Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

People, Places and Events


Newspaper closed down

The 'Daily Observer' newspaper has been closed down by the Government. According to Justice Minister, Jenkins Scott the newspaper appeared bent on being a straightforward opposition to government. He also said the 'Daily Observer' newspaper had accordingly decided to take actions which tend to ridicule both the Government and the Head of State.

Minister Scott said it was also observed that over the years, issues positive to government were not often published as headline stores in the paper.

The Justice Minister cited the January 18 issue of the 'Daily Observer' and said the paper chose to subordinate the statement of the Head of State to a group of citizens on 15th January and decided to make as its headline story, the statement of a union leader.

Minister Scott said over the months and years the 'Daily Observer' had portrayed itself as a partisan newspaper. He said government has the right to abolish any institution that tends to threaten the stability of the society. This is the fourth time the 'Daily Observer' newspaper has been closed down by government since its establishment in 1981 as an independent paper.

Doe tells diplomats not to interfere

Head of State Samuel Kenyon Doe has informed the international community that this election year must never be perceived as a period of inactivity or as an opportune time to interfere in the internal affairs of Liberia.

Speaking at a dinner he hosted in the Executive Mansion in honour of the diplomatic corps, the Head of State said his Government will not encourage any interference during this election year, adding "nor will we subordinate our sovereignty to any individual or nation. during this crucial period". He said the laws of Liberia as related to those who interfere in the country's internal affairs will be enforced no matter what cost.

Warning to press and clergy

In another development, Head of State Doe has said Decree 88-A is simply intended to prevent any individual, group of individuals or organisations from creating disharmony, spreading rumours, lies and disinformation or to undermine the security of the state. He said his Government cannot tolerate in the Liberian society those who throw stones and hide, or those who say what they cannot prove, and those who are not brave enough to sign their names to what they write. He said Decree 88-A is designed to rid society of such persons, but strangely enough the press, bishops and certain politicians have apparently failed to understand the intent of this decree.

The Head of State said while his Government cannot question the rights of people who profess to preach the word of God, they must insist on a dividing line between religion and politics. He said he believes that the principle of separation of church and state must be upheld as Government seeks to return to democratic rule.

Dr Doe emphasised that Government will not allow them to use the pulpit to issue anti-Government statements or tendentious acts that will create conflict and confusion in society. He said if a clergyman acts like a politician and breaks the law of the country, he will be treated like any other citizen in this respect.

Returnees from Ghana

Hundreds of Liberians including cabinet ministers and other Government officials last week crowded the docks of the free port of Monrovia to welcome home some 124 of their countrymen from Ghana after a six- day voyage. The returnees were said to be mainly of the Vai, Bassa, Kru and Grebo ethnic groups. Who were returning with the desire of contributing their quota to the socio-economic development of Liberia.

Welcoming the group on behalf of Head of State, Dr Samuel Kanyon Doe, the Information Minister, Carson A. Karpeh, said the Government was happy that they had complied with Dr Doe's call for all Liberians to return home The Information Minister told the group of Dr Doe's concern over their safe arrival and his prompt response in getting the greeting party organised upon hearing that they were returning...

The group was later taken to the Monrovia City Hall where Monrovia's city mayor, Col William Snyder, welcomed them to the city . . . The returnees are temporarily residing at the state compound on Donar Street in Monrovia until they can be accommodated by relatives, friends and concerned citizens.

Bacchus Party suspended

The Special Elections Commission (Secom) has suspended the proposed United People's Party, led by Bacchus Matthews, capital. in connection with the circulation of pamphlets in contravention of Secom's guidelines. The Secom chairman, Emmet Harmond, had said that a party could only canvass through the use of pamphlets once it had been legalised by Secom. He said that the party had been informed of its suspension and it had appealed for a reconsideration of the decision


Chinese embassy to re-open

The Chinese embassy in Chad will resume its activities very soon. This is the purpose of a visiting Chinese delegation which has arrived in the Chad capital. The delegation visited its embassy buildings, accompanied by the Foreign Affairs Director General, Mr Michael Poudre. Members of the delegation expressed their satisfaction with the state of their embassy building, and wish to see their embassy resume activities within six months.

