Kwame NkrumahPC (21 September 1909[a] – 27 April 1972) was a Ghanaianpolitician and revolutionary. He was the first prime minister and president of Ghana, having led it to independence from Britain in 1957. An influential advocate of Pan-Africanism, Nkrumah was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity and winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962.
After twelve years abroad pursuing higher education, developing his political philosophy, and organizing with other diasporic pan-Africanists, Nkrumah returned to Gold Coast to begin his political career as an advocate of national independence. He formed the Convention People's Party, which achieved rapid success through its unprecedented appeal to the common voter. He became prime minister in 1952 and retained this position when Ghana declared independence from Britain in 1957. In 1960, Ghanaians approved a new constitution and elected Nkrumah president.
His administration was both socialist and nationalist. Thus it funded national industrial and energy projects, developed a strong national education system, and promoted a national (and pan-African) culture. Under Nkrumah, Ghana played a leading role in African international relations during the decolonization period.
He was deposed in 1966 by the National Liberation Council which, under the supervision of international financial institutions, privatised many of the country's state corporations. Nkrumah lived the rest of his life in Guinea, of which he was named honorary co-president.
Early life and education
Kwame Nkrumah was born in about 1909 in Nkroful, Gold Coast to a poor and illiterate family. Nkroful was a small village in the Nzema area, in the far southwest of the Gold Coast, close to the frontier with the French colony of the Ivory Coast. His father did not live with the family, but worked in Half Assini where he pursued his goldsmith business until his death. Kwame Nkrumah was raised by his mother and his extended family, who lived together in traditional fashion, with more distant relatives often visiting. He lived a carefree childhood, spent in the village, in the bush, and on the nearby sea. By the naming customs of the Akan people, he was given the name Kwame, the name given to males born on a Saturday. During his years as a student in the United States, though, he was known as Francis Nwia Kofi Nkrumah – Kofi is the name given to males born on Friday. He later changed his name to Kwame Nkrumah in 1945 in the UK, preferring the name "Kwame". According to Ebenezer Obiri Addo in his study of the future president, the name "Nkrumah", a name traditionally given to a ninth child, indicates that Kwame likely held that place in the house of his father, who had several wives. The name of his father is not known exactly; with most accounts only indicating that he was a goldsmith. But according to a Times newspaper interview, his father was Opanyin Kofi Nwiana Ngolomah, who hailed from Nkroful and belongs to Akan tribe of the Asona clan but stayed at Tarkwa-Nsuaem where he practiced his goldsmith business. Opanyin Ngolomah was respected for his asilwise counsel by those who sought his advice on traditional issues and domestic affairs; he died in 1927.
Kwame was the only child of his mother.[b]
Nkrumah's mother sent him to the elementary school run by a Catholic mission at Half Assini, where he proved an adept student. A German Roman Catholic priest by the name of George Fischer was said to have profoundly influenced his elementary school education. Although his mother, whose name was Elizabeth Nyanibah (1876/77–1979), later stated his year of birth was 1912, Nkrumah wrote that he was born on 18 September 1909, a Saturday. Nyanibah, who hailed from Nsuaem and belongs to the Agona family, was a fishmonger and petty trader when she married his father. After eight days of his birth, his father named him as Francis Nwia-Kofi after a relative but later his parents named him as Francis Kwame Ngolomah. He progressed through the ten-year elementary programme in eight years. By about 1925 he was a student-teacher in the school, and had been baptised into the Catholic faith. While at the school, he was noticed by the Reverend Alec Garden Fraser, principal of the Government Training College (soon to become Achimota School) in the Gold Coast's capital, Accra. Fraser arranged for Nkrumah to train as a teacher at his school. Here, Columbia-educated deputy headmaster Kwegyir Aggrey exposed him to the ideas of Marcus Garvey and W. E. B. Du Bois. Aggrey, Fraser, and others at Achimota taught that there should be close co-operation between the races in governing the Gold Coast, but Nkrumah, echoing Garvey, soon came to believe that only when the black race governed itself could there be harmony between the races.
After obtaining his Teacher's Certificate from the Prince of Wales’ College at Achimota in 1930, Nkrumah was given a teaching post at the Roman Catholic primary school in Elmina in 1931, and after a year there, was made headmaster of the school at Axim. In Axim, he started to get involved in politics and founded the Nzima Literary Society. In 1933, he was appointed a teacher at the Catholic seminary at Amissa. Although the life there was strict, he liked it, and considered becoming a Jesuit. Nkrumah had heard journalist and future Nigerian president Nnamdi Azikiwe speak while a student at Achimota; the two men met and Azikiwe's influence increased Nkrumah's interest in black nationalism. The young teacher decided to further his education. Azikiwe had attended Lincoln College, a historically black college in Chester County, Pennsylvania, west of Philadelphia, and he advised Nkrumah to enroll there. Nkrumah, who had failed the entrance examination for London University, gained funds for the trip and his education from relatives. He traveled by way of Britain, where he learned, to his outrage, of Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, one of the few independent African nations. He arrived in the United States, in October 1935.
