Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe
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On March 6, 1957, Kwame Nkrumah made history. Not only did he lead the British colony of Gold Coast into independence – the first British Colony in Africa to do so – he changed its name from Gold Coast to Ghana. He also threw away the Union Jack and gave Ghana a flag they will always be proud of.
The flag has red, gold, green colors on it. But the most outstanding feature of the Ghanaian flag is the BLACK STAR. It was designed by Theodosia Salome Okoh who interpreted the red to represent the blood that was shed towards independence, the gold for the abundance of that mineral in the country, the green for the pristine and lush grasslands of Ghana and the BLACK STAR stands for the pride of place Ghanaians have occupied in the emancipation of the black people of Africa.
As a student at the Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in the United States of America, Nkrumah was introduced to the concept of Pan-Africanism. His ideas on the way forward for Africa at that critical time were crystalized by the teachings of Marcus Garvey who became famous for his “Back to Africa Movement”, Martin Luther King Jr and W.E.B Du Bois who later naturalized as a Ghanaian.
With Ghana independent, Dr Kwame Nkrumah made it the responsibility of his country to fight for the decolonization of the rest of the African Continent. He established the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute (officially known as the Kwame Nkrumah Institute of Economics and Political Science or Winneba ideological Institute) as an educational body to promote socialismin Ghanaas well as the decolonization of Africa.
The Institute was designed to give Ghanaians a new orientationand promote national independence, as almost all Ghanaians in the first independent governmentwere trained in the United Kingdom or United States.The “Osagyefo, Ghana’s fount of knowledge and pillar of strength” as he liked to call himself,Nkrumah played an instrumental part in the formation of the Organization of African Unity.
He was indeed a Black Star to the world when he joined four other remarkable world leaders – Josip Broz Tito of the Socialist Yugoslavia, Jawaharlal Nehru of India and Sukarno of Indonesia – to be the founding fathers of the Non-Aligned Movement. Their actions were known as ‘The Initiative of Five’.
The Non-Aligned Movement was a product of the global politics at the time. Its purpose, as persuasively stated by one of its earliest members, Fidel Castro of Cuba was to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemonyas well as against great powerand bloc politics.” The countries of the Non-Aligned Movement represent nearly two-thirds of the United Nations’ members and contain 55% of the world population. Membership is particularly concentrated in countries considered to be developing or part of the Third World, though the Non-Aligned Movement also has a number of developed nationssuch as Chile,Iranand Saudi Arabia, the latter of which is a member of the G20, (India) is a G20 member as well.
During Nkrumah’s period Ghana became a haven for African American political figures, artists, professionals and business people. Some within this group became staunch defenders of the Nkrumah government which was under increasing pressure from the CIA and the State Department after 1961.
Several hundred African Americans took up residence in Ghana including Maya Angelou, a writer, dancer and supporter of African liberation movements; Alice Windom of St. Louis, a social worker and educator who helped organize the itinerary of Malcolm X when he travelled to Ghana in May 1964; Vicki Holmes Garvin, a labor activist and member of the Communist Party served as a co-worker with Robert and Mabel Williams in China several years later after leaving Ghana; Julius Mayfield, a novelist and essayist who left the U.S. amid the attacks on Robert Williams, worked in Ghana as a journalist and editor of African Review, a Pan-Africanist journal in support of the CPP government; W.E.B. Du Bois was given Ghanaian citizenship and appointed as the director of the Encyclopedia Africana; Shirley Graham Du Bois, the second wife of Dr. Du Bois, a political organizer, member of the Communist Party, prolific writer and producer, was appointed by Nkrumah to head Ghana National Television; among others.
Ghana became the chief architect of African revolutionary struggle. But Nkrumah’s radical demands for the complete decolonization and even unification of the whole free African Continent into a United States of Africa attracted powerful enemies to him from the Western world. On February 24 1966, a coup sponsored by the American Intelligence Agency, the CIA was carried out against him by lower-ranking military and police officers.
At the time of the coup, he was out of Ghana on a peace mission aimed at bringing an end to the United States intervention in Vietnam. The president had stopped over in Beijing, Peoples Republic of China, for consultations with Premier Chou En-lai and had planned to continue on to Hanoi.
When Nkrumah later met with Chou he informed him that there had been a military coup in Ghana. His initial reaction was disbelief.
Leaders of the 1966 military coup wereColonel E.K. Kotoka, Major A.A. Afrifa, Lieutenant General (retired) J.A. Ankra, and Police Inspector General J.W.K. Harlle. They justified their takeover by charging that the Nkrumah administration was abusive and corrupt. They were equally disturbed by his aggressive involvement in African politics and by his belief that Ghanaian troops could be sent anywhere in Africa to fight liberation wars. Above all, they pointed to the absence of democratic practices in the nation—a situation they claimed had affected the morale of the armed forces. According to General Kotoka, the military coup of 1966 was a nationalist one because it liberated the nation from Nkrumah’s dictatorship.
Despite the vast political changes that were brought about by the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah, many problems remained. If anything, the coup led to many more coups with a succession of corrupt generals milking the country dry. Ghana under the military became a shame to the continent of Africa. Many Ghanaians fled into exile, even to Nigeria to take up menial jobs. Those who remained faced severe economic hardships including food shortages.
In June 1979, a group of young military officers under Jerry Rawlings staged a violent coup and did not only overthrow the government but lined up many military and civilian leaders of the past and executed them by firing squad. He handed over to HillaLimann, an elected President but soon returned to take over power again.
Rawlings in his second coming has brought Ghana back to its place of pride in Africa as a stable democratic and prosperous country. A series of elections have been held and peaceful transitions taken place under democratic atmosphere adjudged as free and fair by global standards. NanaAkufo Addo the current Ghanian President has a track record of high flying achievementsin job creation – the farming for job initiative, the senior high school free education, one district-one factory projects and one village-one dam initiatives among others. These are trail blazing records in Africa.
Ghana has learnt her lessons the hard way. With the discovery of oil in that country, it is certain that they will make better use of the black gold than our Nigeria. We may call ourselves the giant of Africa but Ghana remains the black star.
Additionally, Ghanaians today remain nostalgic about the Nkrumah days when the country was the black star of Africa. During his centenary birthday celebration, the government of Ghana instituted it as public holiday. September 21 rechristened Ghana Founders Day is a public holiday in Ghana.