The Chinese diplomats were received by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Gouara Lassou, and later by the Minister of Natural Disasters, Taher Abdel-Djelil.

During their talks with the Foreign Affairs Director General, the Chinese diplomats pointed out that China has granted Chad emergency aid of 2000 t of cereals to enable it to face the serious food situation caused by drought. Part of the aid 500 t of cereals have been delivered and the remaining 1500 t will be received in the near future.

During their week-long stay, the Chinese diplomats discussed with the Chad authorities a number of issues relating to cooperation between Ndjamena and Peking, including the constructions of a bridge on the Chari and a sports stadium in Ndjamena.

Drought and food situation

All the major international relief organisations are rushing to the rescue of Chad, which is suffering from drought and famine like Sudan and Ethiopia. The organisations are established in Ndjamena on the Colona d'Ornano Avenue, along the Chari river, the level of which goes down by 1½ cm every day, as if to remind them that time is running out.

They are the United Nations' sponsored World Food Programme - responsible for coordinating humanitarian action - the FAO, UNICEF and the Aid from the (UN) High Commission for Refugees. France, Switzerland, the USA, as well as from non-governmental organisations like Catholic Relief, the Red Cross, Medecins, Sans Frontieres, and the Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere (CARE), have also set up their headquarters in the Chad

An American working with the World Food Programme has estimated that there are about 30 humanitarian organisations now in the country and he estimates that they have nearly 500 expatriates working for them.

Rainfall was catastrophic in 1984. With a tropical climate and an annual rainfall situated just under the 16th parallel, have now become semidesert areas with rainfall ranging from 200 to 300mm per year.

The levels of the Chari and Logne rivers have never been so low. Lake Chad is reduced to a pocket of water and Lake Fitri Crops have died in the Batha and Kanem in the Batha region has simply disappeared. regions and the situation is described as very "fragile" in the central regions of Quaddai, Guera, Chari Baguirmi and Salamat. The aim is to prevent Chad from becoming another Ethiopia, where aid did not arrive in time.


Reduction of prison sentences

President Paul Biya has signed a decree reducing prison terms for specific crimes. With effect from 19th January, those condemned to death but whose sentences had been commuted to life imprisonment before 1st January 1980 will serve 25 years of imprisonment. Those sentenced to life imprisonment but whose sentences had not been commuted will, following the decree, serve 20 years.

Others are a reduction of five years to persons originally condemned to death and whose sentences have already been commuted to temporal imprisonment before 1st January 1980. A reduction of three years to persons serving jail terms equal to or less than 20 years. There were proportional reductions in shorter sentences, down to a reduction of three months for sentences of six months or less. All those serving jail terms of six months have been freed.

The present decree does not apply to persons who are presently escapees from prison, to persons sent to jail or sentenced by military tribunal, to persons jailed or sentenced for the following crimes: (1) assassination or murder; (2) aggravated or simple theft; (3) embezzlement of public funds; (4) bounced cheques, and to detainees who are being prosecuted for crimes committed while supposed to be under detention.

Reduction in coffee crop

The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Edouard Nomo Ongolo, has presided over a meeting with governors and prefects of coffee producing areas in preparation for the launching of the coming 84-85 coffee season.

The meeting allowed the Commerce and Industry Minister take stock of the 83-84 season, which generally was not good due to a drop in coffee production. Many Problems were encountered during the just- ended season, problems which were highly unfavourable climatic conditions. tributed to many factors, notably to Production of robusta coffee fell from 105,000 t to 47,000 t, that is more than 55% while that of arabica coffee fell from 23,000 t to 17,000, or 26%. The fall in the quality of production means a reduction in export revenue.

