GHANAIAN statesman, the first President of Ghana, the foremost exponent of African unity and Pan—Africanism, one of the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and a leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement. Born on 21 September 1909 at Nkroful, south-western Ghana, he spent eight years of primary school at the Roman Catholic Church School in Half-Assini where his father was a goldsmith. In 1930 he qualified as a teacher at the Government Training College in Accra; he taught there until 1935. He then left for the USA where he graduated in 1939 Lincoln University, Oxford, Pennsylviania in Philadelphia.
He was later appointed lecturer in Political Science at Lincoln University, where he was also elected President of the African Students Organization of America and Canada. In June l945 he went to study at the London School of Economics and Political Science and to read law at Grey’s Inn. He was elected Vice- President of the African Students Union and October of year was elected co-Secretary of the fifth Pan-African Conference held at Manchester, England.
The Pan-African movement inspired for many future leaders of Africa, including Nkrumah, to champion the cause of freedom and independence on the continent. At the Manchester Conference he largely wrote the agreed "Declaration to the peoples of the colonial rule, calling on them to organise to end colonial rule. Nkrumah was elected Secretary General of the Working Committee established by the Fifth Pan-African Conference and also Secretary of the West African National Secretariat. At the same time, he becomes editor of the New African, a radical Pan-African publication for African students in Britain.
Writing later about the years he spent abroad Nkrumah said, "Those years in America and England were years of sorrow and loneliness, poverty and hard work. But I have never regretted them, because the background that they provided had helped me to formulate my philosophy of life and politics.
On 14 November l947 he returned to then Gold Coast, and became General Secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). He began to implement some of the political principles which had been part of his political education while abroad. One of the crucial elements included the creation of a mass political party which could be mobiled for "positive action" in the struggle for independence. Following demonstration by ex-servicemen and workers against high prices, and the boycott of European and Syrian traders, Nkrumah was detained on, 12 March 1948 in the Northern Territories.
His arrest, with those of five other UGCC leaders, followed allegations that the UGCC was to blame for the agitation and riots which the colonial administration had shot dead 29 Africans and injured 237.In his autobiography, Nkrumah stated that in the UGCC itself some elements placed the blame on him. "There appeared to be a general belief among them that the whole tragedy of our arrest and suffering was my fault,and they began to make it plain that that regretted that the day they had ever invited take up the Secretaryship of the UGCC.”
Diiferences between Nkrumah and the UGCC leadership became aggravated in the face of evidence submitted before the Watson Commission; set up to inquire into the causes of the recent disturbances. The leadership resented Nkrumah’s plan for a Union of African Socialist Republics and the contacts he maintained with Pan-African organisations abroad. But Nkrumah was as a most hard-working Secretary-General, having helped to establish 209 UGCC branches throughout the country.
The rest of the UGCC leadership was torn between the inclination to expel Nkrumah, thereby losing the benefit of his dynamism, on the one hand, and maintaining him in his position and risking being identified with his militant views, on the other. More important, the UGCC leadership was unsure the forces which Nkrumah might unleash in a possible confrontation in the party. Nkrumah’s belief in mobilising as many people as possible had resulted in the raising of consciousness among Ghanaians, many of whom soon began to articulate political demands which were ahead of the UGCC. Whereas the latter’s policy was centred on “self-government within the shortest possible time`, demands were already being made for "self-government now".
The party decided to demote him to the post of Honorary Treasurer. On his release from detention Nkrumah, now virtually excluded from the UGCC, organised the Committee of Youth Organisation (CYO) and founded the Accra Evening News. These two events led to calls for his complete expulsion from the UGCC. The calls increased following Nkrumah’s open criticism of the UGCC’s policies. ln the same month —September — that the Evening News and the CYO were formed, the colonial administration announced that a committee would be formed to examine the constitutional proposals of the Watson Commission. In the eyes of the more militant members of the CYO, the UGCC’s acceptance of membership in the resulting Coussey Committee, to which Nkrumah was not invited, identified the Convention with moderate demands in an atmosphere which was increasingly anti- colonial.
