Some chiefs in the Kyebi traditional area, are unhappy with President John Mahama for describing Kyebi as the headquarters of illegal mining, popularly called “Galamsey”, in Ghana.
President Mahama at the commissioning of a 7.9 million-Euro Water Treatment Plant at Kyebi, when he visited the Eastern Region, last week said: “…excuse me to say, Kyebi Abuakwa has turned into the headquarters of galamsey [illegal mining] in Ghana. I came here by air and if you see how the land is being destroyed, it saddens me.”
The president almost cried about the Birim River, which used to be a source of drinking water for the people in the area, but has been heavily polluted with Ghana Water Company (GWC) requiring huge doses of expensive water treatment chemicals to make it drinkable.
Interestingly, the President’s remark has provoked mixed reactions from the Akyem Abuakwa traditional area.
Their anger against President Mahama, comes months after the Member of Parliament (MP) for Abuakwa South, Samuel Atta Akyea, was cursed through libation at an Accra-based radio station; Muntie FM, for also lamenting about the Galamsey menace in the area, mostly under the sponsorship of chiefs and other opinion leaders.
The MP, had decried the situation and even said the illegal miners had even taken their activities to the Abuakwa State College, as well as the Okyehene’s Palace, popularly called “Ofori Panyi Fie”.
But speaking on Eyewitness News on an Accra-based CitiFM, the Chief of Staff of the Okyehene, Barima Yentumi Boaman, described the President’s statement as “rather unfortunate.”
“The minerals are owned by Government, galamsey is illegal and we are being told that Kyebi is the headquarters; then one is at a loss as to who made Kyebi galamsey. Is it the owner who should have protected the mineral or the people at Kyebi?” he asked.
He insisted that it was unfortunate for the President to make that statement, because the people in the area “are arguably a bit upset.”
He likened the description of the area to corruption saying, “corruption goes on everywhere so when you pinpoint a place and say that that place is the headquarters of corruption in Ghana, I don’t think his Excellency was being fair to the people of Kyebi.”
Barima Yentumi Boaman, added that the people in the area are not blowing the matter out of proportion, although the President prefixed his statement with the phrase, ‘excuse me to say’.
According to him, that prefix does not take away the true meaning of the President’s remarks. “If you say a place is the headquarters of an illegality, then what else can that mean?” he asked.
The country has been battling with the upsurge in illegal mining across the country as the practice is depleting the land and destroying farm lands, forest reserves and water bodies.
The President has set up a galamsey taskforce to clamp down on the practice and reduce to it barest minimum.
Last month The Herald reported how Chiefs, numbering over 50, on Monday February 3 2014 afternoon, stormed the offices of Accra-based Radio Gold to refute allegation that the occupant of the Ofori Panyin Stool, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panyin II, was engaged in illegal mining, popularly called Galamsey.
The chiefs, who traveled from Kyebi in the Eastern Region, in five huge buses from Okyehene’s Palace, were delegated by Okyehene, because he had been informed that his name was being dragged in the mud by a son of the stool, Lawyer Samuel Atta Akyea, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Abuakwa South.
The chiefs had come to Montie FM, a member of the Network Broadcasting Company (NBC), where the accusation was first made, after refuting the claim, shockingly poured libation on the compound of Radio Gold, buttressing their point that the Okyehene and the stool knew nothing about the galamsey as suggested by Lawyer Atta Akyea.
The Legislator was said to have insisted that the occupant of the stool, could not distance himself from the menace, when galamsey operations are carried out at his backyard, indeed behind the window of his palace. The illegal miners had almost dug beneath the palace.
In the said interview on Wednesday, January 29, 2014, the MP emphatically mentioned that galamsey activities at Kyebi, especially at Abuakwa State College, which is threatening the very survival of the prestigious school, was being carried out under the nose of the Okyehene, but he has failed to do something about it.
This is said to have angered the Okyehene, who was on record to be campaigning against destruction of the environment, hence tasked his chiefs to come to Accra to refute the MP’s allegation immediately.
Lawyer Atta Akyea’s accusation on Montie FM, follows an earlier one by a member of the Asona royal family of Kyebi, Odehye Nana Adjei Boateng, who alleged in 2011 that the Okyehene was condoning illegal mining.
The accusation led to an uproar in the kingdom, forcing the Okyeman Council to impose a fine of 72 sheep and 36 crates of schnapps on Odehye Boateng.
Okyehene is reported to have refuted the accusation saying, “recently in the news, you’ve heard my name all over the place that the Okyehene is involved in galamsey, and I laugh”.
“I can go to the Minerals Commission that I want to engage in mining. I think if I want to do mining, [nobody] can stop me…why will I go and hide to steal my own property?”
It will be recalled that in November 2011, Mr. Akyea stated on Citi Eyewitness News that accusation that he was fuelling perception that Okyehene was engaging in illegal mining was unfortunate and stated categorically that he was being wrongly accused.
“I regret the incident…but I can assure you that I am not behind what is going on,” he said. “The first thing you should bear in mind is that I am a royal too and I owe my allegiance to the Ofori Panyin’s stool.”
The MP added: “I don’t know why some people have an interest in bringing me to this matter, but I can assure you that I believe strongly nobody must defame the stool.”
The Herald’s sources at Kyebi have disclosed that Mr. Akyea is opened up because for over four years, he and the Okyehene have been at loggerheads simply because, the occupant of the stool wanted his preferred candidate to contest the seat as MP.
Following Lawyer Atta Akyea’s remarks, the then Eastern Regional Minister, Madam Helen Ntonsoo, stormed the Kyebi area with a team of security officers and arrested a large number of illegal miners in the area.
Most of the illegal miners arrested had “receipts”, showing they had authority from some chiefs to embark on the act. The receipts were said to have been traced to Kyebi, meaning there were big people in the town providing tacit support for the illegal act.
Before her re-posting to the Volta Region this March, the ex-Eastern Regional Minister Ms. Ntonsoo was reported to have stormed the Kyebi area to reclaim the now destroyed land.
Okyehene, was also reported to have donated amount of GH¢10, 000 towards reclaiming the destroyed lands. It is, therefore, surprising to many the rebuttal from his Chief of Staff of the Okyehene, Barima Yentumi Boaman to President Mahama’s remarks.