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"We know that the “traditional African society” was founded on principles of egalitarianism. In its actual workings, however, it had various shortcomings. Its humanist impulse, nevertheless, is something that continues to urge us towards our all-African socialist reconstruction. We postulate each man to be an end in himself, not merely a means; and we accept the necessity of guaranteeing each man equal opportunities for his development. “

Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah

Text Box: Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
(1909-1972)
Early life and education
Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah was born in Nkroful, Gold Coast (now Ghana), as Francis Nwia-Kofi Ngonloma. Educated at Achimota School, Accra and the Roman Catholic Seminary, Amisano, he taught at the Catholic school in Axim. In 1935 he left Africa for the USA, receiving a BA from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in 1939. He also earned a Masters of Science in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942 and a Masters of Arts in philosophy the following year. While lecturing in political science at Lincoln he was elected president of the African Students Organization of America and Canada.
During his time in the United States, Nkrumah visited and preached in black Presbyterian Churches in Philadelphia and New York City. He read books about politics and divinity. He encountered the ideas of Marcus Garvey. He also tutored other students in philosophy.
He arrived in London in 1945 intending to study at the LSE. But following a meeting with George Padmore he helped to organise the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England. After that he began to work for the decolonisation of Africa and became Vice-President of West African Students Union.
Nkrumah was later awarded honorary doctorates by Lincoln University, Moscow State University; Cairo University in Cairo, Egypt; Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland; Humboldt University in the former East Berlin; and other universities.
Return to the Gold Coast
In the autumn of 1947, Nkrumah was invited to serve as the General Secretary to the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) under Joseph B. Danquah. This political convention was exploring paths to independence. Nkrumah accepted the position and set sail for the Gold Coast. After brief stops in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast, he arrived in the Gold Coast in December 1947.
In February 1948 police fired upon a protest by African ex-servicemen who were protesting the rapidly rising cost of living. The shooting spurred a series of riots in Accra, Kumasi and other towns. The government suspected the UGCC was behind the protests and therefore arrested Nkrumah and other leading members of the party. Realizing their error, the British soon released the convention leaders. So it was that Nkrumah was unjustly imprisoned by the colonial government and emerged as hero and leader of the youth movement in 1948.
After his release, Nkrumah began to hitchhike around the countryside. In community after community he proclaimed that the Gold Coast needed "self-government now." He built an impressive power base. The cocoa farmers rallied to his cause because they disagreed with British policy concerning the containment of swollen shoot disease. He appealed to women to be a part of the political process at a time when women’s suffrage was new to Western Democracy. The Unions also allied with his movement. By 1949, he had organized these groups into a new political party called The Convention People’s Party.
Forced to avoid storm and stress within the Gold Coast, the British called for the drafting of a New Constitution that gave some responsibility for policy decisions. Under the New Constitution, drawn up by a selected commission of middle class Africans, wealthy individuals would control the parliament. Nkrumah called his own “People’s Assembly” composed of representatives of party members, youth organizations, trade unions, farmers, and veterans. Their proposals called for a democratic universal franchise without property qualifications, a separate house of chiefs, a responsible cabinet, and self-governing status under the Statute of Westminster. These amendments, known as the Constitutional Proposals of October 1949, were rejected by the colonial administration.
The colonial administration’s rejection of the People’s Assembly’s recommendations led directly to Nkrumah’s call for “Positive Action” in January 1950. Positive Action included Civil Disobedience, Non-Cooperation, Boycotts, and Strikes. The colonial administration retaliated by arresting Nkrumah and many of his supporters in the CPP. Nkrumah was sentenced to three years in prison. Once again Nkrumah became a martyr in the cause of liberty and people flocked to the Convention People’s Party.
Facing international protests and internal resistance the British decided to leave the Gold Coast. Britain organized the first general election to be held in Africa under universal franchise in 1951. Though in jail, Nkrumah won the election by a landslide and his party gained 34 out of 38 seats in the Legislative Assembly. Now the Leader of Government Business, Nkrumah was released from prison on February 12, 1951. The British Governor Charles Arden-Clarke asked him to head a new government which to lead to independence, he agreed. In 1952, upon the withdrawal of the British Governor, he was appointed to the office of Prime Minister. Finally, winning the election of 1960, Nkrumah became the first President of Ghana. In 1962 he was awarded Lenin Peace Prize.
