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Opinions of Sunday, 20 January 2008

Columnist: Agbodza, Kwami

Free Market Legacy of John Jerry Rawlings

Let us give it to Daniel Pryce. His Free Market History of Ghana will fool a lot of people. There is no doubt. It is a brilliant piece that rewrites the anti-democratic free market narrative arguing that because we have Free Market in Ghana let us forgive ‘sins’. All constitutional lawlessness is okay it appears as long as it is in the service of the free market. We must allow anyone to hide the violent free market legacy of Rawlings in the name of forgiveness lest we forget.
Daniel Pryce wants Ghanaians to believe that the Free Market history of Ghana can be re-written by splitting Rawlings’ personality into separate compartments. He wants us to forgive Rawlings because whatever he did at least he shunned Marxist-Leninist leanings “in favour of a free-market system, and the latter’s associated concept of private ownership of property.” Never mind that the democratisation of markets (democratic overthrow of the free-market in Ghana), its associated fair trade (democratic overthrow of free trade) and the abolition of private property, much of it stolen by corrupt means, may unleash wealth for all in Ghana! All these are set aside in praise of the free market and private property ownership.
Moreover he continues, “his eventual “transformation” into a civilian leader finally brightened his legacy in his home nation and abroad. As a modern statesman, the Ghanaian strongman must continue to promote democracy and freedom in his own country, as well as other troubled spots around the globe. Soon, Ghana will be fortunate to have two ex-presidents, and the nation must forgive their “sins” and embrace them unreservedly.” We note word “their” added to sins. Does Daniel know something we do not know?
So if Rawlings must continue to promote democracy and freedom in other troubled spots of the world, is that before or after the Free Market shock therapy? If the Free Market promotes trouble on a global scale how can it also bring democracy and freedom? Many, it appears continue to delude themselves, that democracy and freedom go together with the free market. A cursory example such as what happened to the poultry or rice markets are conveniently set aside. No market in Ghana is exempt. The evidence shows that it is the free market that is anti-Democracy and anti-Freedom. But why does Daniel Pryce not see this? It is because, he has separated the evils of Rawlings’ PNDC regime from the imposition of anti-democratic economic policies on Ghana. In fact he conveniently eliminates the whole era of anti-democratic economic policies from the history of Ghana from 1983-1992.
But the Daniel Pryces in the world must note something. They must note that ready though there are many to forgive Rawlings, they refuse to be hoodwinked by such reasons. If we accept the reasons they give we shall be inflicting further psychological horizontal violence on ourselves. Tomorrow another Rawlings will rise to impose further anti-democratic free market ideas on Ghanaians. And instead of holding them to account in law, we shall be praising them.
The free market legacy of Rawlings is that the majority of Ghanaians remain poor despite 20 years in office. After 8 years of NPP rule, in which both Paa Kwesi Ndoum and Akuffo-Addo served, Ghanaians remain poor. The average Ghanaian born in 1979 has remained poor at the age of 28 today. Rawlings entrenched Free Market economics in Ghana and handed it over to the NPP regime, which helped him to solidify the free market under PNDC in which he Rawlings and Kufour both served. Does this explain why Daniel wants us to forgive “their” sins? Today Free Market Liberals in the NDC and Free Market Conservatives in NPP both contest which of them is better able to manage the Free Market in Ghana.
So let us remind ourselves of the evils of Rawlings Free Market regime, while at the same time separating the AFRC from the PNDC, just so we are all clear of one thing. What is that?
It is this: all the acts of Rawlings were carried out in order to anti-democratically impose the IMF-World Bank Free Market anti-democratic economic policies on Ghanaians. That was the purpose. Once that is clear, so is everything else. You cannot separate the acts from the policy goal.
So let us recall only some of the Free Market acts of Rawlings: (1) unleashing atrocities on fellow citizens; (2) traders and farmers forced to sell their goods at low prices; (3) the Makola market in Accra was razed to the ground, (4) eight generals were executed; (5) public floggings; (6) middle of the night disappearances; (7) deposing a constitutionally mandated leader; (8) Setting up the illegal Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC); (9) blaming the Limann administration for not finding “quick fix” Free Market solutions to nation’s socio-economic woes; (10) deliberately de-linking empty stomachs from ideology, economics and the rule of law: “Don’t ask me about ideology or economic programme. I don’t know any law and I don’t understand economics, but I know it when my stomach is empty?”; (11) suspended the constitution, banned political parties, detained party leaders, and took a number of extra-legal actions; (12) Okutwer Bekoe III carried human excreta; (13) the murders of three High Court judges (one was female) and a retired army officer on June 30, 1982.