Edouard Nomo Ongolo seized the opportunity to recall all measures of encouragement and incentive offered by the Government to help farmers face the crisis, especially the recent Presidential Decree fixing new purchasing prices of coffee from farmers for the 84-85 season.


Ethiopian kids are welcome to Ghana

Ghana has offered to play host to a number of famine-stricken children from Ethiopia subject to a favourable response from the Ethiopian government. A report in "The Mirror" said that the decision was arrived at during a meeting summoned at the instance of Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings, to discuss ways of helping Ethiopian drought victims.

The Ethiopian ambassador to Ghana has since been requested to find out the opinion of his government on the offer. A task force has already been formed to receive the Ethiopian children or consider other alternatives, if the offer was not accepted by the Ethiopian Government.

If the Ethiopian Government accepted the offer, Ethiopian children and their parents would be brought into both urban and rural areas where chiefs would be expected to take direct responsibility for their well-being. This mode of hosting, it went on, was considered better than creating refugee camps which would only result in their isolation from the rest of the community.

It is recalled that Israel had been actively involved in airlifting Falashas or black jews from refugee camps in Sudan.

The airlift code-named "Operation Moses" involved transfer of over 23,000 Ethiopians from Sudan to Israel for resettlement.

Mice destroy crops

An army of mice has been invading the Accra plains and eating up all farm crops in sight. A report from Ghana said that apart from causing losses running into several thousands of cedis, the invasion had resulted in sharp increases in the prices of vegetables, tomatoes, pepper, okro and garden eggs in Accra markets. The sharp-toothed rodents have destroyed 900 hectares of rice and vegetable farms, the report said.

An official of the irrigation development authority has said that no local rice would be produced in the area this year, if the mice were not eliminated.

The report said one desparate farmer, faced with the destruction of his crops by rodents, ended his life by taking the mouse poison given to him to kill the rats. He was of said to be indebted to the banks to the tune 120,000 cedis.

The project manager of one of the schemes on the plains said: "The mice started on the fields in September last year, laying waste an acre a week. By November, they ate up four acres a day. By early December, it was "total destruction" and by mid December it was out of control."

As many as 70 mice have been found in one hole, and at nights the fields are swarming with them, he said. The rise in mice population was attributed to the prolonged drought of 1983, and the accompanying bush fires which vastly reduced the population of snakes which feed on mice.

Telephone links restored

Telephone links between Accra and the regions except the north have been restored. An official of the Post and Telecommuni- cations, Mr Ben Hadja told reporters that his organisation was making determined efforts to improve telephone and mail services.

Phone links between Accra and Ghana's provinces had been inoperative for sometime.

Workers to refund Christmas bonuses

All employees of the State Gold Mining Corporation (SGMC) are to refund their Christmas bonuses. The top management personnel have been given up to the end of this month to refund their bonuses. An official statement explained that contrary to government directives that State Corporations which do not make any profits should not pay out any bonuses, the management of the SGMC, "in the absence of the efficient managing director, paid out Christmas bonuses to all employees of the corporation". The statement was issued by the Monitoring Outfit of the PNDC Secretariat.

Japanese loan

The PNDC is to receive two grants totalling 210m cedis from Japan. The agreements to this effect have been signed in Accra. The first grant of 145m cedis is for the rehabilitation of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation while the remaining 65m cedis will be spent to improve maternal and child nutrition programmes.

Explanation of wage increase

The Prices and Incomes Board (PIB) has explained that the recent increase in wages and salaries does not mean that every worker's pay is to be doubled. The Executive Director of the PIB, Dr Yankey, gave this explanation when officials of statutory corporations went to seek clarifications on how the increases should be implemented following the statement made by the Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), A. K. Yankey, at the just-ended new year school at Legon.