According to historian John Henrik Clarke in his article on Nkrumah's American sojourn, "the influence of the ten years that he spent in the United States would have a lingering effect on the rest of his life." Nkrumah had sought entry to Lincoln College some time before he began his studies there. On 1 March 1935, he sent the school a letter noting that his application had been pending for more than a year. When he arrived in New York in October 1935, he traveled to Pennsylvania, where he enrolled despite lacking the funds for the full semester. He soon won a scholarship that provided for his tuition at Lincoln. He remained short of funds through his time in the US. To make ends meet, he worked in menial jobs, including as a dishwasher. On Sundays, he visited black Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia and in New York.
Nkrumah completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and sociology in 1939. Lincoln then appointed him an assistant lecturer in philosophy, and he began to receive invitations to be a guest preacher in Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia and New York. In 1939, Nkrumah enrolled at Lincoln's seminary and at the Ivy LeagueUniversity of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He gained a Bachelor of Theology degree from Lincoln in 1942, the top student in the course. He earned from Penn the following year a Master of Arts degree in philosophy and a Master of Science in education. While at Penn, Nkrumah worked with the linguist William Everett Welmers, providing the spoken material that formed the basis of the first descriptive grammar of his native Fante dialect of the Akan language.
Nkrumah spent his summers in Harlem, a center of black life and thought. He found housing and employment in New York City with difficulty and involved himself in the community. He spent many evenings listening to and arguing with street orators, and according to Clarke,
These evenings were a vital part of Kwame Nkrumah's American education. He was going to a university – the university of the Harlem Streets. This was no ordinary time and these street speakers were no ordinary men ...The streets of Harlem were open forums, presided over [by] master speakers like Arthur Reed and his protege Ira Kemp. The young Carlos Cook, founder of the Garvey oriented African Pioneer Movement was on the scene, also bringing a nightly message to his street followers. Occasionally Suji Abdul Hamid, a champion of Harlem labor, held a night rally and demanded more jobs for blacks in their own community ...This is part of the drama on the Harlem streets as the student Kwame Nkrumah walked and watched.
Nkrumah was an activist student, organizing a group of expatriate African students in Pennsylvania and building it into the African Students Association of America and Canada, becoming its president. Some members felt that the group should aspire for each colony to gain independence on its own; Nkrumah urged a Pan-African strategy. Nkrumah played a major role in the Pan-African conference held in New York in 1944, which urged the United States, at the end of the Second World War, to help ensure Africa became developed and free.
His old teacher Aggrey had died in 1929 in the US, and in 1942 Nkrumah led traditional prayers for Aggrey at the gravesite. This led to a break between him and Lincoln, though after he rose to prominence in the Gold Coast, he returned in 1951 to accept an honorary degree. Nevertheless, Nkrumah's doctoral thesis remained uncompleted. He had adopted the forename Francis while at the Amissa seminary; in 1945 he took the name Kwame Nkrumah.
Just as in the days of the Egyptians, so today God had ordained that certain among the African race should journey westwards to equip themselves with knowledge and experience for the day when they would be called upon to return to their motherland and to use the learning they had acquired to help improve the lot of their brethren. ...I had not realized at the time that I would contribute so much towards the fulfillment of this prophecy.
Nkrumah read books about politics and divinity, and tutored students in philosophy. In 1943 Nkrumah met TrinidadianMarxistC. L. R. James, Russian expatriate Raya Dunayevskaya, and Chinese-American Grace Lee Boggs, all of whom were members of an American-based Trotskyist intellectual cohort. Nkrumah later credited James with teaching him "how an underground movement worked."Federal Bureau of Investigation files on Nkrumah, kept from January to May 1945, identify him as a possible communist. Nkrumah was determined to go to London, wanting to continue his education there now that the Second World War had ended. James, in a 1945 letter introducing Nkrumah to Trinidad-born George Padmore in London, wrote: "This young man is coming to you. He is not very bright, but nevertheless do what you can for him because he's determined to throw Europeans out of Africa."
Nkrumah returned to London in May 1945 and enrolled at the London School of Economics as a PhD candidate in anthropology. He withdrew after one term and the next year enrolled at University College, with the intent to write a philosophy dissertation on "Knowledge and Logical Positivism". His supervisor, A. J. Ayer, declined to rate Nkrumah as a "first-class philosopher", saying, "I liked him and enjoyed talking to him but he did not seem to me to have an analytical mind. He wanted answers too quickly. I think part of the trouble may have been that he wasn't concentrating very hard on his thesis. It was a way of marking time until the opportunity came for him to return to Ghana." Finally, Nkrumah enrolled in, but did not complete, a study in law at Gray's Inn.
