Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Why is Africa being neglected?

By Ben Mensah

AFRICAN problems were only brought up when the Americans realised that they were being upstaged by the new Soviet leadership with dramatic proposals on arms reduction.
After meeting and talking to each other during a two-day summit in Geneva, the leaders of the world's two most powerful nations, President Reagan of USA and Comrade Gorbachov of the USSR proclaimed the world a safer place to live in.

In general terms, the summit was adjudged a success by almost every analyst on it. On specific achievements of the Summit however, the analysts had their reservations. Africa's specific link to the summit discussions was limited to Angola and Ethiopia which the Americans had Included in the agenda as a convenient topic on which they expected to needle the Russians on their foreign policy.

Since the summit ended with the world being declared a safer place, the peoples of these two African countries have not seen signs of let up in the wars between government forces and Eritrean or UNITA forces in Ethiopia and Angola respectively. To the Ethiopians and Angolans and indeed all Africans, the significance of the Reagan-Gorbachov summit declaration can only be apprecia- ted if it is manifestly seen that less resources are now being invested in the arms race between the Americans and Russians resulting in substantial a increase in the level of economic aid to the poor countries.

Again they would be in a position to appreciate the meaning of the 'safer world' if they were made to take part in the decisions that make the world either safe or dangerous. And this is why it is regrettable that the African voice is always shunted to the background of international discussions and African interests are regarded as supplementary to the problems of other continents.

Proof of this can be found in the genesis and organisation of the Reagan-Gorba- chov summit. Originally the two leaders were going to talk about the arms race between the East and West.

Since these two blocks comprised countries in both East and West of Europe, the Europeans were necessarily brought into the planning towards the summit. While President Reagan conferred with his allies in Washington, General Secretary Gorbachov also met with his comrades in Sofia to plan their strategies.

From reported accounts, countries with massive populations, such as China and India were regrettably not consulted in the preparations towards the summit but Japan's active role in the series of meetings which preceded the summit compensated for the lack of Asia's active involvement in the summit preparations. Above all, the constant flow of statements from officials of both the American and Russian camps left no doubts about the importance attached to the strategic and economic position of Asia by the superpowers.

This scenario left Africa as the only continent known to have played no part in the preparations leading to the Reagan/ Gorbachov summit. As for the topics to be discussed it was only when the Ameri- cans realised that they were being upstaged by the new Soviet leadership with dramatic proposals on arms reduction that they decided to bring on to the agenda African issues such as Angola and Ethiopia alongside Afghanistan.

Painful as it is, this is the sad attitude adopted towards the African plight in international relations which leads one to pray that just as the success of Comrade Gorbachov's public relations drive was instrumental in getting the Americans to remember some of the problems of Africa during their recent summit the current storm brewing in the Philippines which has aroused American concern shall also arouse the same feelings in the Americans over Liberia.

The Americans are no doubt aware that the threat of a communist take over in Liberia exists only in the imagination of Gen. Doe and therefore have not adopted the same posture as is being exerted on President Marcos of the Philippines.

The Philippines under President Ferdinand Marcos is a country condemned by the Americans as having a tyrannical, inept and corrupt administration. The opposition to President Marcos is classified communist and fear of their eventual triumph has prompted the Americans to pressure the government to change track and initiate reforms that would win back popular support for the President. Dealing with a corrupt, brutal and ineffective leadership in the Philippines the Americans have not concealed their intentions and may be willing to intervene against President Marcos if he fails to heed their warning. Why haven't the Americans done the same in Liberia under Gen Doe?

This General Doe took power by force of arms in 1980 when he was a Master Sergeant in the Liberian armed forces. In the process he executed not less than eight of the overthrown political leaders and has held on to power till now. To win support for his coup from his compatriots and also the international community, he immediately promised to organise elections to instal a civilian administration. He would have reneged on his pledge but for the widespread demonstrations of discontent with his government by the various sections of the Liberian society which made it impossible for him to do so.

Today Gen Doe stands accused of economic mismanagement, corruption, muzzling of the press, trampling on the fundamental rights of individuals, threatening aca- demic freedom and all the other evils associated with dictatorial and incompetent regimes.

The Americans are no doubt aware that the threat of a communist takeover in malpractices and there was overwhelming evidence that the results were rigged.

In all these years, Gen Doe's government has been sustained by economic assistance from the Americans. To retain this source of finance, Gen Doe resorted to the common ploy of labelling the opposition to his rule as being communists.

The Americans are now doubt aware that the threat of a communist takeover in Liberia exists only in the imagination of Gen Doe and therefore have not adopted the same posture as is being exerted on President Marcos of the Philippines.

But it is equally preposterous that the Americans have turned a blind eye to Gen Doe's determination to thwart the popular yearning for Liberia to return to civilian rule. Why have they issued a statement regretting the Late Gen Quiwonkpa's attempt to remove Gen Doe from office?

It is such official statements which tend to hurt the feelings of the large majority of African nationalists who believe that their genuine problems are not attended to by their alleged friends in the developed countries, and particularly in America, in much the same way as the problems of others.

talking drums 1985-12-09 educating women for progress