one’s status in society.
Three things make slavery in the Americas horrendous and different: (1) It was instutionalized (2) It was extremely inhumane, slaves were treated as animals (3) It was continentwide and organised. When the ship docked and the slaves were brought out in tattered clothes – men, women and children, the first thing a slave master normally does is to crash the slaves’ spirit by killing one right in front of them. That way he effectively puts a stop to their desire to reason. Reason is salvation because it tells the slave to attack his master in order earn his freedom. But as a result of crashing their spirit, for the next 400 years the slaves had to stop reasoning in order to preserve their own lives. They simply obeyed instructions. When the master needed more hands on the farm he simply put one man together with a dozen women in a shack and forced them to copulate.
Today, some try to justify slavery by arguing that it existed in Africa long before the slave trade. That may be correct but indigenous African slavery was completely different: (1) Slaves were not worked to death (2) Slaves were released upon expiration of their term of service (3) A brave slave who fought in defence of his master’s tribe could rise to become a king and (4) African slavery was not institutionalized or codified. It was a tribal affair. No slave was wilfully released or granted any rights in the west until the late 19th century. They were kept to work on the farm and were forbidden to read. A slave risks being killed for reading a book. Many people also quite unnecessarily differentiate between slavery and colonialism. Both are fueled by same motives: hegemony and exploitation. The only difference is the venue. Slavery took place away from Africa. Colonialism took place in Africa.
After the slave trade and slavery the black race lost its dignity. Today, all over the world, Africans or people of African descent are not accorded any genuine respect. It’s partly due to slavery and also due to the behaviour of some black people. In the days of slavery, they did provide clothes, shoes, a farm house, a language, a name, a religion, a culture, a god, a civilization (actually humanization according to them) and even today they continue to provide all of these including skin lightening creams etc. so in case one wanted to actually look white, one could do that. Did Africans not have a history, a culture, a language, a religion and a beautiful black skin before they arived in the new world? The black race must understand who they are, where they are from and where they are going. To do this they need to read more and with all due respect, turn the ‘reason switch’ back on.
Further reading: The works of Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Dubois etc.
Everyone is asking for peace but only few people are asking for social justice which would have made peace easier. In rural parts of the world, thousands, perhaps millions die of easily curable diseases. Where there are no disease epidemics people simply die of war, natural disasters or hunger.
Meanwhile it’s clear these issues which are on a global scale have more to do with global politics than the availability of food resources, security and medication for those who need it. There is enough for everyone if the world’s resources are to be distributed fairly. But the world has reached a stage where nothing on two legs can be trusted and justice seem to be an extinct animal.
We normally respond to social injustice with charity but I don’t think charity is the solution. Injustice begins with unjust laws and until those laws are struct out injustice will remain. Charity makes people feel better but that’s temporary. The bigger problem of selective justice remains which must be dealt with. I think dreaming of a better world without a commitment to fairness is an illusion. To me a better world means a fairer world where charity or aid is unnecessary.
In his book, “Long Walk to Freedom” Nelson Mandela narrated how a young man approached him in prison and introduced himself as a member of the ANC (African National Congress). The young man said he was sent by the ANC leadership to help him escape from prison. The plan was to bribe a few prison warders, manoeuvre to the main gate and escape through whatever means was available. Mandela said the idea was strange to him. He was probably in his 10th year in prison and had not received any message from the ANC leadership because they were being hunted down. Though he wanted to be free, he didnt trust the young ‘aid.’ He said he consulted some of the ANC members who were imprisoned together with him and they decided not to follow the young man’s plan because they didnt know him as a member.
It turned out later that the man in question was actually an agent who worked for the white minority SA secret service. The actual plan was that while they were trying to escape the guards will open fire on Mandela killing him instantly and then it will be published in the media that Mandela died while trying to escape from prision (Attempted escape is a violation of the law so they would have had a moral justification there for killing him). At the time many Black organisations in SA appealed to European nations to help end apartheid and racism but none intervened.
After 27 years in prison Mandela was still alive, reason finally prevailed and he was released and then suddenly all the white leaders started loving him. Very strange indeed, that someone whose name was on CIA classified documents as a communist and a terrorist, whom Margaret Thatcher described as a terrorist, was now welcome to tour the west, visit leaders and socialise. The truth is that they all felt guilty. They didn’t expect him to be alive. Does the reader honestly think that a white person can be a political prisoner in an African nation for that long without consequences? There, again the world cried forgiveness because Mandela was black. The lung infection that eventually killed him started in prison because he said the rooms were damp and had no windows. We must learn lessons as black people.
