Nkrumah and Ghana’s independence struggle
Oct 7, 2009
examined the contributions of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah,
born 100 years ago, through independence in 1957 and his presidency until
Internal struggles in Nkrumah’s Convention Peoples Party broke into
the open, once even resulting in an August 1962 attempt to assassinate the
president with a bomb attack.
By 1964 the First Republic of Ghana had held an election that mandated the
adoption of the one-party state form of government. During this period, the CPP
was attempting to restructure the country’s economy from dependence on
trade with and investment by the capitalist world. This proved to be a
formidable task due to the legacy of colonialism in the country and the
relative weakness of the Soviet Bloc and China, which limited their ability to
provide economic assistance to newly independent African states.
Nkrumah in 1963 identified neocolonialism as the major impediment to the
genuine liberation of Africa. At the founding meeting of the Organization of
African Unity in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he released his book entitled
“Africa Must Unite,” which provided a proposal for the adoption of
a continental union government as the only means of countering the development
of the new form of colonialism on the continent.
At the OAU conference in Egypt during July 1964, Nkrumah pleaded for the
adoption of a United States of Africa by the heads of state. This proposal was
not accepted despite apparent problems associated with the legacy of
colonialism on the continent. The Congo crisis and the economic stagnation of
many of the newly independent states illustrated that these nations were not
viable as economic and political entities.
At the October 1965 OAU Summit held in Accra, many of the heads of state
from other nations did not attend because they opposed the CPP
government’s foreign policy. At this conference, Nkrumah issued his book
entitled “Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism,” which
condemned the United States as the principal imperialist power behind the new
form of hegemonic rule, which was designed to maintain Western control over the
newly independent states in Africa and throughout the so-called developing
This book so infuriated the U.S. government that its Undersecretary of State
for African Affairs G.M. Williams wrote a memorandum of protest to
Ghana’s Embassy in Washington, D.C., saying that Nkrumah was working in
contravention to the interests of the U.S. government in Africa.
Just four months after the release of his book on neo-colonialism, Nkrumah
was overthrown on Feb. 24, 1966, by a coup d’etat led by lower-level
military officers and police in Ghana. Since they perceived Nkrumah’s
policies as a threat to the economic and political interests of the Western
powers, the U.S. government and the imperialist world united behind the
At the time Nkrumah was in China en route to North Vietnam. He was on a
mission to bring about a peace settlement in the U.S. war against the peoples
of Southeast Asia when Chinese officials informed him of the events in
Aborting his mission to Vietnam, he returned via the Soviet Union to Africa,
traveling to Egypt and eventually settling in Guinea-Conakry. Nkrumah remained
in Guinea until he was flown to Romania to undergo treatment for cancer in
1971. During the period following the coup from 1966 to 1971, he continued to
write on the history of Africa and the revolutionary movement for
Pan-Africanism and world socialism.
The legacy of Kwame Nkrumah
Despite the coup, Nkrumah’s legacy in Africa and throughout the
African world continues. His view on the necessity of coordinated guerrilla
warfare to liberate Africa was realized in the subcontinent during the 1970s
and 1980s when the settler-colonial regimes of Rhodesia and eventually South
Africa were defeated. Cuba’s role in the liberation and security of
Angola was clearly in line with Nkrumah’s ideas, which argued that until
settler colonialism was destroyed, the entire continent of Africa would not be
Though the realization of a United States of Africa is still far away, this
issue continues to be discussed broadly on the continent and in the Diaspora.
The Organization of African Unity was transformed into the African Union in
2002 in order to increase efforts aimed at the unification of the continent. A
Pan-African Parliament was formed and is now housed in the Republic of South
The current chairman of the African Union, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi,
has continued to stress the necessity of forming a continental government along
the lines Nkrumah advocated during the 1950s and 1960s.
In Ghana Nkrumah’s legacy was utilized in both a positive and a
negative manner by the successive regimes that took power after his departure.
These regimes are compelled to use his image and legacy, despite their refusal
to adopt the CPP program in its totality.
In the United States and throughout the Diaspora, increasing identification
with Africa has occurred over the last forty years. The African community in
America and the Caribbean played an instrumental role in the solidarity
struggle with the national liberation movements in southern Africa during the
1980s and 1990s. Nkrumah’s views on the necessity of African unity have
been prophetic in light of the continuing underdevelopment of the continent and
the phenomena of domestic neocolonialism in the United States and the
Caribbean. Consequently, the legacy of Nkrumah is still relevant to the
present-day struggle of African and other oppressed peoples around the
A greater understanding of Nkrumah’s ideas and activities can only
benefit the present efforts to create a world that is genuinely independent and