Kwame Nkruma

Kwame Nkrumah

[uhn-kroo-muh, uhng-kroo-]
Kwame Nkrumah (September 21, 1909 - April 27, 1972), was an influential 20th century advocate of Pan-Africanism, and the leader of Ghana and its predecessor state, the Gold Coast, from 1952 to 1966.

Early life and education

In 1909, Francis Nwia Kofi Ngonloma was born to Madam Nyaniba. in Nkroful, Gold Coast. Nkrumah graduated from the Achimota School in Accra in 1930, studied at a Roman Catholic Seminary, and taugh at a Catholic school in Axim. In 1935 he left Ghana for the United States, receiving a BA from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in 1939, where he pledged the Mu Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., and received an STB (Bachelor of Sacred Theology) in 1942. Nkrumah earned a Master of Science in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942, and a Master 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. As an undergraduate at Lincoln he participated in at least one student theater production and published an essay on European government in Africa in the student newspaper,The Lincolnian.

During his time in the United States, Nkrumah preached at black Presbyterian Churches in Philadelphia and New York City. He read books about politics and divinity, and tutored students in philosophy. Nkrumah encountered the ideas of Marcus Garvey, and in 1943 met and began a lengthy correspondence with Trinidadian Marxist C.L.R. James, Russian expatriate Raya Dunayevskaya, and Chinese-American Grace Lee Boggs, all of whom were members of a US based Trotskyist intellectual cohort. Nkrumah later credited James with teaching him 'how an underground movement worked'.

He arrived in London in May 1945 intending to study at the LSE. After meeting with George Padmore, he helped organize the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England. Then he founded the West African National Secretariat to work for the decolonization of Africa. Nkrumah served as Vice-President of the West African Students' Union (WASU).

Over his lifetime, Nkrumah was awarded honorary doctorates by Lincoln University, Moscow State University; Cairo University in Cairo, Egypt; Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland; Humboldt University in the former East Berlin; and other universities.

Independence

As a leader of this government, Nkrumah faced three serious challenges: first, to learn to govern; second, to unify the nation of Ghana from the four territories of the Gold Coast; third, to win his nation’s complete independence from the United Kingdom. Nkrumah was successful at all three goals. Within six years of his release from prison, he was the leader of an independent nation.

At 12 a.m. on March 6, 1957, Nkrumah declared Ghana independent. Nkrumah was hailed as "Osagyefo" - which means "the victorious one" in the Akan language.

On 6 March, 1960, Nkrumah announced plans for a new constitution which would make Ghana a republic. 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. 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 1963, Nkrumah was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union. Ghana became a charter member of the Organization of African Unity in 1963.

The Gold Coast had been among the wealthiest and most socially advanced areas in Africa, with schools, railways, hospitals, social security and an advanced economy. Under Nkrumah’s leadership, Ghana adopted some socialistic policies and practices. 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. To improve public health in villages, tap water systems were installed, and concrete drains for latrines were constructed.

Politics

He generally took a non-aligned Marxist perspective on economics, and believed capitalism had malign effects that 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.

Nkrumah was also perhaps best known politically for his strong commitment 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 such as Edward Okadjian, and activists from the Eli Nrwoku's 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

Nkrumah attempted to rapidly industrialize Ghana's economy. He reasoned that if Ghana escaped the colonial trade system by reducing dependence on foreign capital, technology, and material goods, it could become truly independent. Unfortunately, industrialization hurt the country’s cocoa sector. Many economic projects he initiated were unsuccessful, or with delayed benefits. The Akosombo Dam was expensive, but today produces most of Ghana's hydroelectric power. Nkrumah's policies did not free Ghana from dependence on Western imports. By the time he was deposed in 1966, Ghana had fallen from one of the richest countries in Africa, to one of the poorest.

Decline and fall

The year 1954 was a pivotal year during the Nkrumah era. In that year's independence elections, he tallied some of the independence election vote. However, that same year saw the world price of cocoa rise from £150 to £450 per ton. Rather than allowing cocoa farmers to maintain the windfall, Nkrumah appropriated the increased revenue via federal levies, then invested the capital into various national development projects. This policy alienated one of the major constituencies that helped him come to power.