Nkrumah spent his time on political organising. He and Padmore were among the principal organizers, and co-treasurers, of the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester (15–19 October 1945). The Congress elaborated a strategy for supplanting colonialism with African socialism. They agreed to pursue a federal United States of Africa, with interlocking regional organizations, governing through separate states of limited sovereignty. They planned to pursue a new African culture without tribalism, democratic within a socialist or communist system, synthesizing traditional aspects with modern thinking, and for this to be achieved by nonviolent means if possible. Among those who attended the congress was the venerable W. E. B. Dubois along with some who later took leading roles in leading their nations to independence, including Hastings Banda of Nyasaland (which became Malawi), Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Obafemi Awolowo of Nigeria, and C. L. R. James.
The congress sought to establish ongoing African activism in Britain in conjunction with the West African National Secretariat (WANS) to work towards the decolonization of Africa. Nkrumah became the secretary of WANS. In addition to seeking to organise Africans to gain their nations' freedom, Nkrumah sought to succor the many West African seamen who had been stranded, destitute, in London at the end of the war, and established a Coloured Workers Association to empower and succor them. The U.S. State Department and MI5 watched Nkrumah and the WANS, focusing on their links with Communism. Nkrumah and Padmore established a group called The Circle to lead the way to West African independence and unity; the group aimed to create a Union of African Socialist Republics. A document from The Circle, setting forth that goal, was found on Nkrumah upon his arrest in Accra in 1948, and was used against him by the British authorities.[c]
Return to the Gold Coast
United Gold Coast Convention
The 1946 Gold Coast constitution gave Africans a majority on the Legislative Council for the first time. Seen as a major step towards self-government, the new arrangement prompted the colony's first true political party, founded in August 1947, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). The UGCC sought self-government as quickly as possible. Since the leading members were all successful professionals, they needed to pay someone to run the party, and their choice fell on Nkrumah at the suggestion of Ako Adjei. Nkrumah hesitated, realising the UGCC was controlled by conservative interests, but decided that the new post gave him huge political opportunities, and accepted. After being questioned by British officials about his communist affiliations, Nkrumah boarded the MV Accra at Liverpool in November 1947 for the voyage home.
After brief stops in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast, he arrived in the Gold Coast, and after a brief stay and reunion with his mother in Tarkwa, began work at the party's headquarters in Saltpond on 29 December 1947. Nkrumah quickly submitted plans for branches of the UGCC to be established colony-wide, and for strikes if necessary to gain political ends. This activist stance divided the party's governing committee, which was led by J.B. Danquah. Nkrumah embarked on a tour to gain donations for the UGCC and establish new branches.
Although the Gold Coast was politically more advanced than Britain's other West Africa colonies, there was considerable discontent. Postwar inflation had caused public anger at high prices, leading to a boycott of the small stores run by Arabs which began in January 1948. The cocoa bean farmers were upset because trees exhibiting swollen-shoot disease, but still capable of yielding a crop, were being destroyed by the colonial authorities. There were about 63,000 ex-servicemen in the Gold Coast, many of whom had trouble obtaining employment and felt the colonial government was doing nothing to address their grievances. Nkrumah and Danquah addressed a meeting of the Ex-Servicemen's Union in Accra on 20 February 1948, which was in preparation for a march to present a petition to the governor. When that demonstration took place on 28 February, there was gunfire from the British, prompting the 1948 Accra Riots, which spread throughout the country. According to Nkrumah's biographer, David Birmingham, "West Africa's erstwhile "model colony" witnessed a riot and business premises were looted. The African Revolution had begun."
The government assumed that the UGCC was responsible for the unrest, and arrested six leaders, including Nkrumah and Danquah. The Big Six were incarcerated together in Kumasi, increasing the rift between Nkrumah and the others, who blamed him for the riots and their detention. After the British learned that there were plots to storm the prison, the six were separated, with Nkrumah sent to Lawra. They were freed in April 1948. Many students and teachers had demonstrated for their release, and been suspended; Nkrumah, using his own funds, began the Ghana National College. This, among other activities, led UGCC committee members to accuse him of acting in the party's name without authority. Fearing he would harm them more outside the party than within, they agreed to make him honorary treasurer. Nkrumah's popularity, already large, was increased with his founding of the Accra Evening News, which was not a party organ but was owned by Nkrumah and others. He also founded the Committee on Youth Organization (CYO) as a youth wing for the UGCC. It soon broke away and adopted the motto "Self-Government Now". The CYO united students, ex-servicemen, and market women. Nkrumah recounted in his autobiography that he knew that a break with the UGCC was inevitable, and wanted the masses behind him when the conflict occurred. Nkrumah's appeals for "Free-Dom" appealed to the great numbers of underemployed youths who had come from the farms and villages to the towns. "Old hymn tunes were adapted to new songs of liberations which welcomed traveling orators, and especially Nkrumah himself, to mass rallies across the Gold Coast."
