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.
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.
Anas, an incredibly talented investigative Ghanaian journalist, has been able to secretly film at least 34 judges, including high court judges allegedly accepting bribes in return for passing lower sentences or acquitting criminals altogether. The news which broke last month shocked everyone. Many people are calling for the implicated judges to be suspended or dismissed. But I don’t think that will be enough to deter others. Simple dismissal is not the equivalent of miscarriage or abatement of justice. In fact dismissal could mean unlimited freedom for these allegedly corrupt judges. But of course not all judges are corrupt. I know that there are many who are fair in the true sense of the word.
If the evidence Anas has provided is sufficient proof, then I believe the law is supreme and must be applied. The most valuable thing a person has is his freedom and when that is rightfully taken just as it’s done to others, then we can be said to be serious about justice and equitable law enforcement. Keep in mind, that, justice is the prelude to peace. Considering the widespread allegations of corruption and bribery that hits the country every now and then, and now creeping it’s way like a virus into the judiciary, Ghana’s democracy is likely sitting atop a volcano.
In every organized system, revealing or speaking truth creates chaos. But that chaos is needed to completely turn the situation around sooner. To avoid the chaos is to postpone the change.
Very recently, Anas was expected before the judicial investigative committee which resumes work this week but it was reported that three hooded men, dressed almost the same way arrived at the premises of the court leaving onlookers with no clue about which one of them is the real Anas.
Since truth has no place is this fallen world, the best way to present undiluted truth, if one must, is to constantly mutate one’s identity. I believe it’s an excellent thing he did.
The photographs remind me of the Ku Klux Klan but in contrast these guys are clearly aiding Anas and therefore the state in its fight against corruption.
At what point does God’s authority supersede the judge’s authority? God can condemn, the Judge can also do same. The Law has all the supremacy of God. Whilst the moral man looks up to God or the gods, the cunning one looks up to the law so that he may find a way to exploit it. In the affairs of the state, it’s not the rule of Gods but the rule of law. So we can say that God or gods occupy a certain domain of reality far from worldly reason but not out of touch with our personal realities – in as much as the rule of law does not mean there are no incredible interventions. I hope I’m making sense.