In 1958 Nkrumah introduced legislation to restrict various freedoms in Ghana. After the Gold Miners' Strike of 1955, Nkrumah introduced the Trade Union Act, which made strikes illegal. When he suspected opponents in parliament of plotting against him, he wrote the Preventive Detention Act that made it possible for his administration to arrest and detain anyone charged with treason without due process of law in the judicial 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. While Nkrumah had organized strikes just a few years before, he now opposed industrial democracy because it conflicted with rapid industrial development. He told the unions that their days as advocates for the safety and just compensation of miners were over, and that their new job was to work with management to mobilize human resources. Wages must give way to patriotic duty because the good of the nation superseded the good of individual workers, NKrumah's administration contended.

The Detention Act led to widespread disaffection with Nkrumah’s administration. Some of his associates used the law to arrest innocent people to acquire their political offices and business assets. Advisers close to Nkrumah became reluctant to question policies for fear that they might be seen opponents. When the clinics ran out of pharmaceuticals, no one notified him. Some people believed that he no longer cared. Police came to resent their role in society. Nkrumah disappeared from public view out of a justifiable fear of assassination. Finally, he orchestrated the constitutional amendment, naming Nkrumah's CPP the only legal party, and Nkrumah President for Life of the Ghanaian nation in 1964.

Nkrumah's advocacy of industrial development at any cost, with help of longtime friend and Minister of Finance, Komla Agbeli Gbedema, led to the construction of a hydroelectric power plant, the Akosombo Dam on the Volta River in eastern Ghana. American companies agreed to build the dam for Nkrumah, but restricted what could be produced using the power generated. Nkrumah borrowed money to build the dam, and placed Ghana in debt. To finance the debt, he raised taxes on the cocoa farmers in the south. This accentuated regional differences and jealousy. The dam was completed and opened by Nkrumah amidst world publicity on January 22, 1966. Nkrumah appeared to be at the zenith of his power, but the end of his regime was only days away.

Nkrumah wanted Ghana to have modern armed forces, so he acquired aircraft and ships, and introduced conscription.

He also gave military support to those fighting the Smith administration in Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia. In February 1966, while Nkrumah on a state visit to Vietnam, his government was overthrown in a military coup, which some claim was backed by the CIA. Today, Nkrumah is one of the most respected leaders in African history. In 2000, he was voted Africa's man of the millennium by listeners to the BBC World Service.

Exile, death and tributes

Nkrumah never returned to Ghana, but he continued to push for his vision of African unity. He lived in exile in Conakry, Guinea, as the guest of President Ahmed Sékou Touré, who made him honorary co-president of the country. He read, wrote, corresponded, gardened, and entertained guests. Despite retirement from public office, he was still frightened of western intelligence agencies. When his cook died, he feared that someone would poison him, and began hoarding food in his room. He suspected that foreign agents were going through his mail, and lived in constant fear of abduction and assassination. In failing health, he flew to Bucharest, Romania, for medical treatment in August 1971. He died of skin cancer in April 1972 at the age of 62. Nkrumah was buried in a tomb in the village of his birth, Nkroful, Ghana. While the tomb remains in Nkroful, his remains were transferred to a large national memorial tomb and park in Accra.

Works by Kwame Nkrumah

  • "Negro History: European Government in Africa," The Lincolnian, April 12, 1938, p. 2 (Lincoln University, Pennsylvania) - see Special Collections and Archives, Lincoln University
  • 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) - first introduction of Pan-African pellet compass
  • 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

Further reading

  • Birmingham, David. Kwame Nkrumah: The Father of African Nationalism (Athens: Ohio University Press), 1998.
  • Tuchscherer, Konrad. "Kwame Francis Nwia Kofie Nkrumah", Encyclopedia of Modern Dictators, ed. by Frank J. Coppa (New York: Peter Lang), 2006, pp. 217-220.
  • Davidson, Basil. "Black Star - A View of the Life and Times of Kwame Nkrumah" (James Currey Publishers, Oxford UK) 1973.
  • Mwakikagile, Godfrey. Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, Third Edition (Pretoria, South Africa: New Africa Press), 2006, Chapter Twelve, "Nyerere and Nkrumah: Towards African Unity," pp. 347 - 355.

References

See also

External links

Search another word or see Kwame Nkrumaon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature
FAVORITES
RECENT

;