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Human Trafficking: The Lake is no place for fear and mercy

A file photo of children trafficked onto the Volta Lake

Hope lived with his mother and grandmother. He would do chores at home and go to school. Sometimes he would stay home and help his grandmother with her gari business.

 However, this life that he had always known was about to change. One morning, a woman from his community visited his mother bearing “great news.” She told his mother that there was a man looking for children to live with. He would support their education. 

They would only help him mend fishing nets for few hours after school. 

 She emphasized that the man was keen on educating children to live fulfilled lives in future. The woman solemnly promised on the man’s behalf that if Hope joined them, he would be sent to school. Trusting the woman, Hope and his mother decided he should go. 

Hope arrived at his new home in the night. He and the man had travelled by boat to a remote and unfamiliar place.

 Apprehensive and afraid, he curiously looked around. His frantic eyes finally settled on the man he would work for, following him to his home.

 Unfortunately, Hope would soon learn that this man would not provide the opportunity he had promised. Instead, he was a boat master who recruited children for harsh physical labor on the Volta Lake.

For five years, Hope was forced to risk his life casting nets on the lake and working on a farm. He worked, and suffered, along with other children who had also been trafficked.

Hope remembers their early hours of labor waking up at 4am and working all day till very late at night. 

The conditions were not safe; multiple times, Hope nearly drowned. Out on the water, nets sometimes got stuck on rocks or branches of dead trees submerged in the lake. Full of anxiety and with urgency, Hope would dive into the lake, slipping under the water’s surface to try and untangle the net before he ran out of air.

 However, he wasn’t always as lucky. On one such occasion, he struggled under a large piece of wood beneath the water’s surface. When he finally broke free, a piece of the wood had punctured him and wounded him badly. As he struggled to climb back into the boat, gasping for air, he heard laughter and jeering, rather than words of comfort and encouragement. 

“Something really bad happened to me when I was under the water,” Hope said

as he cried out holding his side in pain. 

The ones who cared for him were miles and miles away. The next time he was instructed to untangle a net hooked on a tree stump, he refused although he was afraid to be beaten.

However, the Lake was no place for fear, and mercy. As usual, Hope was beaten severely, with wounds of unbearable but familiar pain yet silence was the remedy to his unforgettable scars. 

This was not the first time Hope had been beaten by this very man: the boat masters’ son. 

In fact, it was common for his son to beat the children.  He liked to lord his authority over the children and abuse them for his personal gratification. If the children reported this to their master, his son, Ashon would beat them harder the next day. 

One windy afternoon on the lake, Hope was assigned to keep watch and provide directions as they fished.  His attention was divided as he saw Ashon beating his friend, Kodzo. 

As he sat at the edge of the boat, he could feel Ashon’s anger rising, even as the winds around them raced with urgency. Suddenly, a wave lifted the boat, knocking Hope into the lake.

 He thought Ashon would surely slow the boat, but he did not. He continued paddling on, with no regard for Hope’s life. The strong winds, caused the currents of the water to pull Hope under. 

As he sunk further down, Hope resigned to his fate thought, “is this how my life is going to end?” he quizzes.

However, in the chaos of the situation, Hope heard a voice calling out to him frantically saying, ‘Climb, climb the boat! You will be safe!’

Despite the chaos of the situation, Kodzo’s calls made Hope’s chest swell with the courage he needed to fight his way back into the boat. With his tensed muscles finally relaxing, Hope climbed into the boat and collapsed briefly.

 Upon regaining consciousness, he was grateful to his friend for keeping him alive.

Within moments, Ashon was shouting orders again. Unapologetically, he told Hope to return to the edge of the boat and give directions. As the wind died down, Hope and his friends were again hard at work as though nothing had happened. This was their new normal and for five years, this was Hope’s life.

Speaking in an interview with the Nationalistgh.com about Hope’s transformation, a social worker with the International Justice Mission (IJM), Mr. Emmanuel Asei Kangah said by the Grace of God, Hope was rescued by IJM with support from the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service and the Department of Social Welfare. 

He added that since his rescue, he has been on a journey of recovery from the traumatic and near-death experiences on the Volta Lake.

“Now, transformation is happening in Hope’s life, too. He has unearthed his innate leadership potential and continues to inspire the affection of his peers”, he said.

