Coordinator of the Third World Network (TWN) Dr. Yao Graham, has questioned government on the rules of engagement in the crusade against illegal small-scale mining(galamsey), saying it is not an armed conflict in the way that the rules of engagement in war is for the soldiers to kill anyone they see on site.
Dr. Graham was speaking on the back of the statement by the Minister of Defence that the safety of the perpetrators of illegal small-scale mining cannot be guaranteed in their engagement with the Task Force mandated to fight the canker in the country. And also the destruction of excavators seized on site by the security officials involved in the crusade against illegal small-scale mining.
He said "the campaign against galamsey is not an armed conflict in the way that the country's border is being threatened and therefore the rules of engagement that the soldiers should operate under are to kill any enemy force that is crossing the boundary. So one of the questions that arises for me, in relation to the minister's pronouncement that people's safety cannot be guaranteed is, what are the rules of engagement? Is it that the military are empowered to shoot anybody they see on site at night because there is a fear that the people are armed? Do we know if they are armed?
"These are all questions that people should be interested in, all of us are interested in the security and safety of our water bodies. I think it is very, very important that we keep this thing within the parameters of the law so the approach to dealing with galamsey can be differentiated from how lynch mobs operate".
When asked if according to the interpretation of the law of the Minerals and Mining(Amendment Act 2020) LI 2404, anybody can challenge the Ministries of Lands and Forestry and Defence in court for unlawful destruction of properties, he responded that "the best interpretation of the law routinely is the common sense interpretation, so there is no ambiguity in this provision. And I think the first people with the responsibility to uphold the constitution and the law are the officers of the republic, ministers, public servants, public employees of various organizations, including the military".
According to his assessment of the operation to end the activities of illegal small-scale mining, he applauded the hierarchy of priorities that has been created in the operational apparatus.
However, he said "beyond sending the troops in to clear the water bodies, we need to have a sustainable approach to keep the water bodies clean because the troops will not be there always, therefore how do we build a constituency based on consensus? The pronouncement made by the Small Scale Miners Association complaining about basically a misdirected application of force points to some of the challenges to be addressed".