Once again, we have had to suspend our series on security challenges, sabotage by NDC elements or NDC inclined personnel in our security services and the failure, refusal, inability, inertia or inaction on the part of security authorities, officials and agents of state in order to examine “Operation Vanguard” (Anti Galamsey Operation).

Our decision to focus on “Operation Vanguard” is partly related to the possibility of sabotage and hidden agenda by some security personnel to create disaffection and hatred for the NPP administration of His Excellency Nana Addo.

But wait a minute, why is the Defence Minister talking like a thug? That “the people who are daring the task force not to do that because the country is behind the task force. Don’t dare them. It will not be in your interest to dare them… They will do everything and anything to make this mission a success,” he said

Stop this rhetoric that psyches up and encourages political saboteurs in uniform to cause trouble, mistreat galamseyers all in the name of “Operation Vanguard”.

I am sure it is not lost on our defence minister that galamseyers have constitutionally guaranteed human rights and it is only the courts that determines how the republic deals with those who violate the laws. Mr. Nitiwul, your job and that of our men and women is to professionally enforce law and order, not to “deal ruthlessly” with anybody who dares.

It may appear to be a premature caution but a stitch in time saves nine and to be forewarned is forearmed. Additionally, there appears to be some coincidences between the developments at Ashanti (Adansi) Obuasi and Denkyira Obuasi (now New Obuasi) and it is worth considering them as early as possible in order to avert any tragedies, avoidable or unavoidable.

Firstly, we are showing concern for the loss of a vital human life (a precious gift of God). The death of Kwabena Agyemang is as tragic and unfortunate as that of Major MA Mahama. They both died in unfortunate circumstances linked to operations against galamsey. It was because of anti-galamsey operations that Major MA Mahama was tasked to go to the general area of Denkyira Obuasi and perhaps he was mistaken for an armed robber. If it had not been for the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ghana Armed Forces and the Mining Companies, troops would not have been sent to the Denkyira Obuasi area to protect life, property and the operations of the Mining Company.

Similarly, it is because of the NPP government’s determination and desire to stop the illegal mining (galamsey) and their associated destruction of the environment, (the flora, fauna, water bodies and the relief features) that troops have been dispatched to various parts of the country where illegal mining is being undertaken, especially in the Ashanti, Central, Eastern and Western Regions of Ghana.

Then, unfortunately, a human life has been lost! This a tragedy just as happened in the case of Major MA Mahama. The circumstances of death are certainly not the same but the two deaths were or could have been avoidable or could have been avoided.

The major differences in the two deaths is that one (that of Major MA Mahama) is being treated as murder while the other (that of Kwabena Agyemang) is being treated as a collateral damage permitted under the use of the state’s coercive power.

Yet, from whatever angle one looks at the two deaths, the victims were killed and therefore did not die of natural causes. Thus, both deaths require inquiry and extensive investigations. It is therefore not surprising that the family of Kwabena Agyemang is demanding a full inquiry to unravel the factually correct or incorrect pieces of evidence.

The media reports and accounts of the Ashanti (Adansi) ‘Obuasi tragedy’ in the fight by security personnel against galamsey appear to have some conflicting ingredients. It may be prejudicial to make any pronouncements on it for now until a Board of Inquiry has objectively and independently investigated the circumstances surrounding the incident and submitted its report with the relevant pieces of evidence.

In the meantime, we could only call for calm and restraint on the part of the security personnel and the local communities especially family members of the victim.

Operation Vanguard (Anti Galamsey Operation) is in its nascent stage but needs to be examined as early as possible in order to ensure that there are indeed adequate safeguards, control and limits on the operation.

In a democracy, absolute powers and rights are never given to human institutions, office holders, officials and/or agents. Proper limitations, with justifiable discretionary powers, are needed and necessary in such circumstances in order to avoid abuse of power and office, arbitrary actions and excesses. We have no doubt that the Security Task Forces charged with the responsibility of preventing illegal mining and arresting offenders would be made aware of these through proper operational orders with the requisite command and controls, standing, operation orders and well defined and coordinated chain of command for the various organized elements of their compositions.

Nevertheless, we wish to share a few thoughts and concerns in order that the intended objectives, aims and consequences that are measurable are achieved.

Our first concern is on the agenda (aim) that was set for this operation. We pray that the agenda was and is a consent one. By consent agenda we mean that all the stakeholders of the operation (especially the political and security authorities) were involved in the drawing of the agenda and therefore is “owned agenda”, well thought out, well understood in a clearly defined manner.

