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He was Minister when Ghana rosewood was logged and exported to China, now appointed Ambassador to that country

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Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh

When the Akufo-Addo government took office on January 7, 2017, Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, a lawyer, was appointed the Brong Ahafo Regional Minister. After serving for one and a half years, he was reappointed to the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources following a reshuffle, till the end of 2020.

He has now been appointed Ghana’s Ambassador to China, on a list of 33 appointees.

While he was the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, there was a ban on the logging and export of rosewood out of Ghana. There have been several bans, including bans he announced himself. But the illegal logging and exports of rosewood from Ghana, to especially China continued.

At the height of the global campaign to halt the illegal logging of the endangered species, Asomah-Cheremeh as Minister of Lands and Natural Resources in March 2019, met journalists in Accra and spoke about illegal rosewood logging in the country. During the press briefing, he called on Ghanaians to resist the illegal logging of the precious tree species. He also reiterated the fact that the ban on rosewood felling was still in force in the country.

But despite the ban, as the then Minister emphasized, between March and December that year more than 147,000kg of rosewood left Ghana to China.

Chinese customs trade data shows that 147,760,190kg of rosewood with a value of $87,628,864 was imported from Ghana into China from March to December 2019.

A December 2019, data shows that 7,941,771kg of rosewood with a value of $5,368,120 was still being imported from Ghana by China, Lisa Handy, the Director of Forests Campaign of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) told ghanabusinessnews.com.

New data released by the EIA on the website Rosewood Revealed, shows that in December 2020, more than nine million kilograms (9,031,570kg) of rosewood valued at over $5 million ($5,663,782) was shipped from Ghana to China.

The EIA in an undercover investigation of the illegal logging of rosewood in Ghana named some government officials involved in aiding illegal loggers and exporters of the tree species, but a committee set up by the Ministry to investigate the allegations cleared the officials of any wrong doing. It however asked the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) now National Investigation Bureau (BIN), or any other State Intelligence Agencies to conduct a forensic audit at the CITES Secretariat to establish the veracity of the allegations. It is not known if the said forensic audit request had been carried out.

During Asomah-Cheremeh’s tenure, there is no known prosecution of any significant offender in the rosewood menace.

In May 2019, the Northern Regional Police Command arrested a Chinese national, 43-year-old Helen Huang for transporting two trucks loaded with four 20-footer containers of rosewood out of the Northern Region, heading to the port city of Tema for possible onward export to China. There were expectations of her criminal prosecution, but that never happened. The Ghanaian who stood surety for her, Mohammed Bondirigbum was briefly arrested, put before court and later acquitted.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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