Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was a political leader and icon throughout Africa. He was able to liberate the Gold Coast and form it into the modern day state of Ghana. Around this same time, Africa was undergoing a complete political change, they were attempting to escape the wrath of imperial rulers from countries such as; Britain, France Poland, and Portugal. Immediately after the colonial rule, only eight independent states were established: Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia. Even as he watched the beginnings of independence forming in Africa, Nkrumah stillfeared that the imperialist rulers had “cleverly postponed their ultimate and inevitable demise by previously granting formal sovereignty to their colonies, yet by various economic and political demises continuing to exploit and direct the fortunes of new states.” Nkrumah had devised many political objectives to combat imperialist and he was able to implement them at just the right time. His personal beliefs and ideologies led him to strive for Ghana’s colonial independence and Africa’s unity. His drive and passion towards what he believed in make him an everlasting part of Africa’s history.
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Nkrumah was able to present his political beliefs against colonialism early on in his career as a graduate student in England. He joined a student club and advanced his message through the local papers during his time at the London School of Economics. In 1947, Nkrumah was able to publish a pamphlet that was focused on showing the down side of the imperialist rule on the Gold Coast. It also described his thoughts towards colonial freedom and how it could be obtained. The pamphlet presented his four points to success; which was a program that preached “the abolition of political illiteracy, the organization of the masses, the establishment of an educational fund, and the need for a national press.” His leadership role progressed even further when he was elected to the executive board of the West African Student Union at his college. While vice president he continued to discredit foreign rule in Africa. His passion towards ending the foreign rule in Africa was so great that it compelled him to form a secret union known as the Circle Union of Socialist African Republics. This secret group sought to liberate Africa from its imperialistic rulers.
After developing the secret society in England, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) employed him as their secretary. The UGCC was “an organization formed mainly by lawyers, doctors and chiefs, to end British colonial rule in the Gold Coast in the shortest possible time” in 1947.3 This new position allowed Nkrumah to show his skills in action by expanding the UGCC offices in Ghana from only a few to over six hundred in a six month period. This program proved to be very effective by spreading the ideas of self government to farmers, unions, women’s groups, and many of Ghana’s youth. This accomplishment, helped show the leaders of the UGCC that he was capable of leading and expanding his beliefs and ideologies to the public while at the same time creating a political community for the development of his political party the Conventions Peoples Party (CPP).
Nkrumah officially founded the CPP to help liberate Ghana from the colonialist political oppression on June 12, 1949. The members were comprised of former members of the Committee on Youth Organization (CYO), which was previously a part of the UGCC. Nkrumah declared, “I am happy to be able to tell you that the CYO, owing to the present political tension, has decided to transform itself into a fully fledged political party with the object of promoting the fight for full self government.” In Nkrumah’s eyes, the only way that the citizens of Ghana would be able to take control of their government would be through political unity. He publicly voiced that in his opinion a united Ghana was a necessity in order for the British influence to be removed from the Ghanaian political affairs. Once Ghana was able to establish political independence, Nkrumah argued that economic and cultural independence would follow close behind.
Along with his formation of the CPP, Nkrumah’s policies instilled a positive influence on the people of Ghana and seemed detrimental to the British government’s chance of maintaining control. He was able to gain support from the people by using propaganda in the form of signs and also the appearance of the CPP flag was very colorful using red, white, and green, and he also found unity by coming up with party songs that would generally state, “there is victory for us”. All of these things were being used to make the public aware and to gain support in the removal of the colonial government. Nkrumah’s campaign, which soon became described as a positive action campaign, began on January 8, 1950. His formal campaign began immediately after the parliament refused to make up a constitution that contained the rights of the citizens of Ghana. This caused the entire country to come to a stand still; shops, factories, and many transportation services closed. It seemed as if the citizens were boycotting their own nation. The government took what it saw as its only option they arrested Nkrumah and closed down the CPP offices. While serving his time in jail, Nkrumah drew up his political campaign that he planned to implement in the 1951 election. In this election the CPP won seventy-one seats while sixteen were won by independents. By gaining a political voice Nkrumah was able to become the Prime Minister of Ghana in 1952. His title later became president on March 6, 1957 the day Ghana declared their independence.
Once the country of Ghana gained their Independence, Nkrumah focused all of his energy on removing the imperialistic influences that still remained. Nkrumah felt that there were five key ways in which he could help fight against imperialistic pressures which were: political education, propaganda, nationalist aid, diplomatic cooperation, and finally implementing a policy in which the entire country of Ghana would not associate themselves with any form of imperialist.7 In his eyes every one of these steps was positive, and he also felt that any political opposition to these five ideas would only slow down his overall goal, which was to establish a united Africa. Due to this he developed Ghana into a single party state. His main reason for doing this was he felt that one group of leaders could represent the people’s common interests and he felt that any opposition would only cause a delay. Nkrumah also made strides to remove the temporary regional assemblies, which were the safeguards that were in the constitution that would help his opposition, and he enacted the Preventive Detention Act of 1957. This act was a law that allowed the police to arrest and detain people that were believed to be helping or working with imperialistic opposition.
