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Aisha Huang Sentence: Use The Law To Fight Galamsey – OCCUPYGHANA4 min read

Aisha Huang Sentence: Use The Law To Fight Galamsey – OCCUPYGHANA<span class="wtr-time-wrap after-title"><span class="wtr-time-number">4</span> min read</span>



Accra, 5 December 2023


OccupyGhana notes the decision of the High Court on 4 December 2023, which convicted and sentenced Ms Aisha Huang for various offences under our law, especially breaches of our Minerals and Mining Act. We do not celebrate the imprisonment of any person. But we, very grudgingly, acknowledge the work of the Attorney-General in completing this long-standing trial.

We hope that public officials are learning the necessary lessons from this saga. We recall that on 16 May 2017, in the wake of the matter, we were compelled to petition the Attorney-General when we saw the charge sheet and noticed that Ms Huang had been charged with mere immigration infractions, which did not match the severity of the illegal mining that she had been engaged in. We therefore requested the Attorney-General ‘to call for the docket on this matter, investigate the charges laid and filed, and if found necessary, for fresh, proper, weightier and more relevant charges to be filed or added.’

We were gratified when in just about a week after our petition, the Attorney-General heeded our request and filed what we considered the proper charges in the case. We acknowledged this in our press release dated 24 May 2017, adding that ‘it gives the State the opportunity to prosecute for the proper offences and also affords the accused persons the opportunity to defend themselves against those charges.’

We regret that the good work the Attorney-General did, was all undone when after several fits and starts, the trial was truncated and aborted by the same Attorney-General’s nolle prosequi; and then Ms Huang was deported without standing trial. A petition from the Media Coalition Against Galamsey (MCAG) dated 21 December 2018, pointing out in real time that that decision was a mistake, fell on deaf ears. To add insult to injury, a then Presidential Staffer and Secretary to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining, Mr Charles Bissue, in apparent answer to the MCAG’s petition, is reported on 26 December 2018 to have claimed that the deportation was to prevent tax payer monies from being spent on the trial and possible imprisonment.

But Mr Bissue was not alone in offering flippant and frivolous responses to the genuine concerns of Ghanaians. On 20 April 2019, the then Senior Minister Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo was reported to have justified the decision not to prosecute Ms Aisha Huang. He is quoted to have explained that that was because of Ghana’s ‘very good relationship with China,’ and the prospect of receiving $2bn under the Sinohydro bauxite project. He is further quoted to have argued that ‘where there are these kinds of arrangements, there are other things behind the scenes,’ and that jailing Ms Huang would not solve our economic problems.

We responded to Mr Osafo-Maafo by a press statement dated 22 April 2019, which said that ‘the Senior Minister’s comments make complete mockery of the fight against Galamsey and critical decisions Government and the coalition against Galamsey have taken to address this issue. This statement suggests that there is a price tag for the exoneration of foreigners implicated in the appalling desecration of Ghana’s environment, rivers and laws. It positions foreigners who break or flout our laws as untouchable and above the law because their countries offer a trade partnership and benefits.’ We demanded an apology to Ghanaians and called upon the presidency to ‘to dissociate itself from the misguided comments and show proper leadership by calling the Minister to immediate order.’

It took the Government a while. But finally in September 2019, the President communicated his contrition and regret over the matter, saying that the decision that Messrs Bissue and Osafo-Maafo had justified, ‘on hindsight, was a mistake,’ and simply that it would not happen again. We responded to the President by a press statement dated 23 September 2019, in which we described the totality of Government’s actions as ‘a rather unfortunate, deflating and regrettable phase in the fight against Galamsey and a slap in the face of Ghanaians.’ We added that ‘we will judge the Government on this matter, not based on its words and assurances based on hindsight, but on its acts that are based on foresight. Let the Government beget fruits that befit the repentance of the “on hindsight mistake.”’

We continued to put pressure on the Government on the overall issue of Galamsey until we learned that Ms Huang had somehow re-entered Ghana and had been arrested, leading to the prosecution and present conviction and sentence.

All the saga and drama were avoidable. All that the Government was required to do was to allow the law to take its course, right from the onset. We repeat our advice to the Government in our press statement dated 4 May 2021 that all the efforts to end illegal mining will achieve nothing until we resolve to simply enforce the law. If the security agencies make arrests and the law is not applied, it weakens their resolve and says to all that we are not serious about ending this menace. And the judiciary should need no encouragement to try cases with dispatch so that Ghanaians can see results in real-time. It cannot be business as usual. We repeat our message to the Government that ‘if you want to win the fight against Galamsey, APPLY THE LAW.’