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Loss of a leader in Ghana

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Emelia Amoateng speaking to a delegation from Oxfam America at the church in her village, Teberebie. Photo by Neil Brander/Oxfam America.
Emelia Amoateng speaking to a delegation from Oxfam America in the church in her village, Teberebie. Photo by Neil Brander/Oxfam America.

The first time I met Emelia Amoateng she introduced me to the members of the Teberebie Concerned Farmers’ Association. The farmers had recently been moved off their land by the Iduapriem gold mine, and were contesting the compensation they were offered by the company. “According to our law, no one should take anything away from you by force, but that is what happened here in Teberebie,” she said to me.

Teberebie’s fields are now buried under massive piles of grey waste rock. The farmers live in modest concrete homes the company built, and have to walk long distances (15 kilometers round trip) to their new fields where they grow oil palms, cocoa, pineapples, and other crops in the rich tropical soil. They live close enough to the mining operation that their homes crack from the blasting in the mine pit, but few of the people have been able to secure employment there.

When I first went to Teberebie in 2007, Amoateng and the others in the Association were in the early stages of what has become a 10-year legal battle. With help from Oxfam’s partners the Center for Public Interest Law and the human rights and environmental group Wacam, the farmers maintained their struggle, despite having little income as the case dragged slowly through the courts.

Oxfam America's partner Wacam trains activists in the rights protected under Ghana's Minerals and Mining Act. Photo by Chris Hufstader/Oxfam America
Oxfam America’s partner Wacam trains activists in the rights protected under Ghana’s Minerals and Mining Act. Photo by Chris Hufstader/Oxfam America

The case is now on the verge of being settled in court-ordered arbitration, so it is particularly tragic that Amoateng, 38, passed away earlier this month. Despite chronic asthma, she was an inspiring and dedicated leader, tirelessly defending the rights of her neighbors when innocent community members were shot by police, and documenting chemical spills so the community could get appropriate compensation for damages. When the proper authorities failed to do their duty to protect the lives, livelihoods, and property of her community, Amoateng reached out to the media and led demonstrations to call attention to the injustices being perpetrated against Teberebie. She did all this while taking classes to finish her secondary education, and raising two children.

“Our constitution says that if someone comes for your farm, they should negotiate and compensate you before they carry out a project,” she told me, showing me her copy of Ghana’s 2006 Minerals and Mining Act. Her training helped her hold the government and AngoGold Ashanti Mining company accountable for their actions.

Emelia Amoateng.
Emelia Amoateng in 2007. Photo by Chris Hufstader/Oxfam America

I found out that Emelia passed away last week when I was in Senegal, driving from the eastern region Tambacounda back to Dakar. We stopped for lunch and I took advantage of a wi-fi connection to get my email, and I read a statement from Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, one of the founders of Wacam: “Emelia Amoateng, the great warrior of Teberebie and an icon of Wacam, has gone the way of all mortals. She died carrying high the resolve of Wacam to fight against irresponsible mining.”

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  1.  avatarDaniel Owusu-Koranteng

    Emelia Amoateng was such an amazing personality who achieved a lot for her community , Ghana and our organisation Wacam in her 38 years life. She had a strong passion for the protection of water bodies and went through great difficulty in tracing sources of pollution of water bodies in the Teberebie by the operations of AngloGold Ashanti Iduapriem mine . She was a courageous leader who led her community to demand adequate and fair compensation from the company . Emelia was a very good ambassador of Wacam and engaged with many of our partners especially Oxfam America. Emelia benefited from the Wacam advocacy training programmes which was supported by Oxfam America and other partners and she travelled to communities to share her advocacy experience with the youth , women and community people. Coincidentally, Emelia was one of the ladies who carried Wacam’s banner with the inscription ” We are against irresponsible mining” when Wacam activists marched at the National May Day parade on 1st May 2013 in solidarity with Mr John Alexander Osei, the Chairman of the Wacam Executive Council who won a National May Day Award.
    This great leader usually called the Warrior of Teberebie died on the 5th of May and would be buried in Teberebie on 29th June 2013 . We would miss her . May she rest in peace. – Daniel Owusu-Koranteng(Executive Director of Wacam)

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  2.  avatarHannah Owusu-Koranteng

    Emelia Amoateng’s exemplary leadership qualities demonstrates that when women are empowered through rights education they could be great leaders. Emelia was a gender activist who contributed to the development of the gender policy of Wacam and ensured its implementation. As a member of the Executive Council of Wacam, she enriched the discussions of the council with her grass root experience. She would be remembered for her role in the strengthening of the Women’s wing of Wacam when she served as one of the coordinators of the Women’s wing of Wacam. Emelia made women and Wacam proud. For her courage, we would miss her; for her love for her people and nation , we would miss her; for her smiles, we would sorely miss her.
    -Hannah Owusu-Koranteng( Associate Executive Director of Wacam)

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  3. Chris Hufstader Post author

    Thank you Hannah and Daniel, Emelia is just one of the dedicated people trained by Wacam but she set such an important example for all of us, it was an honor to know her.

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  4.  avatarJerry Mensah-Pah

    “And God will wipe away every tears from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21 : 4).

    It is with a heavy heart and tears soaked eyes that I write this about my sweet friend Emelia.. In fact the sad news of the passing away of Comrade Emelia Amoateng was received with grave shock and disbelief in the early hours of 12th May, 2013. “Emelia” as we all fondly call her never showed any sign of this early departure from us when I saw her at Essipong about a week to her demise. From her frank and hearty discussions with me on a variety of issues, the viva she displayed was very assuring and both of us were very optimistic about the struggle and activism; but Alas! as the saying goes “man proposes but God disposes” and we are very distraught.

    It isn’t possible to put into words the importance of friendship and how much Emelia meant to me. She positively influenced my life in so many ways and I will miss her with all of my heart. Emelia, thank you for your friendship, I will miss you forever and never forget all of the time we spent together.
    Rest in perfect peace

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  5. Chris Hufstader Post author

    Jerry thank you for this comment, and also for introducing me to Emelia when we first went to Teberebie in 2007.

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