The Director of Academic Affairs at the Kofi Anan International Peace Keeping Training Centre sees the pockets of resistance to the fight against illegal mining as a possible threat to security if not handled properly.
“We need to demonstrate a credible capacity to use force when necessary, that is very important. I am saying this because Burkina Faso has demonstrated that there are individuals and groups out there who want to destabilize countries that they think are weak…and we should not allow ourselves to become victims of that,” he warned.
Dr. Aning was giving his assessment of government’s fight against illegal mining on nightly current affairs program, PM Express, which aired Monday on the Joy News channel (MultiTV).
Suspected terrorists attacked a restaurant in the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou, on Sunday leaving at least 17 dead and eight dead. Ghana’s neighbour is gaining notoriety as a hotspot for terror attacks. A jihadist attack on a cafe nearby left 30 people dead in January last year.
The recent deployment of Operation Vanguard, a joint police and military taskforce, to mining areas across the country has received mixed reactions.
On one hand, it has been praised for driving out illegal miners from mineral-rich towns in the Eastern, Western and Ashanti regions that are battling environmental pollution, and for confiscating the seized mining equipment.
On the other hand, the anti-galamsey taskforce has been criticised for using excessive force.
The taskforce was blamed for the deaths of four persons on Sunday, August 13 at a town in the Eastern Region.
According to residents, the four persons were mistaken for illegal miners by the anti-illegal mining taskforce, who allegedly brutalized and killed them in the din of the night, but the taskforce has denied this.
The spokesperson for the joint taskforce, Major Gariba Pabi, said the taskforce did not go on night patrols on the day the incident allegedly happened. He said his men returned to base at 5pm and hence could not have killed the four persons at dawn as was alleged.
Commenting on the incident on PM Express, Dr. Aning said the work of the taskforce is critical to ending illegal mining activities that have destroyed water, bodies, vegetation, and ecosystem in many parts of the country.
“The military must be out there demonstrating a show of force and the preparedness and the willingness to use it when necessary and, of course, under standard operating procedures,” he said.
He urged the government to include dialogue in its strategy to fighting galamsey because the campaign could prove dangerous with excessive show of force.
“By virtue of the fact that galamseyers had every opportunity to do whatever they’ve done and now we have second generation galamseyers…we also as a state have failed. That is why that willingness to dialogue comes in,” he said.
He said attempts to link the four deaths in the Eastern Region to Operation Vanguard also shows that there are interests trying to sow seeds of disaffection for the taskforce.
“When you have a $2 billion industry that is going to be wiped away, you will fight back,” he said.