Attempts to heal the rift between the UGCC and Nkrumah led to the reconstitution of the CYO in February 1949 as part of a sub-committee of the UGCC. This, however, did not prevent further disagreements. The final break came on 12 June 1949 when the formation of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) was announced before an audience of about sixty thousand people — "on behalf of the CYO, in the name of the chiefs and the people, the rank and file of the Convention, the Labour Movement, our valiant ex-servicemen, the youth movement throughout the country, the man in the street, our children and those yet unborn, the new Ghana that is to be, Sergeant Adjetey and his comrades who died at the cross-roads of Christianborg during the riots of 12 June 1948, and in the name of God Almighty and humanity."
The CPP issued a six-point programme :
Following the release of the Coussey Nkrumah convened on 20 November 1949 a Ghana Peoples Representative Assembly to which were invited members of the CPP, CYO, trade unions, farmers, ex-servicemen and youth organizations. The purpose of the meeting was to formulate a collective response to the colonial government and to demand "self-government now", the point on which the Assembly differed fundamentally from the Coussey Report.
In agreeing to the Report’s recommendation, the chiefs and others, Nkrumah argued, had sabotaged the wishes of the people self-government. The Evening News also criticized the Report. Nkrumah, as he had done before, then toured the country urging "positive action". When the chiefs in Ashanti joined the members of the dwindling UGCC in supporting the Coussey Report, the division with Nkrumah was further accentuated. The other leaders accused Nkrumah of undermining law and order in calling for positive action, a policy of non-violent civil disobedience and non-cooperation. In response, Nkrumah and his supporters accused them of sympathizing with the fears of the colonial administration.
On 25 December 1949 Nkrumah made a speech in which he urged that people remain organised and resolute. This was to prepare the people for the advent of positive action which Nkrumah was concerned should proceed with the maximum success in order to convey to the colonial administration a clear and unequivocal wish for self-government from the people. "We prefer self-government with danger," Nkrumah said, reiterating the motto of the Evening News, "to servitude in tranquility.”Regarding the question of organization, the Accra Evening News had stated on 18 March 1949 that “The history of colonial liberation movements shows that the first essential is ORGANISATION. Some say unity, but unity presupposes organization. At least, there must be organization to unify the country; one person cannot do it, but when the masses and the leaders share common ideals and purposes they can come together in an organization, regardless of tribal and other differences, to fight for a cause."
On 6 January 1950 the Trade Union Congress (TUC) called a general strike in support of the meteorological workers who began their own strike in December 1949.On 8 January 1950 railway workers went on strike. On the same day, after a meeting of the CPP executive, Kwame Nkrumah announced the inception of the campaign of "positive action" against the colonial administration. Positive action led to a wave of strikes throughout Gold Coast. The administration ordered the army to take over Accra and the police forces were increased. This followed the declaration of a state of emergency on 11 January 1950. All meetings were banned, CPP organs were suspended or closed and leaders were arrested. Nkrumah was arrested on 21 January 1950, convicted and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the High Court reaffirmed the judgments of the magistrate’s court.
While Nkrumah and other leaders were in prison, the CPP continued to function, benefitting from the momentum which the demand for “self-government now" had generated among the people. The party emerged victorious in both the municipal and general elections of February 1951. Campaigning from prison, Nkrumah won the Accra central constituency by polling 22,780 votes out of 23,122 cast. The colonial administration, which had claimed that its clampdown on the CPP had been done on behalf of "a very large body of moderate and responsible people who are utterly opposed to the methods of the Convention People’s Party," now recognised that without Kwame Nkrumah "the contitution would be stillborn and if nothing came of all the hopes, aspirations and concrete proposals for a greater measure of self-government, there would no longer be any faith in the good intentions of the British Government.”
On 12 February 1951 Nkrumah was released from prison to become Leader of Government Business, a title which was changed to Prime Minister in March 1952. Speaking on 10 July 1953 in the Assembly during the Motion of Destiny under which independence was claimed from the colonial power, Nkrumah said that "The right of a people to govern themselves is a fundamental principle, and to compromise on this principal is to betray it." He continued: If there is to be a criterion of a peop1e’s preparedness for self-government, then I say it is their readiness to assume the responsibility ruling themselves. For who but a people themselves can say when they are prepared? Self-government is not an end itself. It is a means to an end, to the building of the good life for the benefit of all, regardless of tribe, creed, colour or station in life. Our aim is to make this country a worthy place for all its citizens, a country that will be a shining light throughout the whole continent of Africa, giving inspiration far beyond its frontiers. And this we can do by dedicating ourselves to unselfish service to humanity. We must learn from the mistakes of others so that we may, in so far as we can, avoid a repetition of those tragedies which have overtaken other human societies.
