Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine


Authentic voice from West Africa

Talking Drums was the sole authentic voice from West Africa. There is a saying: "One does not value water until the well is dry." Now the well is dry and we are crying. Why has Talking Drums not come out for two weeks?

Talking Drums was never a party organ, backed by a secret source of funds. It survived by virtue of its dedicated staff, living in near penury, dedicated journalists - the true African patriots believing that the truth will out. Giving all sides a chance to express their point of view.

Among the West African press, Talking Drums may have been the sole, completely uncensored member.

I see your competitor full of adverts, but those businesses interested in exploiting Africans at home and abroad care not about the content of the publication, but rather that it should not offend. Advertisers fear the least controversy. Their mission is not to inform, to reveal - their mission is to sell their product and not irritate any powerful people (lucrative customers). Talking Drums could not depend on advertising revenue.

The paltry funds trickled into Madhav House (a single, crowded room in disrepair). The trickle from readers was the problem. Talking Drums invaluable service provided for the tens of thousands of active readers.

Few of us paid for the paper. We read copies when we had a chance to grab a well-thumbed one from a friend. Many of us liked to buy it because it was cheaper and had better sports coverage. But we wouldn't go out of our way to buy a copy, always hoping for a free one. And we wouldn't subscribe because it was too much money.

This newspaper was often sold out within minutes of reaching the stands. Back in the offices, photocopies (sometimes hundreds) were made for friends, even mailed back home. No thought that in stealing revenue from the financially strapped Talking Drums, we, the readers, were burying the enterprise. Talking Drums was not at fault, providing a top-notch product, week after week. We were at fault. We wanted some- thing free. We didn't want to pay for the newspaper and as the saying goes, "You get what you pay for." Nothing. Blank. If it goes there will be no one to blame but ourselves.

Kwame Boakye, Bronx, New York

For God's sake, don't leave us like this!

The thought of not receiving Talking Drums in the mail each week is thoroughly depressing. In retrospect the minor irritation of trying to read it before my friends grab it from my hands pales beside complete abstinence.

In attempted consolation, I have just sent off for Ulli Beier's new edition of the Penguin Book of African Verse. One must read something, though this will hardly be political. I will reread Jones-Quartey on the early press in Ghana, but where will I find the news?

I refuse to return to reading the superficial snippets from local press organs which characterise West Africa. When I took my first drink, I intended to continue as an adult, enjoying my liquor. It is hope- less to think that I should now return to consuming water and other soft drinks.

What really am I to do? I have no source of insightful topical commentary. No other vehicle expands my thought beyond one or two countries, providing remarkably cogent analysis of events throughout the region.

Where am I to be reminded, with appropriate particulars, of the scandals and foibles of previous governments?

Where can I enjoy the thrust and parry of the disputes carried on in editorials, articles and letters to the editor?. Maud Kordylas, poetry, short fiction, record reviews, Nokoko, Maigani ... my world becomes silent, empty, a void is left. Unhealed.

John Randall, Yonkers, New York

Editor's Note: Thank you very much for the concern you have demonstrated for this magazine. We have explained elsewhere in this issue why we did not come out for two weeks.

Foreign journalists were in Liberia for elections

I wish to draw your attention to an article in the October 21, 1985, edition of Talking Drums, entitled "Liberia, America and Doe", under Whispering Drums With Maigani. The article is not only misleading but one designed to tarnish the reputation of the country. The author claimed that foreign journalists were banned from covering the elections. This is not true and I am listing for your information the names of foreign journalists who were here and also allowed to move freely. They were Mr. A. Komba, AFP; Miss Lyse M. Doulet, BBC; Mr. Blaine Harden, Washington Post;. Mr Charles Powers, Los Angeles Times; Mr. Larry James, US State Department; Ben Asante, Africa Now; Richard Everett, A.P.; Claude Regin, A.R.; Sonja Pace James, VOA; and Peter Blackburn.

I hope this letter clarifies the issue.

Patrick E. Kugmeh,

Press Secretary to the Head of State, Monrovia, Liberia.


CONGRATULATIONS! I must say that it has been two years of successful journalism under your able editorship. I will agree with you that it has been a painful, but worthy experience unincidental to your profession, because this experience is borne out of responsibility to society. It must have been years of turbulence - the anguish of writing the truth about events and people you would normally have cheered, notwithstanding the severity of the situation or status of the personalities involved.