Convention People's Party
Beginning in April 1949, there was considerable pressure on Nkrumah from his supporters to leave the UGCC and form his own party. On 12 June 1949, he announced the formation of the Convention People's Party (CPP), with the word "convention" chosen, according to Nkrumah, "to carry the masses with us." There were attempts to heal the breach with the UGCC; at one July meeting, it was agreed to reinstate Nkrumah as secretary and disband the CPP. But Nkrumah's supporters would not have it, and persuaded him to refuse the offer and remain at their head.
The CPP adopted the red cockerel as its symbol – a familiar icon for local ethnic groups, and a symbol of leadership, alertness, and masculinity. Party symbols and colours (red, white, and green) appeared on clothing, flags, vehicles, and houses. CPP operatives drove red-white-and-green vans across the country, playing music and rallying public support for the party and especially for Nkrumah. These efforts were wildly successful, especially because previous political efforts in the Gold Coast had focused exclusively on the urban intelligentsia.
The British convened a selected commission of middle-class Africans, including all of the Big Six except Nkrumah, to draft a new constitution that would give Ghana more self-government. Nkrumah saw, even before the commission reported, that its recommendations would fall short of full dominion status, and began to organise a Positive Action campaign. Nkrumah demanded a constituent assembly to write a constitution. When the governor, Charles Arden-Clarke, would not commit to this, Nkrumah called for Positive Action, with the unions beginning a general strike to begin on 8 January 1950. The strike quickly led to violence, and Nkrumah and other CPP leaders were arrested on 22 January, and the Evening News was banned. Nkrumah was sentenced to a total of three years in prison, and he was incarcerated with common criminals in Accra's Fort James.
Nkrumah's assistant, Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, ran the CPP in his absence; the imprisoned leader was able to influence events through smuggled notes written on toilet paper. The British prepared for an election for the Gold Coast under their new constitution, and Nkrumah insisted that the CPP contest all seats. The situation had become calmer once Nkrumah was arrested, and the CPP and the British worked together to prepare electoral rolls. Nkrumah stood, from prison, for a directly-elected Accra seat. Gbedemah worked to set up a nationwide campaign organisation, using vans with loudspeakers to blare the party's message. The UGCC failed to set up a nationwide structure, and proved unable to take advantage of the fact that many of its opponents were in prison.
In the February 1951 legislative election, the first general election to be held under universal franchise in colonial Africa, the CPP was elected in a landslide. The CPP secured 34 of the 38 seats contested on a party basis, with Nkrumah elected for his Accra constituency. The UGCC won three seats, and one was taken by an independent. Arden-Clarke saw that the only alternative to Nkrumah's freedom was the end of the constitutional experiment. Nkrumah was released from prison on 12 February, receiving a rapturous reception from his followers. The following day, Arden-Clarke sent for him and asked him to form a government.
Leader of Government Business and Prime Minister
Nkrumah faced several challenges as he assumed office. He had never served in government, and needed to learn that art. The Gold Coast was composed of four regions, several former colonies amalgamated into one. Nkrumah sought to unite them under one nationality, and bring the country to independence. Key to meeting the challenges was convincing the British that the CPP's programmes were not only practical, but inevitable, and Nkrumah and Arden-Clarke worked closely together. The governor instructed the civil service to give the fledgling government full support, and the three British members of the cabinet took care not to vote against the elected majority.
Prior to the CPP taking office, British officials had prepared a ten-year plan for development. With demands for infrastructure improvements coming in from all over the colony, Nkrumah approved it in general, but halved the time to five years. The colony was in good financial shape, with reserves from years of cocoa profit held in London, and Nkrumah was able to spend freely. Modern trunk roads were built along the coast and within the interior. The rail system was modernised and expanded. Modern water and sewer systems were installed in most towns, where housing schemes were begun. Construction began on a new harbour at Tema, near Accra, and the existing port, at Takoradi, was expanded. An urgent programme to build and expand schools, from primary to teacher and trade training, was begun. From 1951 to 1956, the number of pupils being educated at the colony's schools rose from 200,000 to 500,000. Nevertheless, the number of graduates being produced was insufficient to the burgeoning civil service's needs, and in 1953, Nkrumah announced that though Africans would be given preference, the country would be relying on expatriate European civil servants for several years.
Nkrumah's title was Leader of Government Business in a cabinet chaired by Arden-Clarke. Quick progress was made, and in 1952, the governor withdrew from the cabinet, leaving Nkrumah as his prime minister, with the portfolios that had been reserved for expatriates going to Africans. There were accusations of corruption, and of nepotism, as officials, following African custom, attempted to benefit their extended families and their tribes. The recommendations following the 1948 riots had included elected local government rather than the existing system dominated by the chiefs. This was uncontroversial until it became clear that it would be implemented by the CPP. That party's majority in the Legislative Assembly passed legislation in late 1951 that shifted power from the chiefs to the chairs of the councils, though there was some local rioting as rates were imposed.
