Ghana's newly elected president, Hilla Limann, faces a troubled future of food shortages and a tottering economy when he takes control from the young military officers currently running the country.
In an apparent attempt to appease Ghana's military rulers, Limann announced today on Accra Radio that he would continue the "housecleaning" begun three weeks ago by the ruling Armed Forces Revolutionary Council.
Whether the officers and Limann will rule jointly or the 45-year-old retired diplomat will have to wait in the wings until the government hands over power - which it has promised to do Oct. 1 - remains to be determined.
In the meantime, Limann's main concern will be emergency measures to halt a reportedly spreading famine.
The young officers and privates of the Revolutionary Council, led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, 32, overthrew their senior officers in a coup June 4.They accused their superiors of corruption and "tarnishing the image" of the armed forces.
Rawlings has said the coup was done to "clean house" by sending corrupt top ranks of the military before firing squads and ending rampant corruption.
Since the coup, eight senior officers, including three former heads of state, have been executed. But 12 days ago Rawlings said the executions would stop "in view of the respect for human rights."
Rawlings' announcement followed intense pressure by Ghana's West Affrican neighbors, such as the Ivory Coast, Upper Volta, and Togo. Nigeria, which supplies 80 percent of Ghana's oil, cut off shipments to protest the executions.
Even if Nigeria resumes deliveries, the underlying cause of the coup, Ghana's economic plight will be difficult to solve.
The burden will most likely fall on Limann, who is newcomer to politics. The Revolutionary Council has shown little interest in the country's economic predicament besides weeding out accused "nation wreckers" and halting price gouging by merchants.
"It will take three to five years of a tight austerity budget to stabilize [Ghana's] economy," said one knowledgeable source in Accra.
Since 1972, successive military governments have mismanaged and "ripped off" the Ghanaian economy "while most of the people here just quietly suffered," he said.
Production of Ghana's major revenue earner, cocoa, has dropped from 650,000 tons a year to 264,000 tons a year.
"Sixteen percent of that is smuggled out of the country" by farmers seeking hard currency, one source said.
In March, the Bank of Ghana reported a deficit of $12.4 million, and the country's foreign exchange position is perilous.
"We are going to be short of meat, wheat and a few other essential imports for some time," Lt. Rawlings told a crowd of university students a week ago.
"Our revolution was not meant to bring hardship to the people of Ghana," Rawlings told the students, who had just demonstrated at the American, British and Nigerian embassies in protest over those counties' complaints about the executions.
"On the contrary," Rawlings said, the revolution "was meant to relieve theri hardships. If in the light of that objective we have to reassess our revolution, it should not be misconstrued to be a loss of revolutionary fervor."
Shortly after the coup, Rawlings publicly told members of Ghana's incoming civilian government that the armed forces would not tolerate again the pervasive corruption that has marked Ghana's previous military and civilian governments.
The newly elected Limann, who won a runoff election Monday, did not say in his broadcast how he would continue the Revolutionary Council's anticorruption campaign.
limann said his government had no intention of disbanding Ghana's Army and would help armed the forces up its image. Now that the elections are over, Limann added, "serious attention" would be given to Ghana's growing food shortage.