|Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings and Colonel Gadaffi in Accra, Ghana|
Accra, Ghana 1979
It’s 1979. I am 16 years old and, like everyone else in the country, I have been eating sour, weevil-infested, fermented rice for the past five years. It is the rice no-one else wants, and the only rice the country can afford to import. The army generals have plundered the country’s meagre savings and now, in the immediate aftermath of Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings’ bloody revolution, there is no money left at all.
We have no foreign exchange and we’re a small country in a region blighted by coup d’etats and tribal sectarianism.
We’re on our own. Nobody cares.
Not quite true. One man with an acute sense of social justice, President of a large, oil rich, desert nation in the distant north of Africa, steps into our fraught and miserable situation.
He flies south across the Sahara in his private military jet and, in his immaculate all-white safari suit, cuts a cheque for several million dollars. Gratis!
Now, our new government can buy rice from Korea. In comparison to what we’ve had, it’s Uncle Ben’s Long Grain.
We’re all profoundly grateful. We were on our knees in humid, choking darkness. Suddenly, there’s a shaft of light, a cool breeze, and this charismatic chieftain is the revered name on everyone’s lips.
Thirty two years later. A final, brutal end to his catastrophic time in power leaves me wondering just how it all went so wrong.