In an operation of this sort, there is the tendency to have a broad agenda from the strategic level to be translated into aims, objectives, missions and tasks at the tactical levels. But the real danger that may confront the authorities is the “hidden agenda” of some elements of the security services and the political administration at all levels (national, regional, district, zonal and community).

It is the danger of the unknown hidden agenda that really matters in these operations. It may sound incredible to hear of “hidden agenda” in such high profile security operations of national concern. But the truth is that very important stakeholders in Operation Vanguard have some hidden agenda. We wish to play the devil’s advocate in order to create the necessary awareness for a successful all-inclusive national exercise.

We would like to draw attention to the selection, training and education of the troops involved in this all important operation. Our sources have hinted that some of the personnel were randomly but not specially selected. Some units and services within the security services, we are told, were asked to provide personnel without spelling out the qualities and standards that may be required for such a sensitive, politically driven operation.

There is no doubt that “Operation Vanguard” has been elevated to the status of one of the important major policies of the NPP administration of His Excellency Nana Addo. This means that all major stakeholders in the planning, execution, coordination, monitoring, evaluation and continuous improvement in the operation should share and own the agenda of the NPP administration.

Unfortunately, we are unable to vouch for that owing to some concerns raised by our sources and Members of the Patriotic Concerned Officers and Men (PACOM). We are informed that known NDC elements with hidden agenda have infiltrated the Task Force.

Ordinarily, all members of the security services are supposed to be professionals who would discharge their duties and perform their task professionally without any political considerations. That is the ideal situation.

But unfortunately, owing to the over politicization of the security services  by the previous NDC administration of John Mahama (which Nana Addo wishes to discount), there are some elements of our security services who openly state and show their dislike for Nana Addo’s personality and administration and would do everything possible to sabotage him and his administration.

Such elements would exploit their membership on these Task Forces to create disaffection and hatred for the NPP administration with a view to improving the chances of the NDC to return to power in 2020 and beyond. These anti-NPP and anti- Nana Addo elements in the Task Forces need to be watched very well and controlled now that they have escaped detection.

There is also the fear of reprisal by some elements in the security services, especially the Ghana Armed Forces owing to the brutal manner in which the late Major MA Mahama was killed. Those elements who swallowed the stupid politicization of that unfortunate tragic event at the request of the Asiedu Nketiahs are determined and prepared to avenge his death. All these dynamics are to be examined, eschewed or controlled.

Any attempts to wish these perceptions and realities away would be counter-productive because some elements within the Task Forces have vowed to revenge the death of Major MA Mahama no matter what.

Such elements are waiting for opportunities to do so. The military and other security services (especially the police) may do well to educate their troops on the need to be very professional and to avoid any biases and nuances in the planning, execution and appraisal of all operations and  in particular “Operation Vanguard” (Anti- Galamsey Operation).

We pray that the authorities would continuously review the operation to improve upon it to make it a real success in terms of winning the hearts and minds of Ghanaians, the communities in which there is illegal mining and those who are actively involved in galamsey as their major sources of income and their dependants.

The success of Operation Vanguard should not be in terms of the people killed, equipment and machinery burnt, number of persons arrested and pieces of gold and diamond confiscated or appropriated. Rather, the success must be measured in terms of awareness of the dangers of galamsey, the willingness and preparedness of those involved in it to stop doing so and the availability and search for alternative or other sources of income through lawful means.

At this stage we wish to express our regret and concerns for the recorded death and burning of plant, equipment and machinery. Both acts (killing of a human being and burning of equipment for illegal mining) were avoidable and uncalled for.

We appreciate and understand operations of security services. That, members of the security services may shoot to kill in self- defence individually and collectively is well known, understandable and justifiable. But the danger of possible abuses and excesses about that “right” or “course of action in the face of danger” and the likelihood of their occurrence and reoccurrence need to be controlled. The control measures to prevent such happy-going, trigger friendly and marksmanship tendencies are built on the three pillars of necessity, legitimacy and proportionality.

There is the need for any professional security service (s) to establish that there was or is a real necessity to take a certain course of action. In this case, there is the need to rationalize the need to shoot at the person or persons posing the danger to the individual or security personnel. It must be evident that there is a real danger, possibility or likelihood of danger based on verifiable facts.

For instance, there might be the need to appreciate the danger by way of the posture, arms, weapons, habits, clothing, location and distances of such persons posing the danger or potential threat.  On the spur of a moment, security personnel are to make such assessments of the situation in order to reach a decision within seconds as time would always   be of essence in such sensitive security operations.

