Nkrumah and Ghana’s independence struggle
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Published Oct 4, 2009 11:30 PM
According to the history books, 100 years ago on Sept. 21, 1909, Kwame Nkrumah,
the founder and leader of the African independence movement and the foremost
advocate of Pan-Africanism during his time, was born in the western Nzima
region of the Gold Coast, later known as the independent state of Ghana.
Nkrumah was the first head of state of an independent post-colonial nation in
Africa south of the Sahara, after he led Ghana to national liberation under the
direction of the Convention Peoples Party in 1957. Educated at the historically
Black college of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, Nkrumah became involved in
the Pan-African movement in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s as a
leading member of the African Students Association, the Council on African
Affairs, as well as other organizations.
After leaving the United States at the conclusion of World War II in 1945, he
played a leading role in convening the historic Fifth Pan-African Congress in
Manchester, England—a gathering that many credit with laying the
foundation for the mass struggles for independence during the 1940s and
During his stay in England from 1945 to 1947, he collaborated with George
Padmore of Trinidad, a veteran activist in the international communist movement
and a journalist who wrote extensively on African affairs. Nkrumah was offered
a position with the United Gold Coast Convention as an organizer in late 1947
and made the critical decision to return to the Gold Coast to assist in the
anti-colonial struggle that was intensifying in the aftermath of World War
After being imprisoned with other leaders of the UGCC for supposedly inciting
unrest among veterans, workers and farmers in the colony, he gained widespread
popularity among the people, who responded enthusiastically to his militant and
fiery approach to the burgeoning anti-imperialist movement. After forming the
Committee on Youth Organization, which became the best organized segment of the
UGCC, Nkrumah was later isolated from the top leadership of the Convention, who
objected to his demands for immediate political independence for the Gold
On June 12, 1949, Nkrumah and the CYO formed the Convention Peoples Party in
Accra, Ghana, at a mass gathering of tens of thousands of people. They were
prepared to launch a mass struggle for the abolition of British colonial rule
over the Gold Coast. During this same period, Nkrumah formed links with other
anti-colonial and Pan-African organizations that were operating in other
colonies of West Africa. When the CPP called for a Positive Action Campaign in
early 1950, leading to massive strikes and rebellion throughout the colony,
Nkrumah was imprisoned by the colonial authorities for sedition.
The executive members of the CPP continued to press for the total independence
of the colony, eventually creating conditions for a popular election in 1951
that the CPP won overwhelmingly. In February 1951, Nkrumah was released from
prison in Ghana and appointed Leader of Government Business in a transitional
arrangement that eventually led to the independence of Ghana on March 6,
Vision of Pan-Africanism, socialism
At the independence gathering on March 6, Nkrumah—now prime
minister—declared that Ghana’s independence was meaningless unless
it was directly linked with the total liberation of the continent. This
statement served as the cornerstone of Ghanaian foreign policy during
Nkrumah’s tenure as leader of the country.
George Padmore became the official advisor on African affairs, and was placed
in charge of the Bureau of African Affairs, whose task was to assist other
national liberation movements on the continent in their efforts to win
political independence. In April 1958, the First Conference of Independent
African States was convened, with eight nation-states as participants. This
gathering broke down the colonially imposed divisions between Africa north and
south of the Sahara.
In December later that same year, the first All-African Peoples Conference was
held in Accra, bringing together 62 national liberation movements from all over
the continent, as well as representation from Africans in the United States. It
was at this conference in December 1958 that Patrice Lumumba of Congo became an
internationally recognized leader of the anti-colonial struggle in that Belgian
By 1960 the independence movement had gained tremendous influence throughout
Africa, resulting in the emergence of many new nation-states on the continent.
That same year, Ghana became a republic and adopted its own constitution,
making Nkrumah the president of the government.
However, there arose fissures within the leadership of the CPP over which
direction the new state would take in its economic and social policies. Many of
Nkrumah’s colleagues, who had been instrumental in the struggle for
independence, were not committed to his long-term goals of Pan-Africanism and
socialism. Consequently, many of the programmatic initiatives launched by the
CPP government were stifled by the class aspirations of those state and party
officials who were noncommittal about a total revolutionary transformation of
Ghanaian society and the African continent as a whole.
Next: Nkrumah’s challenge to neo-colonialism, the coup that overthrew
his presidency and his legacy to African liberation. Also see
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