Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

The Pioneer, Ghana

Christmas 84

Christmas is here and gone. Before us is the New Year - a year of unknowns.

And if people will be honest, they would admit that Christmas this year was different from all Christmases. More people were indoors, fewer children were out in the streets, even out of this, another fewer number of children managed to come out with new dresses and shoes.

Therefore, the greeting 'afehyiapa' (good passing year) that kept moving from the lip of one man to the lip of another during Christmas 84 was not genuine and terribly out of context.

How can it be afehyiapa when your children are in 'broniwawu' (second hand) shoes, broniwawu socks, broniwawu shorts, singlets and shirts, and probably eating broniwawu biscuits, and walking on broniwawu streets as in Kumasi.

You, the father or the mother could not even step out of the doorway because of obvious reasons and yet still managed to go about greeting each other with the traditional afehyiapa.

Yes, the celebration of Christmas 84 was a sound reflection of the general economic situation in the country. More people in our country today are just existing. Life to them looks like a dream. They are so hard pressed that most of them today will even kill God if that will give them money enough to make a semblance of living.

And who is responsible for this state of affairs? The responsibility lies on the head of the cheating leaders who ruled our country in the past, the cheats who filled their bedrooms with the money they stole from the national treasury - the money that would have made it possible for most Ghanaians to live a little bit like human beings and not the lives we are living today.

This was the situation in which Ghana found itself before December 31, 1981 a country where any 5-year-old had C80,000 in his pocket going about the street stepping on the toes of his elders who could not scheme and cheat the people the way he was cheating the country in taxes, in trade malpractices, etc. etc. Thanks to the encouragement given to farmers by the PNDC, food is no longer a problem and 5-year-olds no more roam the streets with that much money in their pockets, teasing the elders who have not.

But let's face facts: the rate at which devaluation is running riot in the country is pushing Ghanaians back to the era prior to December 31, 1981. If Mr Kwesi Botchway doesn't know, he must take it from us today that the rate we are devaluing our Cedi (1818.18 per cent in two years) is going to cut the throat of our country and the throats of our people.

We all know the economy is sick. But no good doctor asks his patients to take at one go 20 tables each of quinine if that will cure their disturbing fever.

The professional practice is that if 20 tablets will cure the fever, the good doctor prescribes 2 tablets each morning, afternoon and evening and thus, by the end of the fourth day, the 20 tablets would have been exhausted and the fever gone. If the patients took the 20 tablets all at one go, that would have been an overdose and every school child knows the effects of an overdose.' This is exactly what is happening in our country today..

The economy is rotten, yes, but the government should act as the good doctor and prescribe the drugs bit by bit. If we continue to take an overdose and continue to devalue three times every week, Christmas 85 will meet most Ghanaians at the cemetery and the fruits of the devaluation will go to the birds.

The Guardian, Nigeria

The Geneva disarmament talks

After four years of chilly evasions and a year of pointless mutual recriminations both the Soviet Union and the United States have finally decided to reopen discussions on nuclear disarmament. Last week the Soviet Foreign Minister, Andrei Gromyko, and the US Secretary of State, George Shultz, met in Geneva to resume the arms control negotiations suspended in November 1983.

Although the goals set for the resumed Geneva talks were rather modest to work out a framework for further negotiations and to determine which types of missiles or warheads would be the subject of such future negotiations - the mere fact that the talks took place at all in itself is a matter for great relief.

Before the talks, the positions of the two superpowers remained as irreconcilable as ever. While the Soviet Union was insisting that Reagan's pet project, the Strategic Defence Initiative, otherwise known as the Star Wars, must be included in the agenda, the US was rejecting this and demanding instead that a reduction in Moscow's land based missiles in Europe should be the major issue of the talks, however, both sides had tempered their positions.

But the entire nuclear arms race, based as it is on the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), is as mad as madness can ever possibly be. The two superpowers together between them are said to possess a nuclear arms arsenal with a total explosive power of some 13,000 megaton. This, experts say, is more than enough to destroy the world ten times over. Yet, in spite of this, the race to build up more warheads, in a quantitative as well as qualitative sense, continues apace.

Of course, one explanation for this senseless race for mutual self extermination lies in the intrinsic contradiction between socialism and capitalism as bipolar economic and philosophical systems. As Vladamir Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution and first head of the Soviet government, said some time in 1920, "so long as both capitalism and socialism remain, we cannot live in peace. Either the one or the other in the long run will conquer". Relations between Washington and Moscow since then have borne out the truthfulness of this remark. More than anything else, the nuclear arms race symbolises the fundamental contradictions and inevitable competition between these two philo- sophical and economic systems.

But is the rest of humanity destined to stand by and watch while the two superpowers continue their crazy race towards the assured destruction of our planet? There is a lot that the spectators -- particularly those of us in the Third World - can do to bring back sanity to the nuclear arms craze. It is because our resources are pillaged by the industrialized countries that they can afford to spend the large sums they do in acquiring monstrous nukes. Starved of these vast sources of cheap minerals - most of which are essential inputs for the arms industry -the escalated cost of continuing the arms race may force superpowers to put a brake to the further militarization of our planet.

talking drums 1985-01-21 what hope for Africa's growing millions