The West Africa Regional Governance Advisor of Oxfam America, Ibrahima Aidara was arrested with six other WACAM activists at the Brong Ahafo Regional Police Command at Sunyani on the 27th November 2006, from 12.30 to 16.30, while they were meeting with community people in Yamfo, one of the communities affected by the operations of Newmont Gold Ghana Limited’s Ahafo Mine. Newmont had agreed that Mr. Ibrahima Aidara and WACAM officials should have a mine tour/meeting at the Ahafo Mine Project Site on 28th November. The meeting at Yamfo was held to give WACAM and Mr. Ibrahima Aidara first hand information on complaints of human rights abuses of some residents of Yamfo and ex-employees of Newmont in order to have effective engagements with Newmont officials on some community concerns.
The Police arrested them based on a complaint by officials of Newmont namely; Mr. B. K.; Newmont Information Officer at Yamfo; Mr. S. K., Newmont employee, and Mr. Y. K., Youth Vice-Chairman who is closely associated with Newmont. Though the meeting was held at the Community Centre at Yamfo, the Regional Police Commander, ACP O. A. accused the organisers of holding a meeting at public place without permit. The Newmont officials also claimed that the organisers of the meeting used the name of Newmont to organise the meeting.
It is shameful and an act of cowardice that poor, powerless citizens cannot freely organise a private meeting to discuss issues bothering their livelihood because they are not complying with the desires of a powerful multinational company.
In this circumstance, it is with great regret that we would like to announce that we would not be able to attend the planned Ahafo Mine Tour and meeting with Newmont officials, because our security is not guaranteed. We would also have to discuss the arrest and bail terms with our lawyers.
We are sorry to note that Newmont does not believe in popular mobilisation of community people to express their opinion on issues of concern to their lives. This is a breach of trust and an embarrassment to our two organisations. We also see in it an attempt by Newmont not only to intimidate community people but also our organisations. Infact, ACP O. A., the Regional Police Commander, stated before witnesses that he would not want to come back into the Yamfo community to shoot people as had occurred in the past. The statement of the Regional Police Commander of Brong Ahafo Region is an acceptance of the use of brutal force to intimidate community people to the extent of shooting when Newmont has a reason to prevent popular organisation. We also want to state that WACAM and Oxfam America would never want to be associated with the name of Newmont for various reasons which we believe would defeat our purpose of being independent of any mining company.
We believe that the officials of Newmont framed up that story to set the stage for the arrest of Mr. Ibrahima Aidara and WACAM activists in order to intimidate the people of Yamfo who have suffered human rights abuses. Indeed, the community people who were present at the meeting indicated that if the name of Newmont had been used in the organisational work, they would not have attended the meeting. We know how to organise our members to meetings.
We are also worried about the safety and security of our activists working in the Ahafo area since a local FM station had started receiving threats through anonymous letters when they started focusing on the effects of Newmont’s operations on the communities in the area.
Our concern stems from the fact that activists in Peru campaigning against the effects of the Yanacoccha mine owned by Newmont have been killed under mysterious circumstances after receiving threats of death. Specifically, on 2nd November, Edmundo Becerra Corina, an Environmentalist and an opponent of Yanacoccha’s gold mining project was shot dead in Yanancanchilla, Cajamarca province. Similarly, Dr Mirtha Vasquez Chuquilin, Executive Director of GRUFIDES, Father Marco Arana and other members of GRUFIDES campaigning against the expansion of Yanacoccha mine have been receiving anonymous death threats.
We are worried about the spate of Police brutalities on poor and defenceless mining communities, usually instigated by powerful and influential mining companies.
We are disappointed that this incident happened a few days after Her Excellency Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had issued a release calling on both government and mining companies to take steps to end growing violence in mining communities perpetrated by security agencies.
We wish that hopefully in the future, Newmont will request all her allies and partners to comply with its standards of corporate accountability to communities who are adversely affected by its operations. We wish to raise the following concerns of communities affected by Newmont’s operations:
• Set up a sustainable access to farmland and livelihood restoration for the nearly 10,000 people physically and economically displaced by the mine in Ahafo South
• Mine only with the consent of affected communities and pay adequate compensation in Ahafo North, where almost 10,000 people might be affected.
• Do not mine in forest reserves
• Fully disclose information on potential social/environmental impacts of their activities on communities
• Stop dumping mine waste and faecal matters in rivers (The case of Asuopre River)
• Stop using police and military forces to brutalise and violate communities’ rights to have meetings, peaceful protests and demonstrations.
• Independent monitoring mechanism to track and mitigate the mine’s impact and do not try to undermine this independence by any mean such as bribery or corruption and intimidation
• Newmont should recognise and respect human rights in accordance with socially responsible corporate practices.
• Newmont should implement appropriate mechanisms for consultation, participation and dialogue with relevant stakeholders, with appropriate time frames and timely information, as a way to reduce mistrust and conflicts
• Newmont should commit itself to allow independent audits of their environmental and social practices, and should accept popular participation in these audits.
We strongly condemn the arrest of Mr. Ibrahima Aidara and the activists of WACAM. We call on the Honourable Minister of Interior and the Inspector General of Police to investigate such actions of the Police and mining companies that violate the right of community people to basic freedoms especially, the right to freedom of association as enshrined in the Constitution of Ghana.
(Executive Director of WACAM)
(Oxfam America, Senegal)
Read also: Article in Highana – (including the police point of view)
Thanks to Val. for the information!!!