During the elections of June 1954 the CPP won 72 out of 104 seats, the others going to the opposition which was increasingly consolidating itself with the help of chiefs and the cocoa growers in the centre. After Nkrumah had announced the of cocoa stabilisation measure in August 1954, opposition flared up in Ashanti, association ciated with the main opposition party; this caused the colonial administration to call fresh elections in July 1956. The CPP again won 72 out of 104 seats.
On 6 March 1957, Gold Coast became independent Ghana. Nkrumah set about introducing measures aimed at improving the social and economic aspects of Ghanaian life. Laws were passed which opponents pointed to support arguments that Nkrumah was bent on suppressing political opponents Writing in his autobiography ‘“Nkrumah stated: “Capitalism is too complicated a system for a newly independent nation. Hence the need for a socialist society. But even a system based on social justice and a democratic constitution may need backing up, during the period following independence, by emergency measures of a totalitarian kind. Without discipline freedom cannot survive. In any event, the basis must be a loyal, honest, hardworking and responsible civil service on which the party in power can rely. Armed forces must also be consolidated for defence.
At the opening of the Bank of Ghana in July 1957, Nkrumah said: "Our political independence will be meaningless unless we use it so as to obtain economic and financial self-government and independence." He went on to spell out his objectives in his December 1957 broadcast. "My first objective,” he said, "is to abolish from Ghana poverty, ignorance and disease. We shall measure our progress by the improvement in the health of our people; by the number of children in school; and by the quality of the education; by the availability of water and electricity in our towns and villages, and by happiness which our people take in being able to manage their own affairs. The welfare of our people is our chief pride and it is by this that my government will ask to be judged.
ln December 1957 Nkrumah married an Egyptian, Fathia Helen, in a private ceremony only attended by close relatives and friends. They had three children.
On 1 July 1959 Nkrumah announced the beginning of the Second Five-Year Development Plan. To ensure its success, he called among other things, for the establishment of a "Grand Alliance" consisting of the CPP, the TUC and the Ghana Farmers’ Council. The Plan aimed to see the completion of the Volta River Project, which Nkrumah believed, "would provide the quickest and most certain method of leading us towards economic independence", and the construction of 600 new factories capable of producing over 100 different products.
Throughout his life, Nkrumah was concerned that the party and its functionaries should be capable of instilling confidence in people so as to be able to mobilise them towards desired policies and goals. Speaking on 12 June 1959 at the tenth anniversary of the founding of the CPP, Nkrumah said: "Members of the Party must be the first to set an example of all the highest qualities in the nation. We must excel in our field of work by working really hard. We must produce unimpeachable evidence of integrity, honesty, selflessness and faithfulness in the positions in which we are placed by the party in service of the nation. We must abandon ridiculous ostentation and vanity when the Party has charged us with eminent offices of state, and remember constantly that we hold offices not in our right, but in the right of the total membership of the Convention People’s Party, the masses of the people who really matter." He therefore had some functionaries expelled from the party and others forced to scale down their quest for individual benefit and wealth, such as a high ranking official whose wife is said to have purchased a gold-plated bed.
In the meantime, the Opposition continued to consolidate itself through championing the cause of dissatisfied chiefs and intellectuals and the Ewe of Togoland, some of whom resented being included in the union with Ghana. Three none—Ghanaians were deported two of them for preaching separatism. This led to criticism at home and abroad and Nkrumah became apprehensive that foreigners might use the opposition to prejudice Ghana’s image and security. He felt increasingly justified in this apprehension when subsequent intelligence reports confirmed the connection which some Opposition members had with secret ethnic separatist movements. Another member of the Opposition was found to have purchased, quite within the law, military insignia in London, but for purposes unspecified. However, just before Nkrumah’s trip to India in 1958, a report stated that an assassination had been planned to take place Nkrumah boarded the plane.
