MUSA KAREEM LEANED against his taxi, a 1997 Daewoo Tico, looking in the direction of a large house in the mining district of Dunkwa in Ghana’s Central Region. It was normally his favourite spot for picking up passengers. A group of over 20 Chinese immigrants lived in the house, and unlike his Ghanaian passengers, they never asked for a discount in his fares. “They keep their word and always give you the amount they promise to pay,” he said. “The Chinese are different from some of the people who live in this town.”
On this Sunday morning in June of this year, however, two single-decker buses were parked in front of the house, with some Chinese immigrants on board. More than a hundred other Chinese were inside the house, waiting to embark. Soldiers from the Ghana Armed Forces, together with officials from the Chinese Embassy, were supervising them, checking their passports and luggage. These Chinese were being forced to leave the mining district for Ghana’s capital, Accra. From there, many would depart for China, and Kareem would never see them again.
The immigrants were among more than 200 Chinese citizens arrested in Ghana the previous week in a raid aimed at breaking up small-scale gold-mining operations. The country’s president, John Mahama, had put together a task force in the middle of May to stop non-Ghanaians from engaging in such mining, known locally as galamsey. By the end of the first phase of the exercise, in mid-June, the task force had arrested 218 Chinese citizens, 6 Russians and 57 individuals from other West African countries.