Illicit arms believed to have been left behind by Chinese illegal miners following their deportation, are widely circulating in mining areas across the country. Nhyira News investigations reveal people in communities where the Chinese operated before their recent ejection, now process assorted weapons, including pump action guns.
By Ohemeng Tawiah, Nhyira Fm-Ghana, Source: MyJoyonline
The situation is said to be alarming in the Ashanti, Eastern and Western Regions of Ghana.
Ghana has been battling with arms proliferation even before the arrival and subsequent departure of Chinese illegal miners. Experts indicate locally- manufactured weapons were used to commit about 80 per cent of gun-related crimes in the country.
Nhyira News has however discovered a new trend of arms circulation, with pump action guns and revolver assault rifles in wrong hands in rural Ghana.
Ohemeng Tawiah’s under-cover investigations reveal close allies of deported Chinese illegal miners, including police personnel, are now leading sale of arms said to have been auctioned by the Chinese in the heat of their repatriation.
Guns on display…
Ghana Immigration Service announced over 4,000 Chinese miners were deported last June alone. Many of them owned guns which they used to protect their interest, to the extent of killing local people who protested their activities.
Now it is easy to buy a six-round revolver pistol and a pump action gun between GH¢1,000( USD 468) and GH¢2,500( about USD 1,160) at Dunkwaw, Obuasi, Takoradi or Tarkwa without hustle. This is contrary to what used to be the norm prior to the arrival departure of Chinese illegal miners. For instance, a Ghanaian will have to satisfy requirements which could sometimes takes several years before he or she would be cleared to own a gun for protection.
Several visits to the afore-mentioned areas reveal a strong network of arm dealers working in urban and rural Ghana.
A young man at Dunkwaw in the Central Region, whose name is being withheld, told the investigative team how he and his colleagues are managing this emerging trade.
According to him, the Chinese illegal miners auctioned 30 pieces of arms to him when some of them were repatriated voluntarily and involuntarily. He worked with them for about three years before their departure. Whilst pin-pointing to types of guns he has in his possession including 10, 24 revolver assault rifles and pump action guns in a sack, he asked the team to meet him later at Dunkwaw-Atekyem, a popular suburb in Dunkwaw.
He explained he prefers that area because of its serenity and as such, he recently rented a room for his girlfriend. The team later called off the Atekyem meeting because the time was not favourable. We met him later in the day at his usual place, this time to discuss mode of payment for the guns. He insisted we pay him in cash instead of a cheque.
For fear of being arrested, he suspiciously looks around, during his conversation with the team, promising to get more supplies from Takoradi if he is unable to meet our request. He had earlier arranged a meeting for us to meet one Sergeant Ofori, a police officer whose station and identity we were unable to ascertain at a hotel at Elubo.
Though price of the commodity was cheaper at Elubo, Tarkwa and Aflao for instance, behaviour of dealers were the same.
When the Watchman is thief
Some police officers who had closed ties with the Chinese are also into gun sales in Kumasi, Obuasi, Elubo and Takoradi. They mostly discuss business with would-be buyers on cell phones. An auto mechanic tells me he turned down several offers from four different persons at various locations including Kumasi to buy a pump action gun at what he describes as moderate price.
Sources close to the police in areas where Chinese gun sales are flourishing say gun-related crimes have gone up, at least from the beginning of second quarter.
A senior police officer in the Central region who pleaded anonymity says police lack the will to track the gun dealers since they are deeply involved.
“Those police officers-turned-gun-dealers are complicating the matters. They are chopping (enjoying) from left to right”. He noted.
“People hawk arms like bread or orange”
The West African Action Network on Small Arms wants this new trend of arms circulation checked and halted immediately. The group composed of over 300 civil society organizations and created in 2002, has been busily involved in working on how to address issue of arms proliferation in the sub-region.
Its President, Baffour Amoa, wants police to investigate the thriving foreign and local arms trade in the country.
“Initially nobody will think that people will buy small arms and light weapons to protect themselves from others. Nobody will even dream that because everybody thought that these galamsey operators were working at the areas sold to them and therefore they were working but from what you are just talking about, it means that we were wrong,” Mr. Amoa explained.
Mr. Amoa says police must move in swiftly and investigate this trend.
“It’s is a very worrying trend which I’m sure the police will be taking notice of as well and begin to take measures to arrest the situation because we cannot sit idle when people are just hawking small arms and light weapons like bread or orange or something,” Mr. Amoa noted.
Meanwhile the Ghana Police Service has been slow in its response over details of the investigations.
Though it admits the situation is precarious, its spokesperson, DSP Cephas Arthur wants the public to help police track local gun manufacturers.