Nkrumah's retitling as prime minister had not given him additional power, and he sought constitutional reform that would lead to independence. In 1952, he consulted with the visiting Colonial Secretary, Oliver Lyttelton, who indicated that Britain would look favourably on further advancement, so long as the chiefs and other stakeholders had the opportunity to express their views. Initially skeptical of Nkrumah's socialist policies, Britain's MI5 had compiled large amounts of intelligence on Nkrumah through several sources, including tapping phones and mail interception under the codename of SWIFT. Beginning in October 1952, Nkrumah sought opinions from councils and from political parties on reform, and consulted widely across the country, including with opposition groups. The result the following year was a White Paper on a new constitution, seen as a final step before independence. Published in June 1953, the constitutional proposals were accepted both by the assembly and by the British, and came into force in April of the following year. The new document provided for an assembly of 104 members, all directly elected, with an all-African cabinet responsible for the internal governing of the colony. In the election on 15 June 1954, the CPP won 71, with the regional Northern People's Party forming the official opposition.
A number of opposition groups formed the National Liberation Movement. Their demands were for a federal, rather than a unitary government for an independent Gold Coast, and for an upper house of parliament where chiefs and other traditional leaders could act as a counter to the CPP majority in the assembly. They drew considerable support in the Northern Territory and among the chiefs in Ashanti, who petitioned the British queen, Elizabeth II, asking for a Royal Commission into what form of government the Gold Coast should have. This was refused by her government, who in 1955 stated that such a commission should only be used if the people of the Gold Coast proved incapable of deciding their own affairs. Amid political violence, the two sides attempted to reconcile their differences, but the NLM refused to participate in any committee with a CPP majority. The traditional leaders were also incensed by a new bill that had just been enacted, which allowed minor chiefs to appeal to the government in Accra, bypassing traditional chiefly authority. The British were unwilling to leave unresolved the fundamental question as to how an independent Gold Coast should be governed, and in June 1956, the Colonial Secretary, Alan Lennox-Boyd announced that there would be another general election in the Gold Coast, and if a "reasonable majority" took the CPP's position, Britain would set a date for independence. The results of the July 1956 election were almost identical to those from four years before, and on 3 August the assembly voted for independence under the name Nkrumah had proposed in April, Ghana. In September, the Colonial Office announced independence day would be 6 March 1957.
The opposition was not satisfied with the plan for independence, and demanded that power be devolved to the regions. Discussions took place through late 1956 and into 1957. Although Nkrumah did not compromise on his insistence on a unitary state, the nation was divided into five regions, with power devolved from Accra, and the chiefs having a role in their governments. On 21 February 1957, the British prime minister, Harold Macmillan, announced that Ghana would be a full member of the Commonwealth of Nations with effect from 6 March.
Ghana became independent on 6 March 1957. As the first of Britain's African colonies to gain majority-rule independence, the celebrations in Accra were the focus of world attention; over 100 reporters and photographers covered the events. United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent congratulations and his vice president, Richard Nixon, to represent the U.S. at the events. The Soviet delegation urged Nkrumah to visit Moscow as soon as possible. Ralph Bunche, an African American, was there for the United Nations, while the Duchess of Kent represented Queen Elizabeth. Offers of assistance poured in from across the world. Even without them, the country seemed prosperous, with cocoa prices high and the potential of new resource development.
As the fifth of March turned to the sixth, Nkrumah stood before tens of thousands of supporters and proclaimed, "Ghana will be free forever." He spoke at the first session of the Ghana Parliament that Independence Day, telling his new country's citizens that "we have a duty to prove to the world that Africans can conduct their own affairs with efficiency and tolerance and through the exercise of democracy. We must set an example to all Africa."
Nkrumah was hailed as the Osagyefo – which means "redeemer" in the Akan language. This independence ceremony included the Duchess of Kent and Governor General Charles Arden-Clarke. With more than 600 reporters in attendance, Ghanaian independence became one of the most internationally reported news events in modern African history.
The flag of Ghana designed by Theodosia Okoh, inverting Ethiopia's green-yellow-red Lion of Judah flag and replacing the lion with a black star. Red symbolizes bloodshed; green stands for beauty, agriculture, and abundance; yellow represents mineral wealth; and the Black Star represents African freedom.The country's new coat of arms, designed by Amon Kotei, includes eagles, a lion, a St. George's Cross, and a Black Star, with copious gold and gold trim.Philip Gbeho was commissioned to compose the new national anthem, "God Bless Our Homeland Ghana."
As a monument to the new nation, Nkrumah opened Black Star Square near Osu Castle in the coastal district of Osu, Accra. This square would be used for national symbolism and mass patriotic rallies.
Under Nkrumah's leadership, Ghana adopted some socialist policies and practices. Nkrumah created a welfare system, started various community programs, and established schools.