Independence
As a leader of this government, Nkrumah faced three serious challenges. First, he needed to learn the art of government. Second, he needed to create a unified nation of Ghana from the four territories of the Gold Coast. Third, he needed to win his nation’s independence. Nkrumah was successful at all three goals. Within nine years of his release from prison, he was the executive president of a unified nation with complete political freedom.
Under Nkrumah’s leadership, Ghana took enormous steps forward. To lift the nation out of poverty, Nkrumah created a welfare system, started various community programs, and established schools. He ordered the construction of roads and bridges to further commerce and communication. In the interest of the nation’s health, he had tap water systems installed in the villages and ordered the construction of concrete drains for latrines.
At 12 AM on March 6, 1957 Ghana was declared independent. Nkrumah was now hailed as "Osagyefo" - which means "victorious leader" in the Akan language. Ghana was declared a republic in 1960 and became a charter member of the Organization of African Unity in 1963.
Politics
He generally took a non-aligned Marxist perspective on economics, and believed capitalism's malign effects were going to stay with Africa for a long time. Although he was clear on distancing himself from the African socialism of many of his contemporaries; Nkrumah argued that socialism was the system that would best accommodate the changes that capitalism had brought, while still respecting African values. He specifically addresses these issues and his politics in a 1967 essay entitled "African Socialism Revisited":
"We know that the “traditional African society” was founded on principles of egalitarianism. In its actual workings, however, it had various shortcomings. Its humanist impulse, nevertheless, is something that continues to urge us towards our all-African socialist reconstruction. We postulate each man to be an end in himself, not merely a means; and we accept the necessity of guaranteeing each man equal opportunities for his development. The implications of this for socio-political practice have to be worked out scientifically, and the necessary social and economic policies pursued with resolution. Any meaningful humanism must begin from egalitarianism and must lead to objectively chosen policies for safeguarding and sustaining egalitarianism. Hence, socialism. Hence, also, scientific socialism."[1]
Nkrumah was also perhaps best known politically for his strong committment to and promotion of Pan-Africanism. Having been inspired by the writings and his relationships with black intellectuals like Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois, and George Padmore; Nkrumah went on to himself inspire and encourage Pan-Africanist positions amongst a number of other African independence leaders and activists from the African diaspora. With perhaps Nkrumah's biggest success in this area coming with his significant influence in the founding of the Organization of African Unity.
Economics
See also: Economy of Ghana
Nkrumah attempted to move Ghana’s economy toward a more industrial model. His reasoning was that moving Ghana out of the colonial trade system by reducing its dependence on foreign capital, technology, and material goods would allow it to become truly independent. Unfortunately, he moved to industrialization at the expense of his country’s cocoa growing sector, which had been a strong economic sector until then. In the end, the various economic projects that he undertook were generally unsuccessful and, especially in the case of the Volta Dam, hugely expensive. Neither did they remove Ghana from dependence on Western imports. By the time he was deposed, Ghana had gone from being one of the richest countries in Africa to one of the poorest.
Decline and Fall
Nkrumah Hall at the University of Dar es Salaam in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
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Nkrumah Hall at the University of Dar es Salaam in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
The year 1954 was a pivotal year in the life of Kwame Nkrumah. In that year, he won the Independence Election with an astonishing (but quite legitimate) 80% of the vote. However, the same year, saw the planting of the seeds of his ultimate political demise. In 1954 the world price of cocoa rose from £150 to £450 per ton. Rather than allowing the cocoa farmers to reap the benefit from this windfall, Nkrumah decided to divert the additional profit to national development. This new policy caused him to fall into disfavour with one of the major constituencies that helped him come to power in the first place.