The TUC boss said the increase affects every worker equally and that this means each worker's pay is to be doubled. According to Dr Yankey of the PIB, separate charts have been prepared for the public and private sectors for the implementation of the increases. With the public sector, all organisations are to adjust to a 52 cedis 50 pesewas daily wage, excluding rent allowance, for the month of December 1984.

Each organisation is to deduct from the 52 cedis 50 pesewas the minimum daily wage prevailing in that organisation prior to December 1984. The percentage difference, over 35 cedis basic daily wage, then becomes the adjustment factor for all levels within the organisation.

Guidelines for the graduated increases chart issued from the PIB to the public sector asked all organisations to submit the adjusted scales to the board for vetting and approval. He said defaulting organisations would be penalised.

Both the Secretary for Labour and Social Welfare, Ato Austin, and the Chairman of the Tripartite Committee, Mr Wood, when contacted by Ghana Broadcasting a Corporation correspondent to confirm or deny the statement of the TUC boss, said only that the matter would be considered at a meeting of the tripartite committee.

It will be recalled that the announcement about the salary increases last month said the minimum rationalisation wage was being increased by 100%. It added, however, that 50% was to be paid at the end of December 1984 with the 100% taking effect from 1st January this year.

EEC Financial Aid

The EEC has approved a supplementary financing of about 180m cedis for the Twifo oil palm plantation in the Central Region. The money will be spent on fertiliser and chemicals, machinery, spare parts, and the construction of staff quarters. According to the EEC Commission in Accra, an oil mill is to be constructed as part of the development of the oil palm estate to process fresh fruits produced from the plantation.

The foreign exchange cost of about 454m cedis will be jointly financed by the Commonwealth Development Corporation and the Netherlands Government. The local cost will be borne by Ghana. The commission hopes the planting of the entire 4,800 ha will be completed by the end of next year; this will increase the production of palm oil from 2,450 t in 1987 to 11,700 t in 1994.

The EEC has already committed about 279m cedis to the development of the estate and to the financing of technical assistance components of the projects. It is being carried out by experts from the Commonwealth Development Corporation with local costs being covered by the Ghana Government.

French financial aid

As a result of bilateral talks between Ghana and France in Paris last year, France has pledged to Ghana 18m dollars to start work on priority projects included in the PNDC (Provisional National Defence Council) economic recovery programme.

This was Ambassador disclosed by the French to Ghana, Mr Patrick O'Cornesse, when he called on Mr Justice Annan, member of the PNDC and chairman of the National Economic Commission, in Accra. He said French missions are in the country for talks with the Ghana Government and agreements to this effect will be signed soon.

Mr Justice Annan described the French pledge as a very good thing for the future. He said Ghana has made real progress as a result of the healthy platform created at the Paris conference. He called on the super- powers to see Africa as one continent. He also asked France to support the call to grant debts' relief to Third World countries.


OPEC loan for bridge construction

OPEC has granted Sierra Leone a 5m dollar soft loan for the construction of a bridge on the main road linking Freetown with Monrovia, the capital of neighbouring Liberia.

The loan is repayable over 17 years with a five-year grace period, according to the agreement signed by Sierra Leone Minister of Finance, Abdulai Conteh, at OPEC headquarters in Vienna. No interest will be accrued from it but the Sierra Leone Government is required to pay a service charge of 1% on the principal.

Mr Conteh also discussed with OPEC fund officials the possibility of OPEC providing balance of payments support for his country, as the Organisation has done on two previous occasions.

The Freetown-Monrovia highway is a joint project initiated by the Sierra Leonean and Liberian Governments under the charter of the Mano River Union which groups Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, an economic grouping.

Debt to FRG cancelled

President Siaka Stevens has announced that West Germany had cancelled DM 165m in loans owed to West Germany. Speaking at a New Year reception for the diplomatic corps President Stevens did not give any figures for Sierra Leone's total debt to West Germany.

In a wide-ranging speech on domestic and international issues, the President said that Sierra Leone continued to suffer high interest rates and the burden of repaying foreign debts. He went on to thank China for providing 13.5m dollars in aid for a variety of development related projects.


