Arrests in Ghana Stoke Tensions

from The Wall Street Journal..

June 7, 2013, By DREW HINSHAW in Accra, Ghana, and CHUIN-WEI YAP in Beijing

Ghana’s rough roundup of 168 Chinese miners this past week adds another flash point to the tense relationships between governments in resource-rich Africa and China.

Ghana’s arrest of the Chinese nationals earlier in the week, on suspicion that they were mining gold illegally, prompted multiple calls by Chinese officials for fair and humane treatment of its nationals there. It was the latest in a string of incidents targeting Chinese citizens and investments, amid heightened perceptions of China’s growing economic and political sway on the continent.


Beijing’s increasing influence and economic muscle here has drawn concern from the U.S. and other African trade partners. President Barack Obama, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping in California on Friday, will head to Africa later this month on a trip aimed at strengthening economic ties and trade on the continent.

Meanwhile, other trade partners are seeing doors opened as an anti-China sentiment rises among ordinary Africans.

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In Gabon, a firm controlled by Chinese refiner Sinopec is embroiled in an increasingly acrimonious dispute over oil licenses as the tiny, oil-rich West African nation attempts to establish greater control over its natural resources. Sinopec-controlled Addax Petroleum, which stands to lose two Gabonese oil concessions due to an alleged breach of contract, is seeking arbitration.

In Tanzania, sporadic riots over plans for a $1.2 billion gas pipeline built by China National Petroleum Corp. have left more than a dozen people dead. Locals want the 530-kilometer pipeline halted until they are given an equitable share of the gas reserve. Tanzania’s deputy energy and minerals minister, Stephen Masele, insists it must continue “for the benefit of all Tanzanians.” The Chinese embassy in Tanzania has declined to comment on the issue.

In Botswana, President Ian Khama has lashed out at Chinese contractors, whom he blames for poor work on power construction projects and an airport expansion. Contractors have countered that the delays stem from the government changing design plans, according to Botswana media reports.


“It is another reminder that Chinese companies, including state-owned ones, do not have carte blanche in their African operations, regardless of Beijing’s largess,” said Eurasia Group analyst Phillip de Pontet.


The arrest and deportation were meant to enforce the country’s artisanal mining law, which forbids foreigners from such small-scale operations, according to Mr. Amoako-Atta.

“It’s not aimed at a particular country but anybody who is engaged in illegal mining because it’s destroying the water bodies, the forest and the farmland,” he said.


Speaking from Ghana, Mr. Su Zhenyu of the Ghana-China Mining Association, who led the pioneer group of around seven Shanglin miners to Ghana nearly a decade ago, said the Chinese introduced heavy machinery and bulldozers to mechanize their Ghanaian operations. This, he acknowledged, brought environmental damage.

“Everyone is very afraid,” said Mr. Su.” “In one week, seven or eight years of good relations have been ruined.”

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