Ghana's leader (1957–1966)
Political developments and presidential election
Nkrumah had only a short honeymoon before there was unrest among his people. The government deployed troops to Togoland to quell unrest following a disputed plebiscite on membership in the new country. A serious bus strike in Accra stemmed from resentments among the Ga people, who believed members of other tribes were getting preferential treatment in government promotion, and this led to riots there in August. Nkrumah's response was to repress local movements by the Avoidance of Discrimination Act (6 December 1957), which banned regional or tribally-based political parties. Another strike at tribalism fell in Ashanti, where Nkrumah and the CPP got most local chiefs who were not party supporters destooled. These repressive actions concerned the opposition parties, who came together to form the United Party under Kofi Abrefa Busia.
In 1958, an opposition MP was arrested on charges of trying to obtain arms abroad for a planned infiltration of the Ghana Army (GA). Nkrumah was convinced there had been an assassination plot against him, and his response was to have the parliament pass the Preventive Detention Act, allowing for incarceration for up to five years without charge or trial, with only Nkrumah empowered to release prisoners early. According to Nkrumah's biographer, David Birmingham, "no single measure did more to bring down Nkrumah's reputation than his adoption of internment without trial for the preservation of security." Nkrumah intended to bypass the British-trained judiciary, which he saw as opposing his plans when they subjected them to constitutional scrutiny.
Another source of irritation was the regional assemblies, which had been organized on an interim basis pending further constitutional discussions. The opposition, which was strong in Ashanti and the north, proposed significant powers for the assemblies; the CPP wanted them to be more or less advisory. In 1959, Nkrumah used his majority in the parliament to push through the Constitutional Amendment Act, which abolished the assemblies and allowed the parliament to amend the constitution with a simple majority.
Queen Elizabeth II remained sovereign over Ghana from 1957–1960. William Hare, 5th Earl of Listowel was the Governor-General, and Nkrumah remained Prime Minister. On 6 March 1960, Nkrumah announced plans for a new constitution which would make Ghana a republic, headed by a president with broad executive and legislative powers. The draft included a provision to surrender Ghanaian sovereignty to a Union of African States. On 19, 23, and 27 April 1960 a presidential election and plebiscite on the constitution were held. The constitution was ratified and Nkrumah was elected president over J.B. Danquah, the UP candidate, 1,016,076 to 124,623. Ghana remained a part of the British-led Commonwealth of Nations.
Opposition to tribalism
Nkrumah also sought to eliminate "tribalism", a source of loyalties held more deeply than those to the nation-state. Thus, as he wrote in Africa Must Unite: "We were engaged in a kind of war, a war against poverty and disease, against ignorance, against tribalism and disunity. We needed to secure the conditions which could allow us to pursue our policy of reconstruction and development." To this end, in 1958, his government passed "An Act to prohibit organizations using or engaging in racial or religious propaganda to the detriment of any other racial or religious community, or securing the election of persons on account of their racial or religious affiliations, or for other purposes in connection therewith." Nkrumah attempted to saturate the country in national flags, and declared a widely disobeyed ban on tribal flags.
Kofi Abrefa Busia of the United Party (Ghana) gained prominence as an opposition leader in the debate over this Act, taking a more classically liberal position and criticizing the ban on tribal politics as repressive. Soon after, he left the country. Nkrumah was also a very flamboyant leader. The New York Times in 1972 wrote: ″During his high‐flying days as the leader of Ghana in the 1950s and early 1960s, Kwame Nkrumah was a flamboyant spellbinder. At home, he created a cult of personality and gloried in the title of “Osagyefo” (Redeemer). Abroad, he rubbed elbows with the world's leaders as the first man to lead an African colony to independence after World War II.″
During his tenure as Prime Minister and then President, Nkrumah succeeded in reducing the political importance of the local chieftaincy (e.g., the Akan chiefs and the Asantehene). These chiefs had maintained authority during colonial rule through collaboration with the British authorities; in fact, they were sometimes favoured over the local intelligentsia, who made trouble for the British with organizations like the Aborigines' Rights Protection Society. The Convention People's Party had a strained relationship with the chiefs when it came to power, and this relationship became more hostile as the CPP incited political opposition chiefs and criticized the institution as undemocratic. Acts passed in 1958 and 1959 gave the government more power to destool chiefs directly, and proclaimed government of stool land – and revenues. These policies alienated the chiefs and led them to looking favorably on the overthrow of Nkrumah and his Party.
Increased power of the Convention People's Party
In 1962, three younger members of the CPP were brought up on charges of taking part in a plot to blow up Nkrumah's car in a motorcade. The sole evidence against the alleged plotters was that they rode in cars well behind Nkrumah's car. When the defendants were acquitted, Nkrumah sacked the chief judge of the state security court, then got the CPP-dominated parliament to pass a law allowing a new trial. At this second trial, all three men were convicted and sentenced to death, though these sentences were subsequently commuted to life imprisonment. Shortly afterward, the constitution was amended to give the president the power to summarily remove judges at all levels.
In 1964, he proposed a constitutional amendment which would make the CPP the only legal party . The amendment passed with 99.91 percent of the vote, an implausibly high total that led observers to condemn the vote as "obviously rigged." Ghana had effectively been a one-party state since independence. The amendment transformed Nkrumah's presidency into a de facto legal dictatorship.
