By Explo Nani-Kofi
On 24th February 1966, the government of Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown through a military and police coup d’état in which the key figures were Col E.K. Kotoka, Major A.A. Afrifa and Inspector General of Police J.W.K. Harlley. The files of the US Central Intelligence Agency declassified in 1999 show that USA has been trying to influence people to overthrow President Kwame Nkrumah since 1964. The CIA backed coup in Ghana was part of the Cold War conflict of the time as President Nkrumah was seen as an ally of Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. This event has resulted in what I call the 24th February 1966 Consensus which has affected politics in Ghana and the total shift from those organizations and institutions that Nkrumah worked as well as ideas and structures which President Nkrumah had. By international progressive movement here, I mean forces together which have been working globally to stop or limit the diktat of a few rich nations and rulers who control this world. This paper will identify some of the structures that Nkrumah was involved with and show how there is a total shift from this politically in Ghana and this shift includes forces which declare themselves as followers of Kwame Nkrumah.
Back in 1935 it is reported that when Kwame Nkrumah arrived abroad he was very much concerned about the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy. During that time campaigners set up the International African Friends of Abyssinia just the same way that we have the anti-war movements today responding to various occupations by the western governments. Nkrumah also initiated The Accra Assembly –The World Without the Bomb as part of the initiatives for peace in this world.
Kwame Nkrumah was one of the organizers of the 5thPan African Congress in Manchester, UK, in 1945 which came out with a declaration that “We believe in freedom and the right of all peoples to govern themselves. We affirm the right of all colonial peoples to control their own destiny. All colonies must be free from foreign imperialist control, be it political or economic.” Within 12 years, Gold Coast became independent Ghana and the decade to follow became known as Africa’s decade with a lot of the African countries. The 5th Pan African Congress made a far reaching impact because it had representatives of African intellectuals, peasants and workers representing organized forces on the continent.
Together with other heads of states and governments, Nkrumah observed the great threat that the Cold War was posing to the world and how it made it difficult for newly independent or self-governing countries to forge ahead. In 1961, the non-aligned movement was formed by the Jawaharlal Nehru (Prime Minister of India), Kwame Nkrumah (President of Ghana), Gamal Abdel Nasser (President of Egypt), Achmed Sukarno (President of Indonesia) and Josip Broz Tito (President of Yugoslavia) with the first official meeting attended by leaders from 25 countries in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in 1961. This became a platform for close collaboration with Cuba and President Fidel Castro.
Kwame Nkrumah went ahead as the Prime Minister of Ghana to convene the All Africa Peoples’ Conferences with the first held in Ghana in December 1958. This forum had mass movements in the struggle against imperialism and colonialism. The second conference was held in Tunisia in 1960 and the third in Egypt in 1961. The third conference adopted a resolution on neocolonialism and a fourth conference was scheduled for Bamako, Mali, in 1964, to discuss the prosecution of the struggle against neocolonialism on which they had resolved at the last congress. Before the conference could come on there were disturbances in Mali with the first Tuareg rebellion in 1962 -1963. President Kwame Nkrumah went on to write the book Neocolonialism – The Last Stage of Imperialism in 1965 which received a serious protest from the USA government. This was then followed by the US CIA influenced coup d’etat to overthrow Kwame Nkrumah in 1966. In 1967, President Modibo Keita of Mali, who should have hosted the fourth All African Peoples’ Conference took his country back into the French Community and toned down his association with Soviet Union ad Eastern Europe. This did not satisfy the western imperialists and in 1968 he was overthrown by Moussa Traore who imprisoned Keita until the debilitating prison conditions killed him. It has to be noted here that Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Modibo Keita of Mali and Sekou Toure of Guinea founded the Union of African States comprising Ghana, Mali and Guinea in 1960.
In a recent speech in Accra, the Cuban General Risquet quoted Kwame Nkrumah as having said “I have never regarded the struggles for the independence of the Gold Coast, as an isolated objective, but always as a part of a general world historical pattern. Africans of all territories of this vast continent shall wake up and nothing shall stand in the way of their fight for freedom. It is our duty, since we constitute the vanguard, to give all possible assistance to those currently waging battles that we have put on the right track; our task is not done and our safety is not secured until the last vestiges of colonialism are eliminated from the African continent.” [ 1 ] As he knew the shortcomings off his political party and government personnel, he didn’t want to give this task to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but created a Bureau of African Affairs. He also assembled a group of Pan-Africanists from the movement and put the Bureau under the directorship of George Padmore from Trinidad with whom he worked in organisng the 5thPan African Congress. Upon Padmore’s death in 1958, E.K. Barden became the Director and Kofi Michael Ameko his Deputy Director. In 1961, he organized a meeting of the progressive African governments made up of Ghana, Guinea, Mali, United Arab Republic, Libya and the provisional government of the Algeria Republic and took a decision to support the National liberation Front of Algeria and the Lumumba forces in the Congo. Through the Bureau of African Affairs, Nkrumah assisted the liberation movements in Central and Southern Africa. Ghana was also hen a Mecca for various progressive movements fighting against neocolonial puppets in their countries.
