Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

War Games For Hard Up Forces

A Touch of Nokoko by Kofi Akumanyi

"The Army (British) is spending £24 million on a laser beam 'war game' to cut costs in mock battles. At present a. single shell fired from a tank can cost up to £1000 and an anti-tank missile more than £7,000.

So Army officers have been telling soldiers on exercises to shout "Bang!" when attacking an "enemy". Now special new arms from tank guns down to rifles will be equipped with low- strength laser beams. Tiny receivers on target vehicles and soldiers will trigger noises or smoke to show a "hit"

- Daily Mirror.
Many people in Africa argue that considering the enormous economic problems of the various countries, the maintenance of a large standing army which consumes a huge proportion of hard-earned foreign exchange, is an unnecessary burden. The point, they say, is strengthened when political stability is constantly being disturbed by disgruntled military men who, most of the time, have personal scores to settle with elected governments.

The foregoing argument however had nothing to do with my aversion to the cadet corps of my secondary school in the 1960's. It was then fashionable for those with a bit of muscle to promote their macho image by enrolling in the school's cadet corps. It was said at the time that it also enhanced one's chances of getting into the Military Academy and then into the elite officer corps.

Personally, I was not cut for the army. I mean, back at school I valued my Saturday mornings so much that I could not give it up only to sweat in the khaki uniform in the bushes around the college practising mock battles. Then of course, those friends of mine who always came back complaining of aching feet and shoulders (I suppose the oversized boots and heavy rifles had something to do with it) did not help promote a good image of the military in my view.

That's why I believed that the Boy Scouts whose philosophy and principles were directly opposed to the military was a better alternative. We Boy Scouts thought the world of Mr Baden Powell and pledged to promote the ideals that he taught never use violence when gentle persuasion would work. "Bob-a-job" was definitely better than playing war games in the bush.

Well, a couple of my college pals liked the cadet corps so much that they went into the army with their GCE 'O' levels and one of them is now a Major.

One positive aspect about having a good friend in the army is that no matter how deep public resentment against the army is, you can have a good conversation on the military without the acrimony that usually clouds the atmosphere.

The other day Shashaa (that's his nickname) came to town on a private visit and over pints of beer we talked about the recent military exercise in Ghana code-named Exercise Teamwork '85, staged in conjunction with a contingent of paratroopers from Burkina Faso. Exercise Teamwork '85, you may recall, which was staged on "Dwarf Island" in the middle of the Volta Lake, was aimed at flushing out a bunch of dissidents from an imaginary country called Zariba.

War Correspondents filed reports from the "war front" that it was a total success which resulted in the capture of 46 prisoners of war including six defectors. The military exercise which was fully reported in the media with blow by blow account of the "war" caused some confusion in the countryside where people panicked and the government had to explain later that it was all a make-believe war.

"Shashaa, I have thought long and hard about this military exercise you people just had; was it really necessary?"

"You know what they say in military circles" he said in his slow drawl, ”si pacem vis para bellum, if you want peace prepare for war" (He was a good classics student).

"Our country, Ghana, has not been to war with any country for ages, why should there be one now?"

"You can't have your cake and eat it" he replied and looked deeply philosophical.

"Oh come on. Don't be so evasive with me. I think the whole exercise was a waste of money. The hospitals have become waiting places to the grave yards and money was spent on such an expensive exercise."

"That sounds familiar".


"That hospitals have become waiting places to the graveyards".

"Oh, that was said by the Head of State at the height of his revolution. So what has changed?"

"Nothing, except that realistic appraisal of the situation demands that the nation is put on a strong and secure footing to fight the war".

"Now, rationalising the whole episode, one would say that the firing of live bullets in such exercises costs tens of thousands of pounds."

"You're right, except that the liberty of the people is so important that no expense can be spared to protect it" elucidated Shashaa.

"You're saying that the people of Ghana must be protected with bullets?"

"You've got it at long last, my dear friend."

"Do you realise that even relatively rich countries have decided to cut down military exercises with live bullets because it is too expensive?"

"Have they? Well, they definitely don't have the same problems as we do, besieged as we are by dissidents outside and enemies within."

"Well, don't you think that all that aggression can be better channelled into more productive efforts?" I asked, determined to get to the bottom of the issue.

"I have thought about it and come to the indisputable conclusion that there must be a safety valve for the soldiers trained in violence."

"Tell me, I can't wait to hear it."

"Either fire their idle guns regularly using the expensive bullets or they will turn on their harmless civilians."

"You're portraying soldiers as trigger-happy people who must necessarily fire their guns even when there is no war."

"Oh yes. "You know who the casualties of this are, whichever angle you look at it?"

"Tell me.

"It's the poor civilians, the tax- payers who pay for the arms.”

"Whichever way you consider it, my dear friend, it is in their interest!"

talking drums 1985-05-27 my vision of independent ghana paa willie - is kojo tsikata emerging from the shadows - wazobia the tale of three nations