Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine


No place like home

I was completely knocked over by nostalgia when I read Ama Asante's piece 'Home away from home' (Talking Drums October 8) which accurately identified a phenomenon that I personally would very much wish not to be institutionalised.

Ghanaians, and for that matter West Africans, in general have always found it very difficult to pull up their roots to go and live in other countries. As Ama Asante correctly analysed, the cultural link with home is too strong to ignore and many of us find it extremely hard to live elsewhere permanently.

Now, it is really sad to read that finally the psychological barrier has been broken and Ghanaians are making foreign lands their home. While I'm not condemning the shift of direction, I am really sad that it should happen this way just because our once very beautiful country is now so ruined that people who should remain there to help sort out the mess are rather setting up permanent homes abroad. Soon Ghanaians would be the 'Jews' of Africa.

We owe it to our children to ensure that those who have hi-jacked the country and claim to know all the answers to the problems facing us, account for their stewardship because in spite of everything 'there is no place like home'. Mrs Grace Arthur, Washington

Doe and the socialists

The current scenario being enacted in Liberia in the country's tortuous march towards civilian rule gives cause for concern for all those who would like to see a smooth transfer of power from the soldiers to civilian politicians.

In Mr Ben Mensah's article entitled "The Shadow of Socialists in Liberia' published on October 15, (which should have read 'spectre' instead of 'shadow' in consonance with the argument he advanced) he went into a convoluted reasoning for the General's political manoeuvres against his opponents who happen to be socialists.

Certain basic facts must be made clear here and I must emphasise that I am no supporter of military regimes.

The circumstances of General Doe's assumption of power and the subsequent stop-go approach to the return to civil rule are well-known to all. What we all want to know is: does he really want to hand over power genuinely?

So far all the criticisms I have read in this magazine, I think, only clutch at straws. Take the issue of the registration fee of $30,000 cash and $500,000 in bonds and security for political parties, for instance. There is no doubt that any party which intends to contest the elections must be financially sound and these provisions could be a test of their financial standing. I totally reject any accusation of that being an attempt to eliminate opposition. Instead of scores of splinter parties, they could pool their resources to form one strong opposition against Doe who clearly has the edge.

As for his attacks on Socialist opponents, one cannot speak about it without treading on dangerous grounds. Democracy thrives on a multi-party system and hardcore socialists don't entertain opposition (Mugabe's activities against the opposition in Zimbabwe) hence the fear that if the socialists take over Liberia may lose out forever.

All the same, what is currently happening in Liberia is a lesson to all African countries in similar situations. As for Mr Mensah's demand from Dr Sawyer and other so-called socialists that they do not seek to replace Gen. Doe with another dictatorship, be it military or party, it is just like asking him to adulterate the socialist ideology which no genuine socialist would do. Sule Issaka, London

The Buruwaa episode

If your Tribunal Correspondent's report of the case about Madam Ernestina Akosua Buruwaa who was convicted for attempting to smuggle gold out of the country (Talking Drums October 15, 1984) is correct then I quite agree with his suggestion that the tribunal system ought to be seriously looked into.

It is not unusual for two men of the legal profession to be at loggerheads over a matter on point of law but for a simple issue of a "release warrant" which mistakenly became a "discharge warrant" to generate such heat as to become Addo-Aikins versus George Agyekum and dramatised at the State House is too much to swallow.

I mean people are being sentenced to death and long terms of imprisonment by these public tribunals chaired by George Agyekum and Kweku Addo- Aikins and if such mistakes can be made, who knows what other gaffes have been committed and never reported?

J. Ofori-Attah, London

Currency exchange rates

I am writing this note to make a proposal that you consider reporting weekly in Talking Drums the exchange rates between the currencies of countries in West Africa and the US Dollar and the British Pound Sterling. For completeness, I would further suggest that you also publish the unofficial rates of exchange alongside the official ones.

Much as we all deplore the existence of black markets which give rise to unofficial rates, I do not think it helps anyone to pretend that black markets do not exist. They are a fact of life in the West African Region as any visitor to the region would testify. We cannot wish them away.

Governments routinely use the official rates of exchange in their transactions with international agencies and foreign governments. But for most citizens of these countries, the black market is the place to go when one needs foreign currency. Two major reasons account for this preference by the citizens. I will use Ghana as an illustration. The first reason is that, in Ghana before the Bank of Ghana will consider any application for foreign currency for any individual, the person must produce his/her passport and in some cases the air ticket, as proof that the applicant intends to travel outside the country.

It is not only travellers who need foreign currency. Currently one needs dollars or pounds sterling to be able to acquire basic things like soap, matches, batteries etc, at the foreign exchange shops springing up at strategic locations in Accra. The second reason is that for anyone holding foreign currency and who desires to exchange that for local currency, it is worth one's while to exchange it at the black market since one gets a higher value for it than one would get at the Bank of Ghana or the Commercial Banks.

Furthermore, it is no exaggeration to say that governments in the Region very often adopt national currency policies in response to pressures emanating from the black market.

For these and other reasons, I would ask Talking Drums to consider introducing a currency column in its pages and report both rates. Having the boldness to face reality, no matter un- pleasant that reality is, is one giant step towards solving that problem.

Kodwo Mbir Bullard, Los Angeles, USA


Thanks for the suggestion. We intend to publish the exchange rates as a service to our readers.

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