WACAM, a nongovernmental advocacy organisation in mining communities, says it would continue to campaign against irresponsible mining, especially mining in forest reserves, a release Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, WACAM Executive Director, signed on Tuesday said.
The release was in response to recent orchestrated media attacks on WACAM by some chiefs of Akyem Kotoku area on a query United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food sent to the Government of Ghana by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the potential impacts of the Newmont Akyem Project on the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve and the violation of the Right to Food of the affected people.
It said: “In May 2008, WACAM and other Civil Society Organisations like FIAN (Foodfirst Information Action Network) presented reports on the Human Rights violations in the context of large-scale mining operations in Ghana as part of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights situation globally.
“Our input into the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) expressed concern about the human rights violations in mining communities in Ghana perpetrated by the Military and the Police in Ghana. We provided evidence of Military and Police brutalities in mining communities in the country which sometimes resulted in the death of innocent people in mining communities.
The release said: “WACAM quoted a Ghana News Agency report which indicated that in 2005, the youth of New Abirem, who demonstrated against the Newmont Akyem Project, were shot by the Police resulting in the death of some of the demonstrators as part of the general evidence of Police and Military brutalities in mining communities in Ghana.
“WACAM was not working in the Akyem area in 2005, at the time of the demonstration by the youth of New Abirem against the Newmont Akyem Project and, therefore, had to rely on credible information from the Ghana News Agency as evidence of the shooting of the New Abirem demonstrators by the Police.
“It would be helpful to state that there were media reports that Honourable Joe Ghartey, who was then the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, confirmed the claims of Military and Police brutalities in mining communities at a meeting of UN Commission for Human Rights where the UPR report was discussed and promised that the then Government would take steps to stop the brutalities in mining communities.”
The release said: “When some chiefs of Akyem Kotoku started the media attacks against WACAM for sending a petition to the UN based on which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights queried the Government of Ghana on the negative effects of Newmont’s Akyem Project, WACAM thought it was the input it had been made in the UPR in 2008, which was the basis for the media attacks by some chiefs of Akyem Kotoku.
“WACAM recently had a copy of the query of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Ghana Government on the operations of Newmont Akyem Project and realised that it emanated from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. A study of the UN query by WACAM revealed that the query had detailed the violations of social, economic and cultural rights of people, who would be affected by the operations of Newmont Akyem Project.
“WACAM had not sent such a detailed report on violations of the social, economic and cultural rights of the Akyem Project to the UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food to form the basis of the query from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. If WACAM had sent such a detailed report of the violations of the economic, social and cultural rights associated with the Newmont Akyem Project to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as FIAN did, we would have proudly accepted responsibility for it because WACAM is not afraid to take responsibility for actions that would promote human rights and environmental justice.”
The realease said: “WACAM wishes to state that, Foodfirst Information Action Network (FIAN), a respected international Human Rights NGO that works globally on the Right to Food, has confirmed to WACAM that in March 2009, it developed a global campaign and Urgent Action on the Open-pit Gold mine in the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve by Newmont Akyem Project.
“A copy of the Urgent Action (No 09064GHA) which detailed the potential violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of the people in addition to the potential destruction of Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserves was sent to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, which formed the basis of the query of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to the Government of Ghana.
“The chiefs of Akyem Kotoku, youth and individuals, who engaged in the campaign of insults and lies against WACAM had insulted WACAM for no justifiable reason, the release said, adding: “It is surprising that a query from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to Newmont on the potential negative effects of its Akyem Project based on the Urgent Action of FIAN did not receive a response from Newmont but rather turned out to be a campaign of insults and blatant lies against WACAM by some chiefs and people of Akyem Kotoku.”
The release said: “A petition presented to the Minister of Environment, Science and Technology by 270 farmers, who would be affected by the operations of Newmont Akyem Project, described the chiefs, youth and people involved in the media attacks on WACAM as paid agents of Newmont whose farms and properties would not be affected. WACAM wishes to describe the media attacks and insults on WACAM by some of the chiefs and youth in Akyem Kotoku area as baseless, unwarranted, unnecessary and malicious.”
It said: “The attempt by some of the Akyem Kotoku chiefs to blame WACAM for the bribery allegation against the chiefs is unfortunate. WACAM wishes to state that, the allegation of bribery against some of the chiefs of Akyem Kotoku was published in the “Financial Intelligence”, a Ghanaian private newspaper on 24th August 2009. The bribery allegation which was published in the “Financial Intelligence” under the title “Bribery Scandal Rocks Newmont” reported that the chiefs of Akyem Kotoku involved in the campaign against WACAM were paid $12,000 each and four of the chiefs were paid $42,000 by Newmont.
“The confirmation by the chiefs and Newmont that these monies were paid to the chiefs at a time when Newmont was required to respond to the UN query and the start of the media campaign against WACAM with the explanation that the monies were meant to cover administrative expenses of the chiefs had created keen public interest in the bribery allegation.
“The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Honourable Collins Dauda was reported to have stated recently that at the current rate of forest depletion, Ghana would lose its Forest Reserves in 23 years. WACAM is aware of a grand campaign orchestrated and paid for by the companies that seek to destroy our Forest Reserves to attack advocacy NGOs especially WACAM.”
The release said: “There is no doubt that the media attack on WACAM by some of the chiefs of Akyem Kotoku is part of an orchestrated programme to intimidate WACAM and other advocacy NGOs that engage in campaigns against mining in Forest Reserves.
“The Forest Reserves are part of our national heritage with national and global significance. Article 41k of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana states that it is the duty of every citizen to protect and safeguard the environment. WACAM is ready to make every sacrifice to protect the environment in line with the dictates of the Constitution of Ghana.”
The release expressed WACAM’s appreciation to NGOs; organisations; media; workers; enlightened chiefs; students, community people and a host of individuals, who have expressed solidarity with WACAM during the period of the media campaigns against it.
“WACAM wishes to assure our sympathisers and friends that we would continue to campaign against irresponsible mining such as mining in Forest Reserves and the violation of the rights of poor mining communities,” the release said.
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