Tuesday, June 04, 2024

AFRC Member

Apparently he was the father of the soul singer
The evening's main attraction, it was her release party
She was premiering her latest album at Citizen Kofi
But all I would remember was that he was an AFRC member

Fit, even at his age, a tall man in his sixties
Standing there, we were exchanging pleasantries
Accra's finest, we all waited for the artist
Then, unprompted: "I was a member of the AFRC."

Deep breath. He should know better, shouldn't he?
Looked him up and down, you should tread easily
But you couldn't help the now-sharp arch of your eyebrow
You replied, "Those were tough days. We are much freer now."

"Some of us would like to bring those days back."
He really didn't realize that you were taken aback
You lowered your head. Drew on your well of diplomacy
The other two exchanged looks. He repeated: "AFRC"

Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, that blasted acronym
To uphold it as a badge of honor was really quite surprising
For most of us, it meant fear, upheaval, and terror
Blood and arbitrary sin dispensed in equal measure

There was no denying
   that the present situation was awkward
You kept your counsel,
   there were so many things that you could have said
But, well, his lot were the ones
   who gifted us the culture of silence
After inflicting on us a tyrannical reign of relentless violence

If those days were indeed back,
   no doubt there would be a curfew
We'd be stuck at home listening to martial music on the radio
Back then, the only ones with curfew passes
   were AFRC members
I guess he was envisioning a smaller event for his daughter

Was he one of the soldiers who raided houses in the evening?
Or was he rather one of the ones that ordered the beatings?
Still, the name didn't ring a bell, he didn't look familiar
Was he one of the intellectuals who gave them cover?

Revolution, they said, his cohort of murderous cronies
Destroying all nightlife, culture, and much economic activity
It has taken thirty years to recover from their disruption
And, even now, the soul of our society is a pale imitation

My cousin smiled stoically,
   reveling in the silence as she observed the man
Next to her stood my uncle, same age perhaps,
   a worldly businessman
He nodded, at a rare loss for words,
  for even with his smoothness, he couldn't deal
Never mentioned that they'd been forced into exile by this crew,
   forced to rebuild

The amnesty they gave themselves
   is the only reason this guy wouldn't be in a jail cell
Instead of standing there
   expounding blithely, as he was, full of himself
It was hard to take, those years
   when all we could do was bear witness
We're freer now but we still bite our tongue
   out of simian politeness

So: "I'm a big fan, you must be proud,
   she's done well, your daughter"
There was nothing left to say,
   we moved on amidst the nervous laughter
Later, she came and sang a short set,
   her voice ever delicate and tender
But all I would remember of that night
   was that he was an AFRC member

military we are cleaning the society - trampling on their backs talking drums september 1984

AFRC Member, a playlist

A countrywoman, Rhian Benson, does the honors for this soundtrack. (spotify version)
They put us through a lot. Never again.

See also: June 4th, The Wages of Thermidor, and Truth and Reconciliation

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Writing log. Concept: December 31, 2010. April 19, 2022

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