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Ahmed,

 

Thank you for your comment, but I fear that you have misread my post.

 

First, I do not work for a NGO. I am a journalist, working in Ghana and with Ghanaian journalists.

 

I have no interest in pitting people against their governments, nor would I ever suggest to people that their ailments may be caused by gas flaring. I went to Axim to investigate stories I had heard from people in the region about eye infections that they blame on the gas flaring.

 

I had no reason to believe or disbelieve their stories. In Axim, I listened to what people had to say, asked questions and reported what I heard. 

 

As for contacting the local authorities, they have been contacted. I am trying to follow up with EPA and company officials in Accra. 

 

I believe that clear and complete information and open channels of communication are good for all stakeholders: community members, oil companies, civil society organizations and government officials. 

 

Community members do not need me to be angry -- I report what I see and hear. If my reporting can prod company and government officials to engage more effectively with local communities, then I will be happy. If my reporting can encourage Americans and Europeans to push for stricter regulation of Kosmos, Tullow & co. operating in Ghana, then I will be happy.

 

Christiane

Ahmed, you are being economical with the truth. What Christiane is doing is not inciting the people but revealing what the people have in mind that when it erupts cannot be controlled. This serves as a useful information for the government to consolidate these views and nip in the bud any possible confrontation.

The right thing be done. The people have the right and that right must be protected and respected.

A change in livelihood as a result of exploration and production should be catered for.

Christiane:

 Mark my word, you guys are stiring trouble in that Ghanaian community by pitching the local people against their government. What you are doing is inciting the community and very soon the communities might rise up and take the laws into their hands. It will be by that the World would be expecting the Ghanaian government to get in to protect properties and inncocent lives. By that time you would have safely returned to Washington and watching another unfolding African carnage on CNN.

 

I am not sure where you obtained the authority from to go to that Ghanaian community of Axim and begin suggesting to the locals that the eye ailments being experienced could be as a result of the  flaring gas at the nearby oil field. What answers were you expecting when the people know that there will be compensation if they could connect the eye problems to the oil flares? Why did you not first contact the local Ghanaian medical and public safety authorities?

 

I have always mentioned on this site that NGOs must not undermine national or local governments by bypassing them on their way to the communities in these fragile democracies. Rather, NGOs must aid in strenghtening governance by working with local political and civic authorities.  Imagine how effective your mission could be if you travelled to Axim and other affected communities with the local parliamentary rep fron that constituency. This local MP will be more pleased to work with you because of the respect you would have accorded him ,while he's at the same time unaware that you have put him on the spot and that his/her people will be holding his/her feet to the fire incase there is no follow-up after you've left.  Such an approach is a win win scenario for the community, the local rep. and you, the NGO. 

 

I see a lot of cases all around Africa wherein NGOs undermined governance and the results are not pretty. That's why the good intentions of NGOs are sometimes lost when unrests occur; in some African countries. Some local authorities are now curtailing or keenly watching the activities of NGOs.

 

Work with the local authorities, no matter how much you despise them; it is their community and their country. When things go awry, the world community expects accountability from the government, not NGOs.

Therefore NGOs must be reminded about how their good intentions might breed unintended outcomes if a cautious and prudent approach is not deployed in their quest to aid the poor local communities in Countries still experimenting with democratic self-governance.

Eng. Ahmed Finoh, MPA

Durham, NC/USA