In December 1958 the Secretary—General of the United Party and a Member of Parliament were held under the recently passed Preventive Detention Act. A tribunal consisting of three lawyers found that the men "were engaged in a conspiracy to carry out at some future date in Ghana, an act for unlawful purpose, revolutionary in character." Nkrumah made available copies of the tribunal’s proceedings to members of the International Commission of Jurists and the Western press.
His concern for unity and progress at home was also matched by his desire to achieve Pan-African unity. On the eve of Ghana’s independence, Nkrumah had said that "Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent." In April 1958 Nkrumah convened a conference of independent African states in Accra consisting of Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia. Speaking on 15 April 1958 Nkrumah said "We have for too long been the victims of foreign domination. For too long we have had no say in the management of our own affairs or in deciding our own destinies. Now times have changed, and today we are the masters of our own fate."
In December 1958 Nkrumah called the first All-African Peoples Conference, the precursor of the OAU. In his address, he said: "What is the purpose of this historic Conference? We are here to know ourselves and to exchange views on matters of common interest; to explore ways and means of consolidating and safe-guarding our hard won independence; to strengthen the economic and cultural ties between our countries; to find workable arrangements for helping our brothers still languishing under
In May 1959 Nkrumah helped establish the Ghana-Guinea Union, after he had offered to assist Guinea with £10 million following the latter country’s break with France in September 1958. Writing in I Speak of Freedom, Nkrumah stated that “we were determined to unite in order to form a nucleus for a union of African states." In pursuit of this goal, he met the leaders of Guinea and Liberia at Sanniquellie, Liberia, in July 1959 and a Declaration of Principles was issued setting out the framework for a Community of Independent African States. However, at the second conference of independent African states held in Addis Ababa on 15 June 1960, opposition to Nkrumah’s idea of a union of African states was spearheaded by Nigeria whose delegate argued that it was premature. In November 1960 Nkrumah that he would helping Mali following that country’s break with Senegal federation of Ghana, Guinea and Mali was formed.
When Congo crisis erupted in 1960, Nkrumah supported the duly elected Prime Minister of the country was Patrice Lumumba (q.v).He was angered by the inability of the United Nation Congo Command to prevent the arrest and death of Lumumba and suggest the establishment of an African High Command which could be called upon to repulse any threat to the independence of any state. First mooted in November 1960 to the leaders of Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Lybia, Mali, Morocco, Sudan, Tunsia and the United Arab Republic (UAR), this idea failed to take root.
However, it received support in January 1961 at the Casablanca Confrence where the charter was adopted. Among other things, the Charter called the support for the National front for the Liberation of Algeria and the Lumumbist forces of Congo. The Charter, which also called for the establishment of an African Consultative Assembly, condemned neo-colonialism and urged the promotion of economic, cultural, and political cooperation in Africa. The Casablanca Conference was attended by Ghana, Guniea, Mali, Morocco, Libya, UAR and Algeria.
Ghana then became a leading member of one of the two blocs in Africa between 1960 and 1963.Nkrumah’S approach to African Unity was not supported even by his own allies in that bloc; his idea of “Continental government” was rejected in the discussion leading to the creation of the OAU in Addis Ababa in May 1963.Kwame Nkrumah considered the OUA to be inadequate. He considered opposition, legal, and illegal, to several independent African regimes through the Bureau of AFRICAN Affairs (BBA) based on office originally started by an old friend from London days, George Padmore (1902-59).Radical policies directed against pro-Western independent governments, as well as colonization and White settlrr rule, were expressed by the BBA newspaper The Spark. They were certainly Dr Nkrumah’s own policies. Howe ever, he agreed to host the 1956 OUA summit in Accra, and did so, though crisis occurred beforehand because of the guerrillas being trained in Ghana for action in some OAU member states.
On the guerrillas fighting colonial rule, Nkrumah was followed by general African opinion. He was for years a leader of African criticism of White domination. In December 1965 Nkrumah, who had for long maintained working relations with Britain( and the USA), broke off relations with Britain in accordance with an OAU resolution, ignored by many other OAU members, because of the failure to end the White settler rebellion in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
In 1960 Ghana adopted a Republican Constitution and Nkrumah became its first President, defeating Dr J.B. Danquah (q.v.) in an election. He was re-elected unopposed in 1956.In 1961 President Nkrumah ordered a number of changes in the direction of socialism and, in foreign affairs, “non-alignment” with closer ties forged with the Communist countries. Some development in the socialist phase included the creation of many state industries and the Kwame Nkrumah Ideologica Institute. Nkrumah and his Socialist followers had, however, to face criticism, internal and external. The anti-CPP opposition remained, though it was wholly undergrounded after the creation of a one party state in 1964. In 1961 there were bomb outrages and in 1962 there was an attempt on Dr Nkrumah’s life; another attempt followed early in 1964. The CPP itself did not generally follow Nkrumah’s ideals, many of its leaders being out to enrich themselves despite the action Nkrumah took in 191—with a "Dawn Broadcast" and some sacking — against such activity.
