The Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) has issued a statement denying reports that its personnel allegedly caught on camera were providing security for mining firms devastating the country’s forest reserves.
According to the statement issued on September 30, 2022, and signed by the Director of Public Relations, Naval Captain M. A. Larbi, some of the supposed footage in the widely circulated documentary was unsubstantiated allegations of past content, which had been recycled.
It said in the viral video the Mentiahene of Bekwai, Nana Kusi Frempong Kotobre, alleges that military personnel were providing security for an illegal mining firm operating in the Kobro Forest in Amansie Central, but the claim was false.
“GAF wishes to state categorically that there was no military personnel deployed for such activities and no Soldier is providing security for any mining company in any forest reserve in any part of the country,” it said.
It said following the reports, a patrol team from the 4 Infantry Battalion and the Central Command Headquarters in Kumasi was dispatched to conduct an operation in the general area on September 28, 2022.
It disclosed that persons who were picked up, some of them were dressed in the United States military-patterned camouflage uniforms, and working for a private security firm contracted by a registered small-scale mining company named Elvis and Co Mining Ltd.
Although the statement said their findings contradict the report put out in the public domain, it warned that private security guards should not be misconstrued as GAF personnel, because their camouflage patterned uniforms were even totally distinct from that of GAF’s.
It said: “In respect of the unauthorised use of military pattern uniforms by private security firms and individuals, it would be recalled that a few months back personnel of the 4 Infantry Battalion rounded up some members of a District Assembly Taskforce wearing different shades of military camouflage uniforms, captured in a viral video manhandling some civilians in the Kwabre South District.
“Considering that they were dressed in military pattern camouflage uniforms, they were wrongly perceived to be GAF personnel, thereby drawing GAF into disrepute. Aside from this, GAF has also picked up several impersonators in recent times and handed them over to the Police for prosecution.”
In the same vein, the Ghana Armed Forces reiterate that it did not condone any such acts of personnel engaging in illegal and unauthorised activities, especially illegal mining, and wished to assure the public that it would not shield any soldier engaged in any illegal, unauthorised or criminal activity, either in military uniform or not.
“It must be specifically placed on record that in the fight against illegal mining, GAF is at the forefront and remains resolute and will therefore not countenance any conduct that will derail the progress being made.
Accordingly, GAF has revamped Operation Halt II in order to intensify its surgical operations to curb the destruction of the forest reserves and pollution of the river bodies,” it stressed.
The recent reports of the numerous arrests made, excavators seized and immobilised, and other equipment destroyed, attests to this renewed and sustained effort.
“The Ghana Armed Forces, therefore, wishes to once again refute the allegations made and to state that its personnel were not providing security for any mining firm in any forest reserve.
“However, it is prudent that the media and other stakeholders verify claims to ensure accurate information is published. GAF, therefore, wishes to urge Joy News and other media partners that its doors are open for the necessary clarifications to be made to ensure a balanced reportage at all times.
“GAF will continue to count on the support of all Ghanaians especially the media and major stakeholders, in curbing the illegal mining in our forest reserves and water bodies and also in clamping down on the use of military pattern uniforms by private security guards and other unauthorised persons.”