Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Rawlings - "I have no regrets"

The Network Africa Programme of the BBC's World Service has recently broadcast an interview conducted in Accra by one of their correspondents with Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, chairman of the ruling Provisional National Defence Council of Ghana. Below we publish the text of the interview:
Network Africa: Any regrets?

Rawlings: Yeah, I certainly regret having to spend most of my time behind the desk. But perhaps, regret is not the correct word. Many Ghanaians have sacrificed their personal inclinations in the effort to bring about the transformation of our society. And I also regret that some of the people who began this endeavour with me have dropped out, I guess because of impatience at the rate of change or mere personal ambition or the inability to withstand the stresses and pressures generated by their commitment. But I have no regrets about the course we have taken at all. We are not looking for an instant short-term remedy to our problems. But for a sustainable system which will provide social justice, participatory democracy and economic stability for Ghanaians. This is of necessity a slow and very slow process but we have, despite many setbacks, misunderstandings and a few mistakes here and there, made steady progress, people are gaining confidence and hope for the future.

Network Africa: You mentioned participatory democracy, do you think this is possible when a government comes to power through a non-democratic process?

Rawlings: Madam, from Ghana's past experience, do you think that the privileged politicians, shall we say the kind of criminals of that calibre that we overthrew who were intent on enriching themselves and entrenching their positions, would have permitted the use of the ballot box to usher in a system in which a meaningful participation of the ordinary people would have been possible? No.

Network Africa: In your previous answer you mentioned people dropping out for various reasons, in that, were you referring to people like Chris Atim, and Akata-Pore and if so, what was the main argument with those people?

Rawlings: They thought they were super-revolutionaries, a super- revolutionary even if you will call them that, instead of bringing about the necessary changes more quickly will soon find themselves with no revolution at all but a hardening reaction instead and we came very close to that. It has been very sad indeed to see former colleagues making this kind of mistake but it almost always happens, this is not the first time I've gone through this kind of experience.

Network Africa: Do you really feel that the Peoples Defence Committees and the Workers Defence Committees in some sense form the mainstay of your revolutionary government, do you feel they work - do you feel that the people whom they are intended to accommodate, have actually gone to them and are partaking in these committees?

Rawlings: There have been opportunists, no doubt, who've tried to use them for their own selfish ends, there have been rash and inexperienced PDC members who have ended up alienating some members of their communities by their actions but mistakes have been recognised, lessons have been learnt and more and more people are turning their PDCs into positive and constructive instruments of change and development. Farm projects, health care programmes, sanitation, education are becoming more important than the old vigilante activities and tactics that they used to find themselves involved in, they've gone beyond that.

Network Africa: It's been such said before that you are the man in the public eye but you are not really the man who is running the country, what would you say to that?

Rawlings: Yes, I suppose they will be correct to say that I am not the man who is running the country, but this does not mean it is being run by some other individual. This is a collective effort and our ultimate goal is a situation where all Ghanaians are effectively participating in running the country.

Network Africa: What would you chart as this government's main achievement?

Rawlings: I would think that our greatest gain is that apathy is beginning to turn to hope and impotence is beginning to turn to confidence.

behind rawlings' latest executions - talking drums october 1984

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