Tension is looming outbreak at Gbani, a community in the Talensi District of the Upper East region, over a move by leaders of the community to get rid of a Chinese mining firm from the area.
The leaders say the move is in reaction not only to an alleged breach of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by the firm, the Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited, but it is also a protest against what they describe as “inhumane” handling of the Ghanaian employees by their Chinese superiors at the company.
This is not the first time agitations, particularly from local small-scale miners, for the sacking of the company from the community have come up strongly. But it is the first time some notable figures in the area, who used to back the stay and operations of the company in the locality, have gone to the press, describing the company as “dangerous” and generously digging out some unsolicited secrets for the public to feast on.
Secretary to the Gbani Traditional Area, John Yaro Ti-roug, who himself was a mouthpiece of the company some time ago, ghnewsnow.com it was time to expose the firm.
“They are very corrupt. Their mode of employment is very corrupt. You need to pay something and do a lot of things. If you whistle, you are dismissed. A group was sacked for asking for salary increase. Someone picked a camp bed just to sleep on, not to take it home.
They asked why he took that particular bed outside to sleep. And so he’s dismissed as I speak. This is somebody who has worked with them for seven years when they came as illegal miners before they got their licence. They say they were prospecting. But now they are mining, doing gainful mining.
“We have protected them for a while thinking these people were going to help the community to develop. These people are dangerous. They are treating us like animals. The way they talk to [Ghanaian] workers. I have seen it. They are talking to workers and all workers must sit on the floor. They will sit in stuffing chairs. Meanwhile there are chairs there.
These people are inhumane,” he said, accompanied by John Bawa, an influential opinion leader in the community, who once strongly backed the company some years ago.
Hundreds to picket the company Friday
About five hundred agitators from the community, Starr News has gathered, will picket at the company for two days beginning this Friday.
The intended action, already well-rehearsed with the acquisition of police permit, is largely in protest against the alleged breach of the MOU on the part of the company.
The Chief of Gbani, Naba Pubortaaba Z.N. Naabil, is said to have released 71.16 acres of land valued at Gh¢28, 540 to the company to operate in return for such infrastructures as roads, schools, an Information Communication Technology (ICT) centre and dams among others.
“A school was supposed to be built in 2013/2014 Academic Year. It had to take us more talks to get them even to start the school this year. We talked of nine classrooms, with a store and some offices. As at today, they have built only six classrooms which have not even gotten to the roofing level.
Now, we talked about ICT [centre] to be built between 2015 and 2016. It is over. If 2013/2014 structure is being built in 2016, how sure are we that that of 2015/2016 will not be built in 2020? It means that they have breached all the agreements made.
“Again we talked of building a KVIP. We needed it immediately. But they breached that one. Then, we said we needed to convert that one into building a clinic or CHPS compound. They keep telling us there is no money.
They have lived on the land for three years free. The agreement was signed on the 19th day of May, 2013,” Mr. Ti-roug, who is also a member of the community’s Project Committee, stated.
The protesters had strongly proposed a five-day picketing; but the Upper East Regional Police Commander, DCOP Simon Afeku, reportedly told the organisers the stretch was too long to ask of a command many of whose officers already are on intensified patrols in areas hit by violent chieftaincy clashes in the region recently.
The imminent bloody clash
The organisers have announced they will picket both outside and inside the company’s yard, and that they will block anybody who attempts to work there.
Authorities at the company already have sent out a strong word that the manner the agitators want to go about their planned action is not how picketing is done.
There are fears the intended action surely will finish with a bloody clash, with firearms from both sides inside the mining community.
Mr. Teroug, who has been full of praise for the people of Zongoire in the Bawku West District for reportedly driving away a subsidiary of the Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited from their area, warned: “We dare them, in case some of them try any error, then the crossfire would be in. We think that we need to fight for our land.
Our grandfathers fought for the land in 1990s. We lost our men. We are ready now. But this time, we are not going to lose it with even our neighbours but with the expatriates. If they want to be lawless, they can kill one or two. But none of them will live. Unless they fly a helicopter to come and take them away. No vehicle will move.”
Agreement declared over
Four of the five sections that make up the community, including Pardyill, Tasuugyill, Datokyill and Yalle, will turn out for the rally Friday and Saturday.
The fifth section, Gbandanyill, may not take part, reportedly having filed a lawsuit in 2012 against the Chief of Gbani on an accusation of “selling” the now-disputed land to the Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited but lost it even after an appeal in Tamale, the Northern regional capital, in 2013.
The picketing, largely aimed at retrieving the cash at which the land is valued, will start at 9:00am with agitators expected to wear mourning attire and carrying placards.
“The people are not ready. What they keep on saying is that there is no money. Where in Ghana would you go for a land lease and think that you have no money? If you don’t have money, leave the land! The agreement has been breached. The agreement is declared, as we speak, null and void. We are not going to go by the agreement again.
“What we need is our total cash with the current interest rate. We will pick it, put it into some consultancy and let contractors bid and come and build the infrastructures that we need. They have no right to live on that particular land without paying. If you don’t have it, please, leave the land,” the secretary affirmed.
Minister asks agitators not to picket
The Upper East Regional Minister, Albert Abongo, has asked the agitators to call off their intended action. But the organisers are bent on making good their threat to besiege the offices.
The minister, in a meeting held Wednesday with representatives from the two sides and the District Chief Executive (DCE) for Talensi, Edward Awunnore, reportedly was convinced that the Chinese firm had not breached the MOU. And he asked the two sides to meet with the Paramount Chief of Talensi, Nab Kubilsong Nalebgtang, and the DCE for the area for a peaceful resolution of the dispute.
“I do not think that Yaro has what it takes to go contrary to the directive of the Honourable Regional Minister. If I hear that they would continue from the angle of Yaro, I would be shocked. It would mean that an individual wants to go contrary to a collective decision taken as of yesterday,” the DCE said.
But Mr. Ti-roug, speaking shortly after to Starr News, retorted: “Not at all. No turning back. We are going by the legal means. We have been given the mandate to do so. What are they talking about?”
Efforts to speak to the Public Relations Officer of the company, Maxwell Wooma, failed as he did not honour a telephone interview booked with him for Wednesday. Attempts to reach the company’s legal adviser, Lawyer Joseph Dindiok Kpemka, through all his contacts known to ghnewsnow.com as of the time of filing this report Thursday morning equally failed.