Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine


Military interventions in Africa?

THE EASE with which elected governments in Africa are ousted by the military leaves much to be desired. In the foregoing, an attempt would be made to highlight some of the causes which make their interventions inevitable.

The root cause, as far as I can determine, is that the military in Africa is not adequately represented in government. Gone are the days when the military were relegated to the barracks and kept out of politics.

They are now highly politicised and each time they are left out of the decision making process an attempt to register their disapproval gives them a chance to stage a coup d'etat. For example, in the United State the Pentagon, a powerful organ of the US Army, has links with the Administration. Of what use would it be for the US Army to take over the reins of government, when its interests are provided for?

Democracy thrives in places where the majority of the citizens can read and write. In Africa where the opposite is the case, how can the ruled understand what the government is doing when its policies are not understood by a majority of the people? Illiteracy, they say, is a disease.

It is my contention that much of the problems could have been avoided if the African had been allowed to develop a national language, in the running of their day-to-day affairs.

News broadcast on radios, television and in newspapers are in languages beyond the comprehension of the illiterates, thereby keeping them miles away from reality. The spontaneous action of the people to demonstrate in the streets in favour of a military takeover dwindles in a short time when aspirations are not satisfied.

Similarly, in most of the Western democracies its citizens are by law made to enlist in the Army for a period of two years. During this period, they receive military training. The inference is that since most of the people are equipped to fight, any attempt to forcibly take over the government could be challenged. In Poland, even though solidarity by workers to effect changes has not, to a large extent, reserved the old order, much has been achieved by way of exposing the system to public debate.

The right to possess firearms is of paramount importance in the United States. In spite of its inherent danger, no-one has planned or is planning to pass a law to abrogate it. In Africa, possession of firearms remains the exclusive right of the army and military. The number of people who own firearms is negligible.

In view of this fact, anytime the military decides to attack, there is little or no resistance. Were it not for this fact, what mandate has the military to rule? Why not farmers, teachers, fishermen, workers etc, but nearly always the men in uniform?

In conclusion, until and unless Africans have the right to possess firearms, in order to fight back, the idea of democracy whereby unpopular governments are voted out of power by the people expressed through the ballot box and NOT by the barrel of guns, would forever be a tantalising mirage.

Joseph Asare Mensah, Hamburg, West Germany

Release the Bishop

I HAVE just read the Catholic newspaper, The New Bildpost of January 8th, 1984 published in West Germany in which it was reported that the Catholic Bishop of Accra, Bishop Dominic Andoh and his secretary, Peter Agbenu have been arrested and placed in custody for preaching about democracy to his congregation.

I am imploring the PNDC to release the two men of God immediately for in these difficult times that Ghanaians are going through, we need the church as a source of hope and spiritual strength. I would like to remind the men in power of the fact that brutal force has never worked in promoting or bending people towards the government's will. If this were not so, the killing of Acheampong, Afrifa, Yaw Boakye, Utuka, Akuffo, Kotei and Felli should have laid all Ghana's problems to rest.

No doubt, our problems as a country are legion and it would take years of dedicated and determined efforts to straighten things out. But for heaven's sake, leave the church alone!

Joe Manu, Hamburg, West Germany

Business as usual

I MUST congratulate you on the editorial of January 16th, 1984 entitled 'Waiting for Confusion in Nigeria?' which set a scenario for a seemingly inevitable confusion in Nigeria following the December 31st coup d'etat last year.

As usual you exhibited a deep insight into the mechanics of African politics and the cycle of events which have always led to confusion and economie degeneration.

I particularly liked your argument about the Western businessmen's rationale for supporting military regimes in developing countries; that while they appear to frown on corruption and other vices they at the same time condone and connive with the people in power to the detriment of the masses.

To put it crisply, it has always been "business as usual" with the people in power. This is hypocrisy at the highest level.

Kofi Asempa, Middlesex

Issiyaku's bold example

COULD this be the beginning in Africa of what has been happening in other parts of the world?

The reaction of Alhaji Ibrahim Issiyaku to the coup in Nigeria will not only surprise but also anger all those who wish to see Africans remain docile in servitude, oppression and injustice.

But just imagine soldiers who under normal circumstances are cast away behind walls in barracks to perfect their methods of maintaining peace, law and order turning their guns against their own governments and yet expect the people not to resist them.

Perhaps it is foolhardy for unarmed civilians attempting to confront armed soldiers which has always prevented our people from standing up against military coups.

The soldiers, after taking power, then accuse the civilian politicians of corruption and all sorts of crimes even though they themselves may be worse than the devil."

Let the soldiers who have felt un challenged in their disruptive crusades now be made to realise the determination of the civilians to fight them not with guns but with every available weapon they possess.

If Alhaji Ibrahim has more facts about the soldiers let him come out with them. But let others cast away their docility and emulate his bold step to expose the shortcoming of the military. For in this way will Africans prove their maturity and dedication to a cause they believe in.

Miranda Anyomi, Surrey UK.

talking drums 1984-01-30 isiyaku ibrahim - why democracy failed in Nigeria - restructuring Ghana's legal system