The CPP’s rule became authoritarian and corrupt in a way which was certainly beyond in way which was certainly beyond its leader’s control, though he probably contributed to the worsening situation through weaknesses — such as suspicion, and being easily impressed and flattered — which were exploited by unscrupulous colleagues and supporters.
In February 1966, soon after inaugurating the Volta Dam, Kwame Nkrumah left on a peace mission to end the Vietnam War, accompanied by senior members of his Government. On 24 February 1966, in his absence, he was overthrown by a military coup. A junta of army and police officers, the National Liberation Council (NLC), took over power and the CPP, cut off by now from the ordinary people who suffered from an increasingly bad economic situation, collapsed utterly. Kwame Nkrumah went to Guinea, he was welcomed and, for a time, entitled co-president to Sekou Toure (q.v.).
For a few months Dr N krumah broadcast to Ghanaians calling on them to overthrow the NLC. There was no immediate response, but after a few years Ghanaians began to think better of the founder-President whose fall they had initially celebrated. A few airways remained in touch with him. His involvement in the April 1967 attempted coup was not proved, but the NLC, and the civilian government which took over in 1969 under the leadership of Nkrumah’s old political opponent Kofi Busia (q.v.), feared his influence greatly. In 1970 Kwame Nkrumah believed his recall to Ghana was imminent; in 1971 stiff penalties were enacted in Ghana for advocacy or any favouring of his return.
Kwame Nkrumah published many books. After Towards Colonial Freedom in 1946, and What I Mean by Positive Action in 1950, he wrote his autobiography, Ghana, published at the time of independence in 1957. While ruling Ghana later he was able to publish [Speak of Freedom (1961), Africa Must Unite (1963), Consciencism (1964) and Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism (1965).
He then wrote Axioms of Kwame Nkrumah (1967), with a special edition for the liberation fighters in whom he continued to take a special interest. He also published in 1967 Challenge of the Congo, to denounce Western intrigues in the Congo crisis, and in 1968 Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare. In 1968 he published Dark Days in Ghana, condemning NLC rule as he had done in broadcasts collected in a book, Voice From Conakry. Many of his works were brought out by the publishing company he had started in London, Panaf Books. In 1970 he published Class Struggle in Africa. His thinking in exile moved towards more orthodox Marxism and rejection of the idea of “non-alignment"; but he remained constant o nthe twin objectives of the liberation and unity of Africa.
He was deservedly noted as a thinker and writer as well as a politician. In Africa outside Ghana he was very popular, except among the rulers of some countries. His reputation remained, in Nigeria for example, after his fall.
In 1971 his health, poor for years, became worse. He was seriously ill when the second military regime in Ghana, the National Reformation Council (NRC), took over on 13 January 1972. Repudiating Busia and his colleagues, Kwame Nkrumah’s opponents for 20 years, the NRC seemed to move slowly towards policies closer to Nkrumah and his ideas. ln Ghana public opinion was by now coming to accept widely that he should return, if not to rule again. But on 27 April 1972 Kwame Nkrumah died in a hospital in Bucharest in Rumania. There was prolonged mourning in Ghana. After an argument between the NRC and the government of Guinea, where the former President of Ghana had been first buried, his remains were eventually sent back to Ghana for reburial with full traditional honours amid national mourning.
His mother, Elizabeth Nyaniba, was still alive then and lived for several years afterwards. He left a widow, Fathia, and three children. The NRC set up an inquiry into ways to honour the memory of Kwame Nkrumah; following one of its recommendations, his widow and children returned from Egypt to Ghana.
Africa Books Limited, KWAME NKRUMAH (1909-72), MAKERS OF MODERN AFRICA.