American courts not controlled by govt.

Head of State, Maj-Gen Muhammad Buhari has received in audience a special envoy of President Reagan, Genera Vernon Walters.

After the meeting, General Walters spoke with correspondents. He said that the United States has on many occasions, and President Reagan only very recently spoken out very strongly on the question o apartheid and their abhorrence for that doctrine. "I myself do a good deal of speaking in the United States, and I have said, and I repeat, that apartheid is a doctrine that belongs to the 15th century not in the last years of the 20th century. There is no question in the South Africans mind how we feel about this. We certainly have made plain to them that we believe in the principle of the equality of all men," General Walters said.

Asked whether Umaru Dikko is seeking to get a visa to stay permanently in America Gen Walters answered, "I am not personally familiar with the case; I can tell you that I am the ambassador-at-large. I have travelled to 106 countries in the last four years. It is difficult for me to be up on every single question of this type. All I know is that if the Nigerian Government or Nigerian courts have anyone they want extradited from the United States, if they will forward the request to the American courts because in the United States the Government does not control the courts, we have an independent judiciary - we will be willing to examine those requests for extraction in the spirit of complete understanding. I am not personally, however, familiar with the Umaru Dikko case."

Omeruah commends press

All the radio stations recently closed down by the Federal Military Government would be reopened when the country's economy improved and if the continued presence of the stations were necessary, the Minister of Information, Social Development, Youth, Sports and Culture, Group Capt Emeka Omeruah has said in Owerri.

He told newsmen that Government could no longer maintain the huge number of staff in the Federal Government-owned radio and television stations, adding that Government wanted a situation where it could manage its affairs more effectively.

Federal Government was still studying the report submitted by the Kolade commission on rationalisation of television services and that its view would be made public soon. Minister commended the the press for the work done so far in salvaging the country. Without the press, he said, it would have been difficult for the present military administration to do all it had done. "The press has done well and I hope it will continue to be partners in progress," the Minister added.

New guidelines for commercial banks

The Central Bank has issued new guidelines to banks in the country for this fiscal year. In a policy circular released in Lagos, the Central Bank directed that the aggregate loans and advances of each commercial bank should not rise by more than 7% over the outstanding loans as of the end of last year.

The directive also affects merchant banks in the country. It, however, said that small banks with loans and advances not exceeding 100m naira as of the end of last year were allowed to expand their credit by up to 10% above the outstanding level of credits, or 15% of their total deposit liabilities.

The Central Bank explained that the ceilings excluded loans granted for the purchase of shares by Nigerians under the indigenisation scheme and those for buying motor cars by workers in both the public and private sectors. Also to be excluded are loan facilities granted for agriculture and residential building construction.

On sectorial distribution of loans and advances by banks, the Central Bank announced that the share of agriculture in commercial bank loans have been raised from 10% to 12%. This is to facilitate the increased output expected from the sector; however, the share of the manufacturing sector has been reduced from 46% to 45% and that of services from 12% to 11% in recognition of underutilisation of plants due to shortage of imported inputs in the two sectors. It said that penalties would be meted out to banks that fail to comply with the guidelines.

Declaration of company dividends

Total Nigeria topped the slate of 93 companies listed on the stock exchange by declaring the highest cash dividend of 22.80 kobo per share in 1983. The company made a net profit of 22.54m dollars on a turnover Total is 60% owned by Compagnie of 435.03m.

Francais de Petroles with shares running into 35.1m dollars. The remainder-23.4m -is held by Nigerian citizens. The nominal value of a share is 50 kobo. Among others who declared dividends were: Nigerian Bottling company (20 kobo), Texaco (19.12 kobo), African Petroleum (13.25 kobo), Mobil (11.95 kobo) and Union Bank (11.8 kobo).