The year 1958 saw the introduction of two pieces of legislation that would restrict the freedoms of the people of Ghana. In the wake of the Gold Miner’s Strike of 1955, Nkrumah introduced The Trade Union Act which made strikes illegal. In reaction to a suspected plot on the part of an opposition member of parliament, The Preventive Detention Act made it possible to arrest and detain anyone charged with treason without the involvement of the nation’s court system.
When the railway workers went on strike in 1961, Nkrumah ordered strike leaders and opposition politicians arrested under the Trade Union Act of 1958. Though Nkrumah, himself, had organized strikes a few years before; there was no longer any place for them in his plan for rapid industrial development. He told the unions that their days as advocates for the safety and just compensation of miners was over. Their new job was to work with management in the mobilization of human resources. Wage incentives must give way to patriotic duty. In his eyes, the good of the nation as a whole superseded the good of individual workers.
The Preventive Detention Act led to widespread disaffection with Nkrumah’s administration. Some of his men used the law to have innocent people arrested so that they could acquire their political offices and business assets. Advisers close to Nkrumah became reluctant to discuss Ghana’s true situation for fear that they might be seen as being critical. When the nation’s clinics ran out of pharmaceuticals, no one notified him. Some people believed he no longer cared, the advisers trembled, and the police came to resent their role in society. Meanwhile, a quite justifiable fear of assassination meant Nkrmah became less accessible. Ghana was declared a one-party state with Nkrumah as Life President in 1964.
Nkrumah’s commitment to industrial development at any cost led to his decision to construct a hydroelectric power plant on the Volta River. American corporations would build the dam for Nkrumah, but they would also place numerous restrictions on what could be produced using the power that it generated. It was a bad deal, but Nkrumah would not back away from it. He used borrowed money to build the dam. This placed Ghana in serious debt. Financing the debt incurred by building a dam in the north required higher taxation of the cocoa farmers in the south. This accentuated regional differences and jealousy. The dam project was completed and officially opened by Nkrumah amidst world publicity on January 22, 1966. The dam continues to generate power for Ghana and surrounding countries. Nkrumah appeared to be at the zenith of his power. In reality, the end of his regime was only days away.
Nkrumah wanted Ghana to have modern armed forces. He acquired aircraft and ships and introduced conscription. He also gave military support those fighting the racist government of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). In February 1966, while Nkrumah was away on a state visit to Beijing, China, his government was overthrown in a CIA supported military military coup.
Exile, death and tributes
Nkrumah never returned to Ghana, but he did continue to push for his vision of African unity. Nkrumah went into exile in Conakry, Guinea where he was the guest of Sekou Toure. He spent his time reading, writing, corresponding, gardening, and entertaining guests. Despite his retirement from public office, his fear of western intelligence agencies did not abate. When his cook died, he began to fear that someone would poison him and he took to hoarding food in his room. He suspected that foreign agents were going through his mail. He lived in constant fear of abduction and assassination. In failing health, he was flown to Bucharest, Romania for medical treatment in August 1971. He died of cancer in April 1972. He was buried in Ghana in a tomb (still present) at the village of his birth, Nkroful, but his remains were later transferred to a large national memorial tomb and park in Accra.
Works by Kwame Nkrumah
    * Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah (1957) ISBN 0-901787-60-4
    * Africa Must Unite (1963) ISBN 0-901787-13-2
    * African Personality (1963)
    * Neo-Colonialism: the Last Stage of Imperialism (1965) ISBN 0-901787-23-X
    * Axioms of Kwame Nkrumah (1967) ISBN 0-901787-54-X
    * African Socialism Revisited (1967)
    * Voice From Conakry (1967) ISBN 90-17-87027-3
    * Handbook for Revolutionary Warfare (1968)
    * Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for De-Colonisation (1970) ISBN 0-901787-11-6
    * Class Struggle in Africa (1970) ISBN 0-901787-12-4
    * The Struggle Continues (1973) ISBN 0-901787-41-8
    * I Speak of Freedom (1973) ISBN 0-901787-14-0
    * Revolutionary Path (1973) ISBN 0-901787-22-1
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Credit: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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