After substantial Africanization of the civil service in 1952–60, the number of expatriates rose again from 1960 to 1965. Many of the new outside workers came not from the United Kingdom but from the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Italy, and the United Nations.
In 1951, the CPP created the Accelerated Development Plan for Education. This plan set up a six-year primary course, to be attended as close to universally as possible, with a range of possibilities to follow. All children were to learn arithmetic, as well as gain "a sound foundation for citizenship with permanent literacy in both English and the vernacular." Primary education became compulsory in 1962. The plan also stated that religious schools would no longer receive funding, and that some existing missionary schools would be taken over by government.
We need also to reach out to the mass of the people who have not had the opportunities of formal education. We must use every means of mass communication – the press, the radio, television and films – to carry science to the whole population – to the people. ...
In 1961, Nkrumah laid the first stones in the foundation of the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute created to train Ghanaian civil servants as well as promote Pan-Africanism. In 1964, all students entering college in Ghana were required to attend a two-week "ideological orientation" at the Institute. Nkrumah remarked that "trainees should be made to realize the party's ideology is religion, and should be practiced faithfully and fervently."
In 1964, Nkrumah brought forth the Seven Year Development Plan for National Reconstruction and Development, which identified education as a key source of development and called for the expansion of secondary technical schools. Secondary education would also include "in-service training programmes". As Nkrumah told Parliament: "Employers, both public and private, will be expected to make a far greater contribution to labour training through individual factory and farm schools, industry-wide training schemes, day release, payment for attendance at short courses and evening classes." This training would be indirectly subsidized with tax credits and import allocations.
In 1952, the Artisan Trading Scheme, arranged with the Colonial Office and UK Ministry of Labour, provided for a few experts in every field to travel to Britain for technical education. Kumasi Technical Institute was founded in 1956. In September 1960, it added the Technical Teacher Training Centre. In 1961, the CPP passed the Apprentice Act, which created a general Apprenticeship Board along with committees for each industry.
Nkrumah promoted pan-African culture, calling for international libraries and cooperative efforts to study history and culture. He decried the norms of white supremacy and Eurocentrism imposed by British textbooks and cultural institutions. He wore a traditional northern robe, fugu, but donned Kente cloth, from the south, for ceremonies, in order to symbolise his identity as a representative of the whole country. He oversaw the opening of the Ghana Museum on 5 March 1957; the Arts Council of Ghana, a wing of the Ministry of Education and Culture, in 1958; the Research Library on African Affairs in June, 1961; and the Ghana Film Corporation in 1964. In 1962, Nkrumah opened the Institute of African Studies.
A campaign against nudity in the northern part of the country received special attention from Nkrumah, who reportedly deployed Propaganda Secretary Hannah Cudjoe to respond. Cudjoe also formed the Ghana Women's League, which advanced the Party's agenda on nutrition, raising children, and wearing clothing. The League also led a demonstration against the detonation of French nuclear weapons in the Sahara. Cudjoe was eventually demoted with the consolidation of national women's groups, and marginalized within the Party structure.
Laws passed in 1959 and 1960 designated special positions in parliament to be held by women. Some women were promoted to the CPP Central Committee. Women attended more universities, took up more professions including medicine and law, and went on professional trips to Israel, the Soviet Union, and the Eastern Bloc. Women also entered the army and air force. Most women remained in agriculture and trade; some received assistance from the Co-operative Movement.
Nkrumah's image was widely disseminated, for example, on postage stamps and on money, in the style of monarchs – providing fodder for accusations of a Nkrumahist personality cult.
In 1957, Nkrumah created a well-funded Ghana News Agency to generate domestic news and disseminate it abroad. In ten years time the GNA had 8045 km of domestic telegraph line, and maintained stations in Lagos, Nairobi, London, and New York City.
To the true African journalist, his newspaper is a collective organizer, a collective instrument of mobilization and a collective educator—a weapon, first and foremost, to overthrow colonialism and imperialism and to assist total African independence and unity.
Nkrumah consolidated state control over newspapers, establishing the Ghanaian Times in 1958 and then in 1962 obtaining its competitor, the
Africa has produced arguably the most vibrant of nationalists from the pre-colonial period right up to post-colonialism. The list cannot be exhausted but the following are part of the crème de la crème of African nationalism. Being a leader is not being a government official, it is having the necessary political clout to start a meaningful movement and contribute to African development.