Trade with Senegal

The Minister of External Affairs, Dr Ibrahim Gambari has said in Kano that Nigeria had invested 27m naira in Senegal's chemical industry which he said represented the country's 10% share in the company. Dr Gambari said the Federal Govern- ment was considering the possibility of buying more phosphate and crude salt from Senegal to reduce the trade imbalance between the two countries which he said was in favour of Nigeria.

He said that the move was also aimed at improving bilateral trade between the two countries, adding that it would be cheaper to buy the commodities from Senegal because of its proximity to Nigeria.

On ECOWAS, Dr Gambari said that member countries had resolved to give the organisation a new lease of life by bringing in new hands to manage its affairs. He said that the organisation had been "dormant" in the past year because some of its members were not living up to expectation. He said: "We hope by the time the new changes are made we shall be on the way to achieving our objectives.


Friendship and cooperation treaty

The Egyptian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Butrus Ghali has ended his visit to the country. The visit ended with the signing of a friendship and cooperation treaty as well as an agreement on cultural, scientific and technical cooperation. Mr Butrus Ghali was received Yamoussoukro by President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, to whom he delivered a message from the Egyptian Head of State, Husni Mubarak. Dr Ghali's visit would also take him to Mali and Senegal.

$14m ADF loan to Ghana

The African Development Fund (ADF), the interest-free loan arm of the African Development Bank, has approved 12 loans totalling more than 50bn CFA francs (103m dollars) to 12 African states.

The largest single loan went to Zambia, which is to receive 10.25bn CFA francs (21.1m dollars) to help revive the country's failing agriculture sector. Ethiopia is to be granted 9.46bn CFA francs (19.5m dollars) to modernise and expand its dairy industry in an effort to improve nutrition for the country's rural population.

A total of 9.37bn CFA francs (19.3m dollars) will go to Cape Verde to finance the development of a cement complex. Cape Verde currently imports all its cement.

Other interest-free ADF loans were: 6.83bn CFA francs (14m dollars) to Ghana for forestry development; 5.40bn CFA francs (11.1m dollars) to Malawi for water development; and smaller loans to Lesotho, Benin, Sao Tome and Principe, Jibuti, Comoros, Madagascar and Uganda. All loans are repayable over 50 years with a 10-year grace period, the Bank said.

Canadian grant

In the context of its assistance for development, Canada is to grant the country a total package of 8bn CFA francs. A large part of the money will be devoted to rural development projects. This is the significant outcome of the second session of the Ivorian-Canadian joint commission for bilateral cooperation held in Abidjan from 9th to 11th January under the joint chairmanship of Simeon Ake, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and his Canadian counterpart, Monique Vezina.

The principal areas of cooperation are agriculture, transport, health, education, mining, women's conditions, industry and commerce... The two sides also assessed the progress in the implementation of the projects underway and defined guidelines for future projects.

The Ivorian delegation also expressed the hope that media exchanges would be increased and cooperation between the Canadian and Ivorian television increased. In that connection, the Canadians recalled the existence of a project in the field of communications for Africa worth 10m US dollars which is designed for communi- cations' experts working in the field of training and development.


Rice prices and wages in increased

The Government has announced that the price of rice, the country's staple diet, is going up 23%. The Government has also announced a 5% increase in the monthly guaranteed minimum wage and granted a bonus of 1,500 CFA francs to all civil servants. The price of rice, which goes from 140 CFA francs to 160 CFA francs, was announced by the Finance Minister, Mr Mamadou Toure, in a radio and television statement.

The Minister said that this increase falls within the framework of the adjustment measures necessary to revamp the economy. The last increase was in August 1983 and was followed by an increase in cooking oil and sugar prices during the past few months.

Senegal imports around 400,000 t of rice a year.

The simultaneous increase in the minimum monthly wage, which was being set at 31,847 CFA francs (formerly 30,332 CFA francs), a 5% increase, should offset the effects of the rice costing more. The average Senegalese family's consumption of rice is about 100 kg a month.

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