What’s the moral of this story? The moral of the story is threefold: (1) It’s a white man’s world, dictated by the dollar and the pound. (2) Equality does not exist in nature, but ofcourse everyone can dream of it. (3) One must not jump at quick “solutions.” One must consult people one trusts when making important decisions. If the reader must know, before Mandela was sworn in as president, all of South Africa’s advanced military weapons at the time were moved to another country in Europe because they thought he might retaliate against the whites. They didn’t believe he had truly forgiven them. Evil men are never at peace with themselves. And whoever digs a pit shall fall in it.
In conclusion, the story I presented here was in the book:”Long Walk To Freedom” written by Nelson Mandela, 1st Edition, so I’m not making anything up. Neither do I have any space in my heart for hatred. I’m a peaceful person. I don’t blame whites. I just want the world to recognise the Black race’s capacity for forgiveness.
The capitalist will offer any gift to his labourers except the gift of freedom from the bridle. It was not the intention of the slave buying nation to grant citizenship to the slaves after bringing them to the new world. The intention was to put them to work until they died.
Citizenship and equal rights was granted (in principle) as a last resort. The founders contradicted themselves through the preamble of the constitution by claiming that “All men are created equal” and this made them feel guilty. Abolition of slavery was a test of the human conscience. The truth is they don’t want you there. Any wonder that they shoot and kill black people for no real reason.
When a white leader oppresses or imprisons a black man without moral justification or without due process of law, the black man is simply asked to forgive but if a black leader oppresses or imprisons a white man, they rally all the European people in the world and demand compensation for the oppressed whites. They consider their lives worth thrice a black person’s life.
Meanwhile the neo-colonialists continue to turn a blind eye to the fact that Ian Smith’s racist government stole lands, killed many native Africans and imprisoned Robert Mugabe for 11 years during which his son died. Maybe we are a foolish people, but the world must acknowledge the black race’s capacity to forgive – as Soyinka has said earlier.
Today my country is celebrating its “independence” day with the usual symbolism, diversion and pomp by the leadership. Meanwhile, hungry children will be marching in the sun together with horses. Many will faint. Others will be swearing oaths. At first I wondered why the quaker or bobs red mill will not be fed to the children. Then they said no, they will be: SWEARING OATHS, AS IN MAKING DECLARATIONS. Oh I get it now. I swear some of these children will be marching on an empty stomach today. UNICEF please intervene.
Speaking of “independence”, is Ghana truly independent? If yes, in what regard? If no why?
Is Africa itself free considering that African economies are fully controlled by the Pound or the Dollar or the Euro? What is Africa’s USP in the global market? Do we have bargaining power?
Are we aware at all of our own realities?
With president Donald Trump reportedly cutting funds to the arts and humanities, I wonder what consequences it will have on the development of a national culture for a country as diverse and racially heterogenous as the United States. Without education in the arts and the humanities civil unrests will be more frequent because people wouldn’t know or understand how to live with one another and even with the state. All knowledge of the arts and the humanities helps us to know who we are, why we are the way we are and what we ought to do to improve ourselves, our communities and the larger society. Law, Politics and Business are all traditionally categorized as arts and humanities.
In the past half century or so there has been intense focus globally on science education, which is good but not good enough to create a more humane civilization and make humans a better and conscientious people. Science has given us many beautiful inventions but their purpose will depend on the purpose we as humans envision for those inventions. What good is a powerful weapon, machinery, tool, vaccine etc if one is not trained to use it humanely.
Science has told us in clear terms that it cannot help us as far as the purpose or meaning of life is concerned. We can only turn to the arts and the humanities for truly meaningful answers. There are tens of thousands of literary and cultural organisations across the U.S. often offering voices to the voiceless and the under-represented. This no doubt is important in uniting such a racially divided country. If funding to the arts and humanities is cut, the government is simply postponing a problem not solving it. Unless peace, coexistence, civil rights, and national unity is not a priority for the government at the moment. As someone who is passionate about literature and the arts, I can only ponder the consequences if literature and art is further underpromoted.