Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

What The Papers Say

National Concord, Nigeria, Nov. 26, 1985

Beyond the Geneva summit

The eagerly awaited inaugural two-day super-power summit between US President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev came to a surprisingly cordial conclusion in Geneva last week.

Although the joint communique issued on the final day of the talks did not contain a significant breakthrough on the crucial problem of disarmament, it appears that both leaders have finally embarked on the long and tortuous road in search of world peace.

In the comunique, the two leaders pledged to speed up the ongoing nuclear and space arms limitation negotiations, calling for rapid progress in the areas where there was a possible convergence of views. One of such areas is the principle of a 50 per cent reduction in the nuclear stock-pile of the United States and the Soviet Union.

Clearly, the most heart-warming outcome of the summit was the agreement that another super-power summit would be convened next year, as a means of improving "US-Soviet relations and the international situation as a whole."

It is convenient for the super-powers to continually fan the flames of internecine conflict in the Third World, because such artificial theatres of war provide both a testing ground for their armaments industries.

Between 1980 and 1983, for instance, African countries spent a total of $2.5 billion on arms alone, at the very time when the standard of life of the average African fell to their 1970 levels. Strikingly, 38 percent of these arms purchases were from the United States and 30 per cent from the Soviet Union.

To complete the incredible chain of absurdity, even countries in the throes of starvation, like Ethiopia and Somalia spend millions of dollars annually on arms, purportedly in defence of an impoverished and dehumanised population.

Another area of concern is the growing presence of foreign military personnel on African and indeed Third World soil.

The United States maintains bases and other field facilities in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and Somalia, facilities used to keep watch on the African people and their leaders; the Soviet Union on its part has military sales agreements with 21 African nations, while her "advisers" and "technicians" are serving in over 16 nations. France, with her network of military installations in West AFrica, intervenes in African affairs as a matter of routine.

The situation has become desperate. As the world spends the inhuman fact that there are more soldiers in the world today nearly $850 billion on arms every year, we are forced to ponder than doctors or engineers or, indeed, teachers, As we daily witness the traumatising spectacle of death, disease and illiteracy in the world, we are also confronted with the gruesome fact that the cost of a new prototype bomber equals the price of 50,000 tractors, or 75 fully-equipped 100-bed hospitals, or 30 science faculties, each with 1,000 students. Clearly, we have taken collective leave of our senses.

Those are the facts, ugly as they are, which must pre-occupy all the leaders of a so-called civilised world community, not just the heads of state of its superpowers.

The history of summits does not make good reading. Indeed, such summits very often result in the big powers surreptitiously carving up the rest of the world, While we congratulate President Reagan and Chairman Gorbachev for their effort, we believe it is time for a broader discussion, involving the leaders of all nations whose people are affected by decisions made at the summits.

Free Press, Ghana, November 15, 1985

When Ghanaians keep quiet

Ghanaians are an interesting people when it comes to how they react to situations. Kwame Nkrumah, the man who ruled Gold Coast Ghana longer than any other leader probably never fathomed out the real feelings of Ghanaians.

In exile, he came to the conclusion that Ghanaians are slow to anger.

Ghanaians indeed are slow to show their true character thus often deceiving leaders as to their real mood. From letters we receive, some anonymous, and some signed with a proviso that names are withheld on publication, we happen to know that Ghanaians are not too happy with the present state of affairs.

Without necessarily blaming the present leadership for the state of affairs, these reactions indicate clearly that people are disenchanted with an accumulated economic system that means a worker cannot rely on his salary but must resort to other means fair and foul.

We can show letters again from readers indicating their frus- tration with the political system, which leaves the majority of the people outside the mainstream of political activity.

The FREE PRESS has constantly shown its non-acceptance of a situation in which people are detained without trial and we tell new weapons technology and a ready market for their you that many Ghanaians including even those in high places have expressed their dissatisfaction with this trend in Ghana's history.

That Kankam da Costa has been inside detention since 1982 is a situation that all condemn. Of course, it is only in secrecy that these thoughts, these complaints are aired freely but never in the open.

Consequently to speak out on fundamental issues like these is to be listed as a lunatic fighting the windmill. To us in the FREE PRESS, silence when a mild form of complaint is a matter of course is not a healthy sign.

What we regard as healthy is an open discussion of social, political and economic problems. If we ruled Ghana, we would require that people speak out rather than keep to their inner selves.

Invariably that display of silence when protest is expected is not golden. Beneath the silence often lurks a destructive disposition.

The FREE PRESS since its establishment has always been known for its forthrightness which often displeases some people but the paper is of an opinion that it is better to openly criticise than to tread in the corridors or conspiracy where men's silence only hides the treacherous dagger.

Thus in the PNP's era, the FREE PRESS constantly waged its own press battle in order to make all the parties live up to their responsibilities.

This role did not terminate with the advent of the PNDC and at so many risks in a country were many prefer the comfort and safety of silence, the FREE PRESS continues to ask questions when they should be asked.

It is necessary that the press plays this role of questioning since without that role, men in power get drunk, get corrupted and begin to take their commitment and responsibilities for granted.

Of course, it has always been human nature to reject the critical lens and analysis of another institution. Consequently, men read all kinds of interpretation to the role of the press, but we of the FREE PRESS would rather voice our opinions, our criticisms and praises openly rather than in secrecy.

talking drums 1985-12-09 educating women for progress