This means that security personnel must always ensure that there is an extreme necessity for the use of arms in all situations before they do so. The fact that they are permitted to act under the coercive power of the state (using the state’s terror) does not mean that they should do so at their whims and caprices. They must remember that they could always be called upon to justify their actions and they should be prepared to prove that there was  a real danger, a potential danger or likelihood of danger in particular situations before they shoot  to kill or maim  (incapacitate the victim) in order to avert the danger or preserve their own lives.

Implied in the pillar of necessity is the distinction between lawful and unlawful command. Troops are to obey only lawful commands. It may be difficult to determine what is a lawful or unlawful command in a particular situation. But cool heads, sober reflection and quick assessments of intended and unintended consequences of actions may help subordinates to determine whether or not commands given by their superiors are lawful.

Thus, it may not be enough for a subordinate to state that he was under command to shoot to kill an innocent, vulnerable, unarmed individual surrounded by a Section or a platoon of soldiers. Such a defence may not fly.

Even if it does fly, the individual member of the security services would have to fight their conscience over the unnecessary and avoidable killing of a person who poses no real or likely threat.

The next anchor of the three pillars is the principle of legitimacy. Once troops determine that there is the necessity to take an action (i.e. to shoot in self-defence) they need to evaluate the courses of action opened to them to see which ones are legitimate and permissible by law (statutes, rules, regulations, orders).

Troops should not assume that shooting “to kill an enemy’ is always legitimate. What is legitimate may always depend on the situation even in conventional warfare. Even in conventional warfare, actions of troops are guided by the Geneva Convention.

In our circumstances, the “enemy” (the illegal miners) are not to be treated as the real enemies in conventional warfare.

At worst, these illegal miners are to be considered as “participants” in Internal Security (IS) challenges. It is true that is some circumstances, the posture and actions of some of these illegal miners are comparable to combatant enemies, in conventional warfare sense, yet because they are civilians (not members of conventional Armed Forces or Rebelling Forces or Insurgencies) there is the need for more restraint and some circumspection on the part of our troops. We should always remember that there must be a legitimate course of action to deal with all likely situations.

Thus, actions of our Task Forces on Operation Vanguard must hinge on legitimacy and not frivolity, arrogant display of power, excessive use of force and avoidable brutalities.

Having passed the tests of necessity and legitimacy in the uses of force of possible and actual lethal effect, our troops must be guided by the principle of proportionality. The troops must always ask themselves whether the force they intend to use to defeat the enemy or incapacitate the illegal miners is proportionate to the danger that they face.

Our troops certainly know what is proportionate or proportional to the risks and dangers that they face taking into account their own fire power and sizes vis-à-vis that or those of the illegal miners. There is no doubt that in some cases the illegal miners possess almost the same weapons and ammunitions that our troops have.

For instance, some illegal miners are reported to be wielding AK 47 Riffles and various forms of explosives (improvised and special purposed). But the general situation is that, the security services have superiority over the illegal miners as a collective body in term of arms, ammunition, equipment and strength.

We admit that some retired and serving security personnel and specially trained civilians are also members of the Illegal Miners Association (Galamseyers). These specially trained persons may pose real danger(s) to our security personnel and must be watched carefully.

The three pillars of necessity, legitimacy and proportionality are linked together and very much interconnected. The three must be taken into account fully before any action is taken by members of our Task Forces or security services in order to ensure that only lawful and justifiable actions are taken.

Members of the Task Forces know but need to be reminded that the “principle of shoot to kill” must always be used as a last resort in very difficult and challenging situations. They also need to be reminded that they could be called upon to explain and defend their actions. It may not be enough to state for instance that “I was under command to shoot to kill Kwabena Agyemang”. Depending on the circumstances, the superior officer who gave the order and the subordinate officer who executed the order may be charged jointly or severally for the offence of murder, manslaughter or causing bodily harm unlawfully.

Having given some considerations about the current developments in Operation Vanguard, we wish to offer some suggestions and pieces of advice in order to contribute toward its success.

There is the need to have very strong and effective public relations or public affairs wings of the operations. The personnel who would be selected for public relations or public affairs duties should be very professional, matured, experienced, intelligent, tactful, respectful and humble. The officers charged with those responsibilities should themselves have received proper and suitable training on effective communication and education. There is no doubt that “Operation Vanguard” is a highly sensitive, politically driven and quasi controversial operation.

