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Nkrumah and Ghana’s independence struggle


Published Oct 7, 2009 5:52 PM

Part 1 examined the contributions of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, born 100 years ago, through independence in 1957 and his presidency until 1960.

Internal struggles in Nkrumah’s Convention Peoples Party broke into the open, once even resulting in an August 1962 attempt to assassinate the president with a bomb attack.

By 1964 the First Republic of Ghana had held an election that mandated the adoption of the one-party state form of government. During this period, the CPP was attempting to restructure the country’s economy from dependence on trade with and investment by the capitalist world. This proved to be a formidable task due to the legacy of colonialism in the country and the relative weakness of the Soviet Bloc and China, which limited their ability to provide economic assistance to newly independent African states.

Nkrumah in 1963 identified neocolonialism as the major impediment to the genuine liberation of Africa. At the founding meeting of the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he released his book entitled “Africa Must Unite,” which provided a proposal for the adoption of a continental union government as the only means of countering the development of the new form of colonialism on the continent.

At the OAU conference in Egypt during July 1964, Nkrumah pleaded for the adoption of a United States of Africa by the heads of state. This proposal was not accepted despite apparent problems associated with the legacy of colonialism on the continent. The Congo crisis and the economic stagnation of many of the newly independent states illustrated that these nations were not viable as economic and political entities.

At the October 1965 OAU Summit held in Accra, many of the heads of state from other nations did not attend because they opposed the CPP government’s foreign policy. At this conference, Nkrumah issued his book entitled “Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism,” which condemned the United States as the principal imperialist power behind the new form of hegemonic rule, which was designed to maintain Western control over the newly independent states in Africa and throughout the so-called developing world.

This book so infuriated the U.S. government that its Undersecretary of State for African Affairs G.M. Williams wrote a memorandum of protest to Ghana’s Embassy in Washington, D.C., saying that Nkrumah was working in contravention to the interests of the U.S. government in Africa.

Just four months after the release of his book on neo-colonialism, Nkrumah was overthrown on Feb. 24, 1966, by a coup d’etat led by lower-level military officers and police in Ghana. Since they perceived Nkrumah’s policies as a threat to the economic and political interests of the Western powers, the U.S. government and the imperialist world united behind the coup.

At the time Nkrumah was in China en route to North Vietnam. He was on a mission to bring about a peace settlement in the U.S. war against the peoples of Southeast Asia when Chinese officials informed him of the events in Ghana.

Aborting his mission to Vietnam, he returned via the Soviet Union to Africa, traveling to Egypt and eventually settling in Guinea-Conakry. Nkrumah remained in Guinea until he was flown to Romania to undergo treatment for cancer in 1971. During the period following the coup from 1966 to 1971, he continued to write on the history of Africa and the revolutionary movement for Pan-Africanism and world socialism.

The legacy of Kwame Nkrumah

Despite the coup, Nkrumah’s legacy in Africa and throughout the African world continues. His view on the necessity of coordinated guerrilla warfare to liberate Africa was realized in the subcontinent during the 1970s and 1980s when the settler-colonial regimes of Rhodesia and eventually South Africa were defeated. Cuba’s role in the liberation and security of Angola was clearly in line with Nkrumah’s ideas, which argued that until settler colonialism was destroyed, the entire continent of Africa would not be secure.

Though the realization of a United States of Africa is still far away, this issue continues to be discussed broadly on the continent and in the Diaspora. The Organization of African Unity was transformed into the African Union in 2002 in order to increase efforts aimed at the unification of the continent. A Pan-African Parliament was formed and is now housed in the Republic of South Africa.

The current chairman of the African Union, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, has continued to stress the necessity of forming a continental government along the lines Nkrumah advocated during the 1950s and 1960s.

In Ghana Nkrumah’s legacy was utilized in both a positive and a negative manner by the successive regimes that took power after his departure. These regimes are compelled to use his image and legacy, despite their refusal to adopt the CPP program in its totality.

In the United States and throughout the Diaspora, increasing identification with Africa has occurred over the last forty years. The African community in America and the Caribbean played an instrumental role in the solidarity struggle with the national liberation movements in southern Africa during the 1980s and 1990s. Nkrumah’s views on the necessity of African unity have been prophetic in light of the continuing underdevelopment of the continent and the phenomena of domestic neocolonialism in the United States and the Caribbean. Consequently, the legacy of Nkrumah is still relevant to the present-day struggle of African and other oppressed peoples around the world.

A greater understanding of Nkrumah’s ideas and activities can only benefit the present efforts to create a world that is genuinely independent and self-determined.

See panafricannews.blogspot.com