These acts of Rawlings are the same the world over whether in other parts of Africa (1960s onwards), Latin America (1970s onwards), China (1980s), Russia (1990s) or Iraq (2000s). It is not because Rawlings was insane or stupid and he is no worse than General Pinochet or the Chinese Communist Party or Boris Yeltsin, who bombed Parliament. All did what they did for the Free Market.
The Free Market knows no law beyond its own interests and will murder, stage coups, falsely imprison citizens, torture civilians and commit all atrocities prohibited even by common human decency and international law, conventions and agreements as long as it promotes the organised interest of the Free Market. How do you explain a Central Banker being given a continental award in the midst of national corruption and pervasive poverty? Is it not only the Free Market that can create an economic order in which a few enjoy the highest standards of life while the majority live in poverty? We were all once told that its communism and socialism that creates poverty. When free market and private poverty come, there will be trickle down of wealth for all. Where on this earth has this Free Market utopia happened? Even in Free Market America Blacks continue to live in poverty. And instead of sharing in the wealth that their forefathers’ created they are imprisoned on a mass scale by, guess what, yes! Decentralised Free Market prisons.
So, let us not forgive Rawlings for subjecting the Ghanaian economy to the self-interest of the Free Market. And if Rawlings wants the forgiveness of Ghanaians he must at once give up the largest proportion of his acquired wealth to the Ghanaians he impoverished and spend the rest of his life doing all he can to reverse the iron grip of the Free Market which he enabled on Ghana. At least he is alive now and can atone for his “sins” thus; he must ask for his own forgiveness through “acts” of restitution.
And because Daniel Pryce has de-linked free market economics from politics, democracy and the rule of law, he asks rhetorical questions such as “How did the destruction of the market make sense economically?” “So then, what was really the justification for the overthrow of the popularly elected government of Dr. Hilla Limann?” Daniel then adds “What insanity”. As if they knew in advance, we are told that “with the impending collapse of the Soviet Union and the futility of Marxist-Leninist ideology in solving the nation’s socio-economic woes, Ghana had no choice but to turn to the West for assistance.” But he does not tell us that that decision was an anti-democratic decision taken by a regime that had no democratic mandate from Ghanaians. Ghanaians never asked Rawlings to turn to the West for assistance. He then adds, “and grudgingly, the PNDC agreed to reform its economic policies, partially culminating in the government’s willingness to hold multiparty elections in 1992.”
He forgot to mention that this was after implementing the anti-democratic Free Market economic policies and only after the Free Market was sure its policies could not be reversed did they allow elections. This was why “Taking off his military uniform, Rawlings created legitimacy for himself when he participated in and won the 1992 elections. It is this post-1992 Rawlings that most people have great admiration for, as his other stints in the nation’s top seat were via coercion and authoritarianism! Counting on his charisma and capacity to captivate large audiences, Rawlings was re-elected in 1996 to serve a second four-year term.” For his services to the Free Market the West flocked to thank him from UK and USA amongst others. Even Clinton’s national security advisor said: “We have to demystify Africa for Americans. We have a one-dimensional view of the ‘Dark Continent’ and there is a sea [of] change going on there” (Washington Post, 1998). That is true; the CIA working with Anti-democrats made sure there was Free Market change through violence in a peaceful nation. And once that irreversible change was in place it was necessary to promote Ghana and Africa.
It is the Free Market that has imposed tyranny and one-man dictatorships in Ghana and Africa. It is the Free Market that toppled Hilla Limann. It is the free market that ensures that progressive policies in the interest of Ghanaians are never implemented. It is the Free Market that ensures people everywhere yearning to be free, to determine their own destinies, and to freely choose their own progressive leaders are prevented from doing so. It is the same story in Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Venezuela, Iraq or Palestine.

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