Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Africa: Learning to live with our problems

by Kofi Andoh

1985 was a bad year for Africa, particularly West Africa. Will 1986 be any different? The portents are ominous as here by Kofi Andoh. pointed out
One month into the new year, Africa is still in tatters and hungry. Its politics is still in the backwoods and its economy, like its politics, still maintains only a semblance of life by plodding along on the few crumbs that fall down from the dinner tables of its erstwhile colonial masters. The internal politics of countries on the continent manifest all the traits of cavemen charm.

Indeed, from the beginning of the year just gone, and even a long time before that. it had become quite clear to those who rely on rationality and dialogue as humane means of solving problems, the African leadership and more particularly West African leaders, had become unusually attached to caveman politics in solving problems. Thus in the year gone we were made to realise wholly that the only human way to rule hungry people is to incarcerate, torture and annihilate opponents who differed in opinions and attitudes to government. The sight of dying children in Chad, Sudan, Mali and Ethiopia, did not, in the least, move the black African leader.

From all indications, both political and economic and as events proved, West Africa fared badly in 1985. In terms of stability and continuity, the former British colonies in the sub-region came a poor second to their French brothers. In fact, the political inadequacies of the English- speaking countries have become all too evident and in spite of their immense potential they are being forced to borrow leaves from the books of their French-speaking brothers.

In Nigeria, the circus act continued. Buhari lost his seat to Babangida and Africa's huge elephant running around on the feet of clay was set on course for economic and political rejuvenation. All that is, if Babangida is as sincere and committed to his utterances.

Apart from The Gambia, which still moves as an appendage of Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone all offered instructive lessons in cavemen charm. Indeed, it is a reflection of a sad commentary on the role played by Britain in the colonial development of these countries that they all appear quite incapable of governing themselves and managing their economic affairs.

Is it a fair comment that the British deliberately played the role of the plunderer? That is arguable but it is a sad realisation that, since 1957, when the first of the countries, Ghana, attained inde- pendence, these countries have developed an unenviable penchant for instability and gross economic mismanagement.

On an individual basis, Liberia, that is America's Liberia, was cursed with an all- conquering General, Commander Doe, who is fast-acquiring a reputation as an 80's Idi Amin. He succeeded in making a fool of himself and his country before the world. His rule is an unmitigated disaster, a revolution that has lost its moorings. 1985 exposed his inadequacies as a soldier and a leader of men. He is so myopic that he fails to realise that those who the gods want to destroy...It would take a miracle for him to survive 1986.

Doe's counterpart, Ghana's Flight- Lieutenant Rawlings, "performed" better than expected. Aided by forces of nature and loans from sources he had earlier denounced and condemned in ungentlemanly tones, he was, for once, able to raise up his head in public and declare pompously to Ghanaians: "I gave you food." Notwithstanding his attachment to cavemen politics, his popularity, that is, if he has any, did not suffer much in 1985. Not that he had abandoned those practices of murdering his fellow Ghanaians, but that in 1985 the death list was insignificant as compared to previous years.

Towards the end of the year, pure chance and luck helped to shore up his credentials as a "Messiah" - the Soussoudis-CIA - affair and the arrest of a high-ranking official of the Ghana Democratic Movement, J.H. Mensah, in the US.

In Nigeria, the circus act continued. Buhari lost his seat to Babangida and Africa's huge elephant running around on the feet of clay was set on course for economic and political rejuvenation. All that is, if Babangida is as sincere and committed to his utterances, as he appears to be, and if the spirit of indiscipline in the country's politics and economy have been stemmed.

No one seemed to remember Siaka Stevens and his successor General Momoh much. After all, it was the same act with different performers. But outside government, Siaka Stevens stole the limelight. The man who handed over his crown to General Momoh, was reported to have lost a briefcase containing $35,000, £6,500, 600,000 pesetas and lots more, on holiday in Las Palmas. Ill-gotten gains have got a way of disappearing fast. So now, we all know the red herring behind his resignation to spend his wealth in the exotic places. What a sad day for Africa! General Momoh, for all his claim to probity and accountability in government, will be seen to be sincere if he brings Siaka Stevens to book.

Nearer home, Togo, still poor and undeveloped, makes a pathetic sight. Togo still is, as has always been Lome. Remove Lome and there is no Togo. So when allegedly Ghanaian engineered explosions rocked Lome, Eyadema was quick to act. He bluntly told Ghana to put a stop to the explosions or face the consequences. Though Ghana disclaims any complicity, there appears to be an unprecedented strain in relations between the two nations.

In spite of his successes as a ruler, plunderer and defender of French institutions in West Africa, Houphouet-Boigny is still the most reactionary African leader and it should not surprise many, because the man is French first, Ivorian second and African third.

In Gambia, President Jawara seems secure after the last last attempt to dislodge him. His grand idea of forming a con- federation with Senegal though is a step in the path pf continental unity would not work. Like in Europe, the French hardly understand the English. Senegal is French and Gambia is English. France still keeps its fingers on the pulse of Senegal and would like to see Senegal swallow up Gambia, the minor partner.

On Christmas Day, war broke out between Burkina Faso and Mali, a sacrilegious act against the Christian faith. But the two nations are predominantly moslem, so they could be excused. The sad aspect of the whole experience however is that these two nations are among the poorest in the world. So two hungry nations, none possessing the wherewithal for full-scale military confederation, favoured war as a means of solving their problems!

On the Pan African front, the Organisation of African Unity demonstrated its lack of direction and orientation. Its problems threatened to swallow up the organisation and it spent the whole of 1985 merely electing a new Secretary-General. Chad, SADR, Eritrea, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and South Africa were all in pending trays.

An issue that really hurt African sensibilities and pride in 1985 was the European identification of AIDS with Africa. For once, most African media were united in their attempt to prove the lie in this assumption. They were quick to point out that AIDS was not an African- originated disease designed to eliminate Europeans and the West in general from the forefront of world development and civilisation, and pave the way for Black assertion and supremacy. For Africa, one hopes that the disease does not find its way there, what with our appalling record of health care and delivery systems. It would be the end of the Black race.

On the whole, it was a bad year. The sub- region sank low. Will 1986 be any different? The portents are quite ominous. Liberia seems doomed with Gen Doe, Nigeria is a long way from economic salvation, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Togo, Burkina, Gambia and Mali are still hungry, Chad is still at war. But like the Bible says: "Our help cometh from the hills. .The sub-region is still living in interesting times.”

talking drums 1986-02-10 IMF dictates to Ghana - Inflation - Devaluation - Commonwealth Games