Nkrumah was a Ghanaian nationalist leader who led the country from 1957 to 1966. Nkrumah’s political journey started in 1935 when he entered Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1935. He graduated in 1939 and obtained master’s degrees from Lincoln and the University of Pennsylvania. At this point, Nkrumah had started his political journey having become the president of the African Students’ Organisation of the United States and Canada. He formed the Convention Peoples’ Party in June 1949. The party initiated a “positive action” campaign involving non-violent protests, strikes and non-cooperation with the British authorities in January 1950. Nkrumah was arrested and sentenced to one year imprisonment. In the Gold Coast’s February 1951 general election, he was elected to Parliament and released from prison to become leader of government business. He became Prime Minister of the Gold Coast in 1952 and when the Gold Coast became an independent state within the British Commonwealth, he became the new nation, Ghana’s first Prime Minister. His leadership was authoritarian but he improved the infrastructure of the country and his Africanisation policies created better career opportunities for Ghanaians. He was deposed in a coup in 1966.
Nyerere’s beliefs are best expressed in his quote, “No people without a government of their own can expect to be treated on the same level as people of independent sovereign states. It is far better to be free to govern or misgovern yourself than to be governed by anybody else…”
Nelson Mandela was the first black President of South Africa in 1994. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped to form the ANC Youth League. Through Nelson Mandela’s efforts, the ANC adopted a radical mass-based policy, the Programme of Action, in 1949.Mandela was arrested in a nationwide police operation on 5 December 1955. He was acquitted on 29 March 1961. On 21March 1960, police killed 69 people in a protest in Sharpeville and soon after, the government banned the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress. In 1961, he was called to lead the Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation) which was launched on 16 December 1961. Using the alias, David Motsamayi, he travelled around Africa garnering support for the armed struggle. He returned to South Africa in July 1962. Mandela and his counterparts are best known for the Rivonia trial of 1963 which resulted in him being imprisoned for 27 years.
His famous “Speech from the Dock” quote is an immortal showpiece of nationalistic passion, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Julius Kambarage Nyerere, known as Mwalimu (teacher) was a shrewd politician, which is way more than can be said for most these days. Born to a chief in a small village, he had to walk 26 miles to get to school but he defied odds and excelled. He went to Tabora Government Secondary School and again, against every odd excelled. Nyerere became the first Tanzanian to study at a British university, the University of Edinburgh. At this point, he was already playing around with socialist ideas and on his return was made to choose between his teaching career and politics. His choice is clear, as he soon started working towards the unification of different nationalist factions. In 1954, TANU (Tanganyika African National Union) was formed and he became its President until 1977. He was elected President of the country in 1962. Tanzania was liberated without much bloodshed because of Nyerere’s willingness to work with different people. His skills helped the country deal with the Zanzibar coup in 1964 by incorporating the leaders into the union government. This incorporation spread out to community level with the formation of the organised villages to extend traditional values and responsibilities around kinship.
No quote captures what Mwalimu stood for better than this, “The objective of socialism in the United Republic of Tanzania is to build a society in which all members have equal rights and equal opportunities; in which all can live in peace with their neighbours without suffering or imposing injustice, being exploited, or exploiting; and in increasing basic level of material welfare before any individual lives in luxury.”
Robert Mugabe is the Zimbabwean premier and has led the Southern African nation since its liberation from colonial rule in 1980. His heroic stance against capitalism and neo-colonialism has earned him worldwide fame. The approach has not really changed, he is still a guerrilla fighter against the forces of imperialism at heart. Mugabe spent 11 years as a political prisoner under the Ian Smith regime and rose to lead the Zimbabwe African National Union in 1977. He was a major negotiator for ZANU in the Lancaster House Agreement which led to the liberation of Zimbabwe from minority rule. The Zimbabwean leader is also a man of great intelligence and was said to have taught inmates English and earned multiple degrees from the University of London while in prison. He was released from prison in 1977.
Mugabe has said many things over the years but his Africanist ideologies are best expressed here; “Africa must revert to what it was before the imperialists divided it. These are artificial divisions which we, in our pan-African concept will seek to remove.”
Patrice Emery Lumumba was born Elias Okit’Asombo on July 2, 1925 in the then Belgian Congo. Lumumba was mainly known for his poems and essays which opened doors for political involvement. Having been established as a leader in organising unions, he co-established the Congolese National Movement in 1958 and called for countrywide unity, blind to ethnicity and for freedom from colonialism. On June 30, the Democratic Republic of Congo took its independence from Belgium and 35 year old Lumumba became the Prime Minister. He however, faced numerous revolts as many other leaders were vying for power. Lumumba called for United Nations aid but got none and turned to the Soviet Union which did not go down well with the United States. It has emerged that a CIA operative was instructed to poison Lumumba but he chose not to. The country was taken over by Josephy Mobutu and Lumumba was captured and beaten to death in Katanga on the 17th of January 1961. Lumumba’s death is indeed a curious case.
“The colonialists care nothing for Africa for her own sake. They are attracted by African riches and their actions are guided by the desire to preserve their interests in Africa against the wishes of the African people. For the colonialists all means are good if they help them to possess these riches,” went his speech at the All-African Conference in Leopoldville, in August 1960.
Africa today was shaped by the African pride and hunger for African development of these and more great men. Books of their legacies have been and will be written but one thing is certain, their stories can be captured in one line; They are African heroes.