Ghana: Mining activist wins award

Brother John Alexander Osei, Chairman of the Executive Council of Wacam, human rights, environmental and mining advocacy non-governmental organisation (NGO,) has won a National May Day Award for defending the rights of impoverished communities affected by mining.

A citation attached to the award said: “Brother J.A. Osei played a key role in the initial mobilisation of communities affected by the operations of multinational mining companies in the early 1990s with the aim of fighting for the protection of the environment and the rights of the affected communities.

“His efforts and that of other mining activists resulted in the formation of Wacam, a human rights, environmental and mining advocacy NGO, which had committed itself to the protection of the rights of mining communities for about two decades.

“He had participated in many demonstrations and campaigns organised by Wacam on the protection of the rights of mining communities and the environment”.

“Brother Osei had demonstrated courage and commitment to the cause of protecting poor farmers in mining communities. In 1994, he championed the struggle of cocoa farmers around Ayensukrom in the Western Region against the negative effects of poisonous emissions (arsenic) from the (gold) roaster of the then Bogoso Gold Limited on the yield of cocoa farms in the Ayensukrom area.

“Brother J.A Osei has been the Chairman of the Executive Council of Wacam, a premier mining advocacy organisation in Ghana from 1999 to date.”

Wacam, which became an Associate member of the Trades Union Congress, Ghana in 2011, participated in the National May Day parade held in Takoradi. The Activists carried placards some of which read; “We are against irresponsible mining”; “Stop mining in Forest Reserves”; “Mining is destroying our water bodies”; “Life is more precious than gold”; “Surface mining is destroying our environment”; “Gold mining is killing poor communities-save us Mr President.”

Commenting on the award, Associate Executive Director of Wacam, Mrs. Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, described Brother Osei as a courageous, intelligent and very nationalistic person, who had made immeasurable contribution to the protection of the rights of people living in mining communities. “Wacam is very proud of him”, she said.

The 2013 National May Day was celebrated under the theme; “Pension: It is your right and responsibility”. The day is celebrated worldwide by workers in remembrance of some of the leaders of Chicago workers, who were hanged for organising demonstrations which started on 1st

May 1886 in the Haymarket Square of Chicago in support of eight-hour working day.

It has become a tradition to honour trade unionists and activists, who have defended the rights of working people at the peril of their lives at May Day celebrations.

STORY: FROM THE ENVIRONMENTAL DESK

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