|Dispossed salt miners along the Keta lagoon|
By Duke Nii Amartey Tagoe
It has happened again! The pillage goes on and on. The Keta Lagoon in the Volta Region has been handed over to a salt mining company for $30,000 (Thirty Thousand Dollars).
The deal between the Ghana Minerals Commission and Kensington Industries Limited of India, will enable the company grab 7000 acres of the entire lagoon whilst 300metres at the periphery representing 3 percent (3%) of the lagoon will be left for the local salt miners.
What is worse, the company has departed from the agreement it signed with the Minerals Commission to use sea brine for salt production and has resorted to the use of surface water and underground pool by means of pipes and very huge pumping machines.
It has also emerged that long before the Kensington Industries Limited was granted a license to mine salt in the Adina-Denu area, it had already encroached on lands belonging to the neighboring communities in flagrant violation of the Mineral and Minning Act.
In a letter dated 18th November 2009 addressed to the elders of the Dogbekope Community, Rajesh Mehte, a director of the company, “acknowledged having encroached on their lands unlawfully without having been granted a license. We apologise and withdraw immediately.”
Below are statements made by salt miners about the development!
“ More than three thousand people here in Ketu South and from other parts of the Volta Region derive our livelihood from the Keta Lagoon and that is why we are heartbroken that a government we have served and supported these many years could take over this resource and hand it over to some white men. The Indian Company has been given the entire lagoon and we cannot fish as we used to do some many years ago. This injustice must be rectified as soon as possible because hunger is looming at our doorsteps.”
“One of our greatest worries is that the fresh water that used to flow from Togo into the lagoon, bringing in fish in the rainy season has been blocked by roads and dams constructed by the company. As a result the annual fishing and salt winning seasons that used to bring relief to the people have become a thing of the past since the lagoon dries up prematurely.”
“What has happened to us in this place since the white men from India came here has been an eye opener and has taught us an important lesson that politicians do not honour their promises because if they do and they really seek to give us a better life, this injustice would never have taken place. What prevents the government from assisting us to do what the white man wants to do with our own salt because they are not going to cook with the salt in their homes but to sell like we also do to survive as a people? Between me and the Indian who is more important? We are the state and every resource is being held for us in trust by the people we have employed to guide the state. If they do otherwise, then I think a robbery of the people has taken place.”
“In the first place, the communities living along the lagoon were not consulted by the white men when they decided to take it. It could be that we are not recognized as the rightful owners or even a people with a stake in this lagoon. I say this because soon after the company took over the lagoon, they started an aggression against us by destroying our salt ponds in which new salt was going to be mined. When we protested they called in the police and an army of soldiers who came and beat us up mercilessly. An injustice is being committed here and we expect President John Dramani Mahama to move in very quickly and take the lagoon back for us else he would be considered as an accomplice in this crime.”
“It is highly unthinkable and we would have thought that by now the government, which we massively support and rally behind, would have made a statement. How can this government apportion the Keta Lagoon to foreigners to the neglect of its own people and indigenes who derive their entire livelihood and very existence from the lagoon?”
“I used to come and gather four bowls of salt from here in a day and during the rainy season, I used a net to catch fish and we set traps to catch crabs and mudfish. Since the arrival of the Indian company, we can no longer do this and our livelihoods have been destroyed. Some people sit in Accra without knowledge of social conditions of this place and yet take decision with adverse effects on our lives. What else can we do when there are virtually no opportunities for work in this part of the country? This is absolutely unacceptable and we demand that the people who claim to lead this country think about how the decisions they are taking, takes food out of the mouth of the already suffering people.”
“The area of the lagoon given to the Indian company is just outrageous and the demarcation must be done again. In any case, the government must consider that our interest must come first in this matter because we are citizens of this country and demand that we treated fairly. Kinsington must stop draining the lagoon water into their saltpans. They must use the sea water they told us they would use in their operations.”
“Around this time of the year, we come here and collect salt, so that we can buy a piece of cloth for our children and pay for their fees when school reopens. Unfortunately, we can no longer do that at this time of Christmas because the water from the lagoon that forms the salt has been blocked and diverted into the small dams constructed by the white men. We do not accept the area of land they have left for us because we consider it as an insult. We share in this resource and we shall not allow anyone sitting in Accra to take it away from us and give it a white man.”
“There has been a deliberate distortion of what happened here on the 2nd of December this year. The company decided to construct a road within the lagoon so that their heavy duty vehicles could move in and collect the salt they have gathered from one part of the lagoon but in the process of doing so and with complete disdain for our right to survival, the truck started pushing sand to cover the little salt we had managed to collect. This provoked everyone because the poor man’s salt collected through manual labour in this hot sun must not be treated that way. They are simply seeking to frustrate us to leave, but they would have to go because we shall take back the lagoon.”
“As a matter of urgency we want the government to come out and explain the extent of its involvement in this forceful takeover of the Keta Lagoon to the Indian company because Kensington could not have just walked in here. We are also calling on President Mahama to intervene and release our brothers who’ve been unjustly imprisoned by the police. Every day of their imprisonment is breaking the heart our communities and we demand their release because it is the company that destroyed and strayed into human settlements. What is happening is a disgrace for the government and to us the people who’ve sheepishly followed this government these many years.”
|Amegah Sena Gideon|
Amegah Senah Gideon
“I am the only educated member of my family, but I ride a motorbike as my way of making a living to support my mother. On the 2nd of December, I got to the lagoon with a passenger only to realize that there were disturbances near the lagoon and a band of policemen were shooting without aim at everyone they could see. It was very chaotic and I was frightened. It was after a few moments that I realized that a bullet had penetrated my neck and had gone through my back. I can no longer ride the motorbike because I have a bullet wound in my neck and in my back and it will take some time to heal.”
“Since the clashes took place on 2nd December, the police have been deliberately picking up young men in the communities they consider as a threat to the company but all of them have nothing doing with the matter in concern. The police and the MCE are trying to intimidate and coerce us into submission by that will not happen because we shall take back the lagoon.”
|Torgbi Sape Agbo (V)|
Torgbi Sape Agbo (V)
“The establishment of Kinsington Industries Limited here to mine salt has brought our people more pain and so much harm. The aggression of the company against the local people in their demand for equity of the lagoon is just shocking and annoying. No man can force us to sit quietly and go hungry whilst foreigners take what must rightfully belong to everyone in this country. If they have succeeded in using sheer force in other places to allow for the wanton exploitation of resources, that would certainly not happen here. I join the youth of Klikor and Somey traditional areas as the paramount chief of Somey to demand that the Municipal Chief Executive immediately changes his vindictive stance against us and we call for the release of all who have been imprisoned over this matter.”