The ultimate goal of the operation should be a win-win one and not a win-lose one. Thus, with the right approach, the Task Forces should be able to educate the active players (illegal miners) and members of the communities, on continuous basis, on the need to stop the illegal mining owing to its detrimental effects on our environment. The active players and members of the communities need to be educated on the costs (social costs, economic costs, environmental costs) and benefits of the illegal mining operations.

On the whole, the troops and the political leadership must be able to persuade and convince the active players and members of the communities that the illegal mining operations are detrimental to the national and communal interests even though a few elements may appear to be enriching themselves by them and may be relying on them as sources of income directly and indirectly. The education and the communication should be undertaken with accuracy, brevity and clarity. The active players and members of the communities should have no doubts in their minds about the intentions of the government after the suggested continuous effective communication and education on the harmful effects of the illegal operations. Thus, the ultimate goal of the effective communication and education is to win the hearts and minds of the people and not to antagonize them further through terror, fear, intimidation, brutalities and excessive use of force or military power.

It is also suggested that the public affairs or relations wrings of the various Task Forces should have persons who can speak and understand the local languages of the community in addition to the English language. These persons may understand the cultural sentiments of the communities.

Furthermore, the Task Forces may do well to respect and have the cooperation of the traditional, political and social leaderships of the communities in order to have successful operations.

We dare repeat that the success of Operation Vanguard ( Anti Galamsey Operations) should not be measured by the number of human beings killed ( real or perceived offenders) and the equipment and machinery burnt but rather in terms of winning the hearts and minds of the active players (the galamseyers and the communities) and the general public at large.

We wish to state that we were very sad to read and see that equipment, machinery and tools seized by members of the Task Force were burnt. That certainly should be a regrettable action. That is not the right way to waste resources. These items with “national assets” The illegal miners financed the acquisition of those items with national resources. Even those who brought some capital from outside (especially the Chinese) have recouped their money through the illegal mining. Thus from whatever angle any one looks at the acquisition of the items, there is the need to consider them as useful national assets.

Again, just as assets of drug dealers are confiscated to the state (especially those of cocaine dealers), the assets of illegal mines must also be confiscated to the state.  These are not items whose usage and operation would be inimical to the interest of the state or injurious to the health, safety and security of members of our communities.

The proper thing, therefore, to do is to confiscate them to the state and find appropriate uses for them in our communities.

As a nation, we have serious challenges about our drainage systems. We encounter challenges about desilting our drains and water bodies on annual and periodic basis. We may therefore adapt the use of the galamsey equipment, machinery and tools to effective national use/ public use in various communities thereby deriving some benefits from them. The burning of the items was a big mistake. The items were not, for instance, cocaine, Indian hemp or expired drugs which are harmful and must be destroyed. These are plants, machinery and equipment which are multifunctional.

SO PLEASE CONFISCATE THE ITEMS, ALLOCATE THEM TO SPECIAL INSTITUTIONS OF STATE SUCH AS THE METROPOLITAN, MUNICIPAL AND DISTRICT ASSEMBLIES (MMDAs) OR THE ARMED FORCES, SO THAT THEY CAN BE USED FOR CLEANING EXERCISES, DESILTING OF DRAINS, WATER BODIES AND VARIOUS CONSTRUCTIONAL WORKS.

In effect, we are pleading with the political authorities and the Task Forces (in particular the military and the police) to stop the killing of human beings and the burning of the plant, machinery and equipment used in the illegal mining. It was and is gratifying to note that several people have so far been arrested for their alleged involvement in the illegal mining. That is the right way to go. Those alleged offenders could be made to pay very heavy fines or imprisoned in addition to the payment of the fines depending on their levels of involvement and operations.

We have no doubt that the Task Force may be able to overpower the illegal miners in most of the operations and may not be invited by the fire power of the illegal miners to shoot to kill.

Any human life lost has a political cost.

The Task Forces may therefore do well to overpower the illegal miners without necessarily killing any of them. Thus, shooting to kill must be done only in extreme necessity and in proportion to the danger or threat posed by the illegal miners and in such circumstances as may be justifiable and legitimate.

Our troops should remember that they are to win the hearts and minds of our people (including the illegal miners, their sponsors, family members, friends, sympathizers and the wider communities) in the fight against illegal mining.

The investment made by the government in the fight against illegal mining must yield positive returns by way of elimination of or drastic reduction in the illegal mining operations nationwide, the restoration of our right balances in the ecological systems and preservation of our environment for current and future generations and the rise in the approval ratings of the NPP Administration