He noted that, through one of  IJM’s  programmes dubbed “I Am Worthy Training” which empowers children with knowledge of their rights, responsibilities, self-love and self-worth,  Hope and his peers were empowered to stand up for their rights and advocate against injustice.

He explained that ,as a leader among his peers, Hope has been able to mobilize other survivors of child trafficking and ensured that they took active part in discussions on issues that affected their wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of other children. 

“He would lead most of the discussion sessions and encourage his peers to freely share their experiences and thoughts, enabling a rich and robust healing and learning experience” he said.

 Hope is in school and loves to play football. In the safety of freedom, he has room to discover his interests and build a future. 

As an ardent believer in hope, Hope has these words to share with children still on Lake Volta: “They should not be discouraged. When the right time comes, they will also be rescued just as I was rescued.”  

Hope’s strength of character is very inspiring especially his ability to stay happy and hopeful notwithstanding the terrible experience on Lake Volta. He is a perfect example of hope in challenging times.

By Philip Teye Agbove

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Afena-Gyan: A fitting replacement for Asamoah Gyan?

Felix Afena-Gyan

AS Roma striker, Felix Afena-Gyan, is one budding talent who is waiting to explode on the international stage following his sterling performance in his Black Stars debut in the World Cup play-off against Nigeria in March.

Based on that display, one can confidently say that he has earned a permanent spot in Coach Otto Addo’s squad heading to the Mundial in Qatar in November-December.
The 19-year-old burst onto the limelight after coming off the bench to score a brace for AS Roma against Serie A side, Genoa, to become the first player born in 2003 to score in a Serie A game.

Black Stars’ former Serbian coach, Milovan Rajevac, who was then monitoring the Sunyani-born youngster, immediately handed him an invitation to join his squad for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroun, despite previously rejecting an invitation for the World Cup qualifiers against Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Rejection of invitation

Even though he turned down the invitation to help him focus on his development under Coach Jose Mourinho, he could not resist the invitation for the World Cup playoff under stop-gap coach, Otto Addo.

The German-born gaffer gave Afena-Gyan his international debut in Kumasi in the first leg of the play-off where he effectively complemented the effort of Jordan Ayew in attack to impress the Stars coach, though he was unable to find the target.

“Felix [Afena-Gyan] did very well, created a lot of chances, made good runs, gave his all in defensive situations. He did exactly what I wanted him to do. He is just 19, wow, what a talent he is,” Addo said after the player’s debut.

It is for this reason that AS Roma manager, Jose Mourinho, places so much value on him and has rated him so high, having emerged from the juvenile league into such a phenomenal figure. But he believes he needs more time to learn to become the star for the future.

Mourinho’s impression

”Until a few months ago, he was playing on the Primavera pitch. He’s a humble boy, a boy who wants to learn. From a tactical point of view he needs simple and objective things to do that.

”He did what he had to do, he created problems for Cuadrado and also did a good job defensively.
”Unfortunately, he doesn’t have enough fuel for 90 minutes and when he came off we missed things that were too simple. He has talent, he just needs concentration,” Mourinho told DAZN in an interview.

With his imposing frame and firm control on the ball, Afena-Gyan is now likened to the Black Stars former skipper and namesake, Asamoah Gyan, who currently holds the record as the most clinical finisher in Ghana with 51 goals in 109 appearances. He is also Africa’s top scorer at the FIFA World Cup with six goals.

The same confidence was reposed in the budding goal poacher during the return leg of the playoff in Abuja and, once again, he could not register his debut goal for the country but his contribution could never be swept under the carpet, having tormented the Super Eagles rear in the entire 90 minutes he played.

Nation’s hope

In the absence of Asamoah Gyan, the onus will now rest on AS Roma forward to keep the nation’s hope alive at the FIFA World Cup as he is likely to lead the Stars’ attack.

Indeed, his rapid rise to fame seems to baffle many, having emerged straight from an amateur club in Berekum straight to the European top flight just within a year.

A student of Berekum Senior High School, Afena-Gyan was first spotted by scouts while playing in the regional inter-school sports competition where he excelled as a midfielder.

He was quickly shipped to Italy from EurAfrica FC where he went on trials with a number of teams until Roma’s junior side eventually picked him and converted him into a striker.