Kwame Nkrumah was involved in taking the steps towards the formation of first the African Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO) in 1957 and was involved in is expansion to the Organisation of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America and Latin America in January 1966 not long before his overthrow. He has mentions its vice chairman, Mehdi Ben Barka, who was assassinated in a plot suspected to have involved the CIA, French intelligence and Mossad in his book, Handbook of Revolutionary War. In Ghana, under Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X, the radical African-American, visited the country in May 1964 and Ernesto Che Guevara, who has become an icon of world revolutionary struggle, visited the country in January 1966.
Kwame Nkrumah developed his politics as an internationalist who was committed to the total liberation of Africans and the African world. Outraged by the news of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and also declaring whoever came to the USA must be committed to going back home to change the situation of our people he embarked not only on academic work but also political training in the USA. He was influenced by the ideas of Marcus Garvey on one hand then engaged with the Trinidadian Marxist C.L.R. James, the Russian expatriate who was one time Leon Trosky’s secretary – Raya Dunayevskaya and the Chinese-American Grace Lee Boggs all of whom were part of the US-based trotskyist network during his stay in USA. Nkrumah admits in his Autobiography that he learnt how an underground movement worked from C.L.R. James. It was through C.L.R. James that Nkrumah got introduced to George Padmore. In UK, Nkrumah became a leading member of the West African National Secretariat (WANS) which worked closely with the Communist Party in Great Britain. This brought him to the notice of the intelligence services whilst he was in UK.
By the time when Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown on 24th February 1966, he had assembled a an international network of progressives around him across he globe and was also in the forefront of the progressive movement. The difficulty was that his party, the Convention People’s party (CPP) hadn’t developed at pace with its leader which is why he continues to stress in his post-coup reflections that the party cannot continue in the old way in which it was. With 24th February 1966, there are people who claim the Nkrumah legacy in politics but pay no heed to this reflection. 24th February 1966 gave the opportunity for Nkrumah’s former colleagues to shed the burden of continuing on this path and integrate with the other mainstream reactionaries in what I call the 24thFebruary 1966 Consensus. This whole legacy as described above is no longer the driving force nor the organizing pillar in national politics. Kwame Nkrumah comes to be mentioned by every group, including the New Patriotic Party (NPP) descendants of the United Party (UP) and the 24th February 1966 coup organizers who brought Kwame Nkrumah’s government down, when it comes to independence anniversaries, his birthday and death anniversaries and sending visitors to the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum.
After 24th February 1966, work done by some former members of Ghana National Socialist Students Organisation (GHANASSO), former Young Pioneers, former members of Workers Brigade, former students Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute, and former associates of Kwame Nkrumah at home and abroad created an atmosphere for revival of the progressive movement and Ghana’s active involvement in groups like the International Union of Students, World Federation of Democratic Youth, Women’s International Democratic Federation, and All-African trade Union Federation. By 31st December 1981, when Flt-Lt J.J. Rawlings overthrew the government of Dr Hilla Limann, a number of progressive organizations had emerged like the African Youth Command, Pan African Youth Movement, New Democratic Movement, Kwame Nkrumah Revolutionary Guards, June 4 Movement, People’s Revolutionary League of Ghana, Movement On National Affairs, Socialist Revolutionary League Of Ghana, Students and Youth Movement for African Unity, African Youth Brigade, All African Peoples’ Revolutionary Vanguard etc but all these died one by under the Rawlings’s regime as their leaders suffered from repression. [ 2 ] Ghana does not stand within the international progressive movement the same way it stood before the 1966 coup d’etat. However, enthusiastic across the length and breadth of the country are yearning for a change so that Ghana becomes once again part of the global struggle for change which will return the meaning to President Kwame Nkrumah’s statement that “the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of the African continent”.
[ 1 ] – Commander Jorge Risquet Valdes, Communist Party of Cuba, The Contribution of Dr Kwame Nkrumah to the Struggle Against Imperialism, Speech at the 2012 Anniversary of the Birth of President Kwame Nkrumah, Accra, Ghana.
[ 2 ] – Emmanuel Hansen, Ghana Under Rawlings – Early Years, and also Popular Struggles for Democracy in Africa edited by Peter Anyang Nyongo (Chapter 8 – The State and Popular Struggles in Ghana, 1982 – 86 by Emmanuel Hansen).
Explo Nani-Kofi is the Director of Kilombo Centre for Civil Society and African Self-Determination, Peki, Ghana and London, UK (www.kilomboeducation.org) which jointly publishes the Kilombo Pan African Journal, organizes the Another World Is Possible Radio Programme on GFM Radio (www.gfmradio.com) and the annual KILOMBO Conference on Africa, Africans and Social Justice in Ghana as well as coordinates the Campaign Against Proxy War in Africa. Explo writes forwww.counterfire.org, The Crystal Clear Lens Newspaper (Ghana), The Insight Newspaper (Ghana) among others and is a guest political analyst on African Affairs on Islamic Channel, Press TV and Al Jazeera. He is one of the authors of African Awakening – The Emerging Revolutions by Pambazuka Press. Explo was the initiator and coordinator of the African Liberation Support Campaign Network in UK (http://kilombo.moonfruit.com/) and the Fela Anikulapo Kuti Memorial Concert in London. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.