Those of us outside the realm of journalism saw in the last two years how the Talking Drums exalted itself in the propaganda for an egalitarian society, particularly the African continent. I acknowledge in sincerity the audacious comments and publications of your magazine about Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia - countries whose leaders had or are exhibiting high indignation toward establishment of legitimate and a constitutional government. Fortunately, the situation in Nigeria has taken a new dimension with the emergence of Major- General Ibrahim Babangida as the President and Head of State. Although change of leadership in Nigeria in recent times has become an ephemeral phenomenon because the aspirations of the people (whether promised or assumed) had never been met; it is hoped that President Babangida will make himself an exception.

Your success has been (a) advancing consciousness of citizens of autocratic or authoritarian countries; (b) with reference to (a) above, so that the citizens will be responsive to bad leadership in a drive in the direction towards constitutional government. These, I consider as remarkable achievements of your maga- zine the Talking Drums. It had beaten messages into the ear-drums of many nations.

Though belated, please accept my hearty congratulations on the 2nd anniversary of Talking Drums. More grease to your elbows.

Peter Kaigama, Zaria, Nigeria

Stop this human waste and destruction

Forgive the poor designer for he knows not whose toes he treads. Some of the leaders in Africa still think that the African is a fool who always delights in ostentatious anti-western utterances. The time has gone when African leaders shouted at "the arch enemy" colonialism and Imperialism and the masses yelled. The African people know that all these verbose vituperations of some so-called leaders of the like of Ethiopian Leader and J.J. Rawlings of Ghana are only empty utterances. These leaders and their socialist masters from the Communist world have deceived the African people with all sorts of promises of economic recovery betterment of the plights of the poor.

Whilst the masses continue to suffer the economy worsens and the leaders live in their conspiratorial dens surrounded by an army of terrorist defenders who live as good as themselves. It is high time these leaders from Ghana, Upper Volta, Ethiopia and Libya were made to see the wisdom which has dawned on Kaunda and Nyerere, who decades ago introduced socialist philosophy and economy, and brought their countries into ruins.

Not long ago, Rawlings of Ghana was condemning America bitterly and the Western countries. He sent his comrade in arms Tsikata and Finance Secretary Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, globe-trotting in the Eastern bloc for assistance which never came. What they got was advice and measures to suppress and terrorize the people. Thousands of Ghanaians perished because of hunger, hundreds were either executed or just vanished. At no time in the history of Ghana did so many people die because of "one person's bright ideas"; not even when Gold Coast was under the Imperial British rule.

But when everything failed he turned with begging hands to the West. Today things are as bad as they were and for which thousands have sacrificed their lives, hundreds murdered by his terrorist squad and he lives in the Castle which he once condemned as the seat of perpetuation of corruption and mis- management. Some African leaders have no shame and principles.

The problem in Africa is not that the "white man raped" the continent 25 years ago. To a large extent the incompetent leaders use guns and terrorism to suppress their kith and kin. They like to experiment with not only the faith of the people and the nations but of the continent. The "white man" is paying indeed for all his omissions in that continent, giving aid and food to dying millions, except for the Southern part.

African leaders must realise that "no single person in the world must rule". It is in the African himself that Africa is suffering. It is a bitter truth. Africa and her leaders must do some serious soul-searching, analyse the plight of the continent and for goodness sake be honest and human for their people have only one LIFE.

Ghanaba, Marion, Ohio, USA.

In search of a better democracy?

I sometimes wonder why people find it difficult to learn from mistakes of the past. After four eventful years the PNDC now says it is collecting views from Ghanaians towards a better system of democracy, viable and more reflective to Ghanaians.

It is my opinion that the PNDC with Rawlings is an idealistic government caught in its own web of confused ideas of what Ghana should be.

They told us the people will participate in the decision-making process. In pursuit of this the PDC and WDC were formed to guarantee the rights of ordinary people, but the system failed totally. In spite of all this, Justice Annan, a member of the PNDC was chosen to lead National Commission of Democracy, to collect and collate people's views on a new form of government for Ghanaians. The speeches made by Rawlings, Tsikata, and Annan on Democracy show that all is not well with them and the country. If the meaning and understanding of Democracy are herculean tasks to the PNDC then the earlier they quit, the better.

Nyame Quaye, Heilbronn, W. Germany.

TOUCH OF NOKOKO and WHISPERING DRUMS will be back next week



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