After impressing in a few matches in the Italian youth league, Primavera, the attacker caught the eyes of first team coach, Jose Mourinho, who invited him to start training with the senior team.

He made his senior team debut on October 27, 2021 against Cagliari, and on November 21, he came off the bench to score twice against Genoa in the Serie A which compelled Mourinho to honour his promise of buying him an €800 shoes.

Source: Graphic Online

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Human Trafficking: A Canker Deriding, Painting The Culture Of The Lively People Black

File Photo

The Ghanaian people are widely known and recognized as peaceful, loving and amazingly hospitable people, with great and pleasing family values.

But what is their taste, fight and eagerness towards the eradication of human trafficking especially child trafficking towards the poor and vulnerable children?

Ghanaians thought that after the elimination of slavery, the country would be free from forced labour and exploitation.

This seems to be an illusion since a new form of slavery has emerged in the form of child trafficking.

Human Trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons is the recruitment, transportation, transferring, harbouring, trading or receipt of persons for the purpose of exploitation within and across national borders.

The perpetrators use threat, force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or exploitation of vulnerability consent giving or receiving payments and benefits to achieve consent.

The definition of child was listed in 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child which states, “a child means every human being below the age of 18 years, unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.”

The distinction outlined in this definition is important; because some countries have chosen to set the “age of majority” lower than 18, thus influencing exactly what legally constitutes child trafficking.

Though statistics regarding the magnitude of child trafficking are difficult to obtain, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year.

In 2012 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that the percentage of child trafficking victims had risen in a three year span, thus, from 20 percent to 27 percent.

Human trafficking is a global challenge affecting people of all ages including children It is estimated that about 1,000,000 people are trafficked each year globally and that between 20,000 and 50,000 are trafficked into the United States.

Every year 30,000 children are taken around the world and sold by human traffickers as slaves.

Over 17,000 of those children were sent to the United States, representing 46 children per day.

In 2014, research conducted by the Anti-human Trafficking Organization Thorn reported that, internet sites like Craigslist were often used as crucial tools for conducting businesses within the industry and that 70 percent of child sex trafficking survivors surveyed, some were at a point sold online.

The trafficking of children has been internationally recognized as a serious crime  which has human rights implications.

Yet, it is only within the past decade that the prevalence and ramifications of the practice have risen to international prominence, due to  increase in research and public action. A variety of potential solutions have accordingly been suggested and implemented, which could be categorized as four types of action: broad protection, prevention, law enforcement, and victim assistance.

The main international documents currently dealing with the trafficking of children are the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1999 I.L.O. Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention and the 2000 U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.

Ghana is one of the fastest developing countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa who cannot  only boast of a vast wealth in terms of natural resources but also good infrastructure both physically and technologically.

In spite of these developments, Ghana still lack behind when it comes to dealing with issues of Child Trafficking especially on the Volta Lake.

According to the statistics of Child Trafficking in Ghana, out of 187 territories and countries, Ghana was ranked at tier 2 in the watch list countries. The 2017 report named “Enhancing Criminal Accountability and Addressing Challengers in Prosecution Efforts,” was a report that sought to come up with solutions that will be effective in ending human slavery in the world.

In June 2009, the United States of America (USA) Department of Trafficking in Persons Report released a full document which states that at least 30,000 children were working as porters, fishermen and others primarily being use for sexual tourism.

The Volta Lake which was created in 1960, was currently the number one source of employment and aquatic food within its surrounded regions and beyond. With the increasing reduction of fish catch in the regions, most parents who live below poverty levels in the region always see the reason to have multiple jobs and due to that they substitute their children into fishing business.

Children are involved in almost every aspect of fishing on Lake Volta. Children produce and maintain equipment and gear including boats, traps and nets. They set and collect traps, and go out onto the lake in boats, rowing, bailing water, and reeling and casting nets. They are often made to dive to the bottom of the lake to free trapped nets, which is the most dangerous task, with a high risk of drowning. 

In the 2016 report of “Our partners the International Justice Mission (IJM),” it found out that, more than half of the children working on southern Lake Volta’s waters were likely trafficked into forced labour and that the majority of them were ten years or younger.