There were not only political obstacles to over come if Ghana was going to gain their independence, but Nkrumah also felt that the only way to maintain political independence and keep the imperialist forces from rising again was for Ghana to become economically independent. The key way for Ghana to become economically independent would be to industrialize the country. The first plan that was implemented by Nkrumah was in 1957, this plan was focused on getting the country ready for the industrialization that was going to come. This plan included increasing the availability of electricity, bettering roads, railways, and canals, using machinery in agriculture, educating the masses, and also raising the standards of many general services offered throughout the country. Nkrumah was able to follow through with his plans by establishing the Volta River project. This project was designed to help provide electricity by building the Accra to Tema Motorway while also developing an air traffic system and a shipping company. The only let down was that the plan did not help Ghana shift its agriculture from its dependency on cocoa. Cocoa is the country’s cash crop that accounts for almost seventy-five percent of the countries exports.
Nkrumah also believed that state ownership and control of Ghana’s infrastructure would help avoid foreigners from gaining control of the country’s key factors of production. However, the country’s rapid modernization was one of the factors that made Nkrumah interested in implementing communism, but he refused to allow Ghana to become a Soviet satellite state. In Nkrumah’s eyes communism was an extremely effective way for a developing country to become an industrialized nation very quickly. Also, he felt that the communist’s system would help relieve the country of injustices that were generally seen in countries that used capitalist tactics. One of these injustices that Nkrumah extremely disliked was the thought that a small group of citizens would become extremely rich at the expense of a large group of poor citizens. For this very reason Nkrumah established a new development board known as the Agricultural Development Board. This board main function was to regulate the production of the country’s main crop, cocoa, and also to raise the country’s production of other goods such as: cotton, pineapple, and rubber. The board was able to provide a short economic growth of twelve percent between the years of 1957 and 1962, but the country’s dependency on cocoa would end up causing Ghana’s market to collapse on February 24, 1966.
At the same time he was working on gaining independence for Ghana, his leadership was able to provide support and stability for other African states that were beginning to support the African Liberation Movement and turning against the colonial powers. Nkrumah enthusiastically said, “our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.” The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was developed in 1964 is looked upon as a reflection of Nkrumah’s sole efforts to unite the entire continent of Africa into a single, powerful nation. The OAU’s charter describes the immutability of colonial borders and it ensures the improbability of African microstates. Overall, its existence made both the ex-colonial and neo-colonial powers happy where as the revolutionary side of Nkrumah’s political ideologies generally made them upset. According to Nkrumah, the only way for the colonial powers to be removed would be through a total unified effort because in his eyes there is no one country that has the resources to strive above alone, but, a unified Africa would most definitely prevail.
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In Nkrumah’s book, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism Nkrumah presents the thought of neo-colonialism. This is a situation in which the relationship between a former ruling power and its formal colony remains the same even after the colony declares its independence. He expresses the tactics of foreign power, which included the policy of balkanization, which is the lowering of the standards of living in a developing country, military bases remaining in former colonies, the forced approval of military pacts with African powers, and also the ruling of countries through the puppet regimes in Africa. Later on Nkrumah stated “In this book I exposed the economic stranglehold exercised by foreign monopolistic complexes such as the Anglo-American Corporation, and illustrated the ways in which this financial grip perpetuated the paradox of Africa poverty in the midst of plenty. The American Government sent me a note of protest, and promptly refused Ghana $35 million of aid.”
In Nkrumah’s final published work, he denounces what he calls new imperialism and he blames his downfall on the fact that Ghana remained dependent and never became fully independent. His writings showed many things; one main thing that was shown was that Nkrumah was not supportive of the American government. This was due to the fact that at that time they were engaged in fighting the Vietnam War and he felt that Ghana was going to fall under communist control through the domino effect. At the same time the economy in Ghana had collapsed and the foreign exchange and government’s reserves disappeared. The Unemployment rate rose dramatically and food prices skyrocketed. The food prices were up over 250 percent from the year 1957 and up sixty-six percent in 1965.14 Later on there were huge food shortages that effected every area and individual in the country.
Thus on February 24, 1966, Colonel Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka who was a member of the National Liberation Council (NLC), which was the opposing force to Nkrumah, took over the government. The take over was conducted under the code name Operation Cold Chop. The United States and Ghana’s neo-colonialists supported this operation which then caused the parliament to be dissolved and outlawed Nkrumah’s political party, and also dismissed Nkrumah as President of Ghana’s First Republic.
Certainly, his accomplishments, his enthusiasm for a united Africa, his political support of an independent society, his leadership and drive to gain independence for Ghana, and his multiple economic achievements have earned Nkrumah an important and well deserved place in history. His messages of independence have allowed the people of Ghana to have a base for passion and self-reliance. Throughout Ghana, in every region of the country, the citizens were affected by the principles of the CPP. He was able to organize the independence of a country which set the standards that all other African countries can use and follow. This was especially apparent in the Grand Liberation of 1960 in which Nigeria, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia all became independent.15 His main political objectives of strengthening the government of Ghana and modernizing the entire country prove to be effective, even if it was only for a short time. Most Africans remember Nkrumah as the redeemer because he was able to provide leadership in with a charismatic attitude that the Africans had needed to help guide the country away from imperialism.
Though Nkrumah inevitably lost his power he is not remembered as a failure. He is mostly remembered as a man who had a goal and was willing to sacrifice everything for that goal. He was able to give all Africans a way to achieve their unity and he was also able to end Africa’s economic dependence on western countries. His fight did not end until the day he died; even in exile Nkrumah voiced his beliefs and thoughts. He continued to fight for what he believed in until he passed away on April 27, 1972 after a battle with cancer.
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