However, the same study found out that these children often had contractual agreements for their exploitation, which were frequently between the trafficker and the child’s parents or guardian; demonstrating the real complexity of the child labour. 

The study also revealed that traffickers then typically control children through intimidation, violence and limiting access to food; and sometimes kept older boys in their employment through sexual rewards and marriage. These control tactics rendered girls in the fishing industry vulnerable to multiple forms of victimisation and violence. These young victims are routinely malnourished and suffering from untreated illness – on top of the constant risk of drowning. 

Due to cheap labour, children were trafficked at tender age into fishing on the lake for their tinny bodies as they could reach places older fishermen could not.

Another crucial cause of Child Trafficking in Ghana is how lot of families would be freely and willingly given their children to join hard labour to learn manual jobs through apprenticeship. This has contributed to the rise in Child Trafficking cases in the country.

The Article 28 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, stipulates that special provision should be made by Parliament to ensure that every child has the same measure of special care, assistance and maintenance as its necessary for its development, a child shall not be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No child shall be deprived by any other person of medical treatment, education or any other social or economic benefit.

The Children’s Act 1998 (ACT 560) also makes provisions for the human and legal rights of Children.

The issue boils down to public education, for most people living at rural areas and deprived communities were not aware of how dreadful and cruel the act is. The act has become a norm to them, because they are living with that for a long time, for that matter they do not see the criminal and inhuman aspect of it.

To effectively solve the problem of Child Trafficking in Ghana, all concerned stakeholders needed to be made aware of the causes of the act.

Also, areas noted for such practices should be subjected to scrutiny at this time and thereafter. Interim measures should be put in place to regulate and check activities which were leading factors to the menace.

For instance, fishing with children on the Volta Lake must be prohibited and catching fingerlings should be discouraged at all cost as it will see children involved in this activities significantly reduced.

The Children’s Act 1998(ACT560) also made provisions for the legal and human rights of Children. Section 16 ; A District Assembly shall protect the welfare and promote the rights of children within its area of authority.

Again, there was the need to educate society on the hazards of Child Trafficking and child labour. Parents and guardians should be advised to educate their children instead of involving them in Child Trafficking and child labour. Constant awareness and education will help awaken them about the dangers and effects of the act.

Section 6 provides that, no parent shall deprive a child his or her welfare whether the parents of the child are married or not at the time of the child’s birth; or the parent of the child continue to live or not every child has the right to dignity, respect, leisure, liberty, health, education and shelter from his parents.

Section 12 , provides that no person shall subject a child to exploitative labour as provided under section 87 of this Act.

Moreover, one of the urgent steps that needed to be taken by the government is formulating and implementation of effective Child Trafficking task force. With such institution in place with well financed equipments, proper checks and regulations could be done in other to help deal with the issue.

When effective policies are rollout to ensure that there are strict enforcement of the law with an enforcement agency set independently, it will help combat the menace and bring those involved to book.

Child Trafficking in Ghana can be curbed if the right measures and goodwill from all the concerned stakeholders come to play.

As a Nation there is the need to stamp out feet on critical issues of such caliber and take firm decisions without fear or favour to help combat the act of inhuman towards poor children.

By Philip Teye Agbove

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Nana Ayew Afriye writes: Political Speaker not above Parliamentary practice

Nana Ayew Afriye

Mr. Speaker, it is shameful for you to attack the president & judiciary based on emotions and without recourse to extensive research on parliamentary practices elsewhere. Ghana is a member of the CPA( Commonwealth Parliamentary Association). However, all over the commonwealth of which Ghana is a member, I came across a very interesting trend. In this write up I chose a few examples base on continental/ regional location. In;

1.Australia, the speaker is an MP and has a casting vote section 44 Australian constitution saves it,

  1. Also, South africa has a speaker who is an MP with a casting vote SA constitution 41( 8)
  2. Nigeria has speaker MP and with a casting vote.Nigeria constitution 75 a (i)
  3. UK speaker Addington explained why speaker’s should have a vote especially where there is a tie in 1796.

John Bercow used casting vote to block brexit…After the tie vote of 310 each to the left and 310 to the right. In UK the speaker is an MP and has a casting vote.

  1. India also has an MP Speaker with a casting vote. India constitution Article 189
  2. Additionally in Canada, the speaker is an MP and has casting vote( ie when there is a tie). Section 49 of the constitution Act( BNA Act), 1867.

Erskine May

According to Erskine May, the foremost authority on parliamentary procedures and practices in the world, Casting vote by a speaker allows for debate to continue otherwise, a motion is stalled and parliament makes no headway.

Ghana

In Ghana at the time of voting on the e-levy bill during a division tabled by the NDC, there was obviously going to be a tie 137:137 of which the deputy speaker would have had to exercise his casting vote. However, the minority prevented the deputy speaker from doing so by shouting, it was unconstitutional. Hence, the current dispute. I am not a lawyer but the question is, who presides over disputes in a civilised society? Is it not the courts if I may ask?

As a matter of fact, the supreme Court in the wisdom of the very learned judges decided to rectify the ambiguity in the constitution by ruling for deputy speakers who are MPs(unlike the speaker) to vote. The speaker of Ghana’s Parliament says its absurd, reckless and that the president is myopic for speaking on it.

Mr Speaker, please don’t insult and let’s apply ourselves to the wisdom of common practice and precedence. If we you were guided by Erskine May, then, probably you wouldn’t have occasioned this needless write up.

I share in the pain of the deputy speakers who are MPs just as me. Unlike other jurisdictions in the commonwealth where speakers are also members of parliament and have a casting vote, Ghana’s speaker is not an MP and hence have no casting vote per Ghana’s constitution.Thus by extension, I see the ruling as Ghana applying itself to the logic of global or commonwealth parliamentary practice.

May be it’s about time we amend the constitution to vote for MP speakers who will have casting vote too. This will save the tax payers some more money as the hefty provision of emoluments for non MP speaker’s as backed by article 95(5), treat non MP speaker’s in a special category of article 71 office holders. The speaker’s benefits is way above that of an MP. This is NOT same for deputy speakers. Deputy speakers are only limited to their salaries as MPs as provided for in article 98(1) of the constitution for members of parliament.

According to the principle of equal work, and equal pay, the deputy speakers salaries and end of service benefit atleast should have been in the same category (though not at the same level) as the speaker. But this is not so. As it is by the law, deputy speakers preside ONLY over proceedings in the house and have no administrative authority unless delegated by the speaker to do so.

The power of a deputy speaker is just same as that of any MP in the chamber. The constitution envisaged MPs as representatives with a vote to define the position of their constituents on issues contrary to that of the speaker who has no representation and has neither an original or casting vote.

During the tenure of Prof Oquaye, 1st deputy speaker(s) performed some delegated administrative responsibilities when he was absent. Under the current speaker this is not so. why is this so? are the speaker’s words and deeds are gradually polarising parliament and the nation?

On Thursday 10th March (as the speaker is currently not in the Country), a certain NDC’s Kofi Attor invited me (as chairman of health committee), the ranking member on health as well as the leaders of the house to a meeting to be hosted on the speaker’s behalf by him. I registered my strong displeasure to the speaker’s office. Indeed I made it clear I wasn’t attending as I didn’t know the locus of that gentleman in the scheme of parliamentary practice. This was rectified , apologise extended, and I joined the meeting chaired by the minority leader last thursday.

The question I ask is, where were the deputy speakers? and why couldn’t any of them have represented the speaker. And so therefore, if among others, they are also denied of their only power in Parliament(ie to exercise their representative right to vote) then to me , what is really their use as deputy speakers to their constituents???

May be the council of state will have to find a way of engaging all living former speakers of Ghana’s parliament in a meeting for them to share their thoughts on this point of law in the presence of the speaker.

Finally, in the write up of the speaker on parliament official Facebook page, I came across the greeting…” Good morning comrades…”, Which people were the speaker reaching out to, his NDC comrades or the good people of Ghana. Something is very wrong. The speaker must separate his political self from the parliamentary administrative process. All previous speakers had their political inclination yet did a good job without politicising the parliamentary administrative process.

The parliamentary service is clearly under attack and soon we will not distinguish the service from the political interest of the speaker. Whatever it turns out to be, the speaker is to be blamed.”

Written by Dr. Nana Ayew Afriye, Member of Parliament for the Effiduase-Asokore Constituency.

Source: Dr. Nana Ayew Afriye

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