OPINION / SPEECHES

KWAME NKRUMAH: A TRUE CHAMPION OF AFRICAN UNITY BY HILARY OJUKWU

Date Posted: July 01, 2013

By HILARY OJUKWU

Email: info@uhuruspirit.org




Ghana gained independence from the British colonialists on 6 March 1957 and became a republic on 1 July 1960. As the first sub-Saharan African country to become independent, Ghana, under Kwame Nkrumah, gave everything to see that other African countries achieve their independence. Nkrumah also championed the cause of African unification, which is the only means for Africa to achieve true independence.

This piece is an extract from the article titled, “African Unity: The Need for new Champions”, published in the Dec. 2012 – Feb. 2013 edition of UhuruSpirit Journal.

Following the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester, Kwame Nkrumah and some of his comrades in London launched the West African National Secretariat with him as the secretary. The secretariat had avowed to bring together the nationalist leaders of all the West African colonies to work out a program of action in the struggle for independence. As the momentum of Nkrumah’s activities heightened in London, he later became the president of the West African Students’ Union. He also commenced with the work of organizing a movement that would serve “as the Revolutionary Vanguard of the struggle for West African Unity and National Independence,” and “to support the idea and claims of the All West African National Congress in its struggle to create and maintain a Union of African Socialist Republics.” His first step was to set up a small secret body that he named “The Circle”. The membership of this group was limited to “persons who are trained and engaged in political revolution as a profession.”

Nkrumah and his colleagues worked tirelessly to unite African nationalist leaders for a collective struggle against colonialism. On a trip to Paris, he met with some French African deputies like Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Ivory Coast and Leopold Senghor of Senegal, who accepted his invitation to attend a West African Conference in London. But Nkrumah’s work in London was suddenly brought to a halt when he received an offer from a conservative and elitist group called the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). At that time, the UGCC whose ultimate aim was “independence in the shortest possible time” were not interested in any serious revolutionary action to fast-forward the struggle. So they limited themselves to urging for mere reforms of the colonial system. It was only when they realized that the colonial authorities would pay them more attention if they showed they were speaking for the entire people of the Gold Coast that they decided to look for a person who was willing to tour the country and recruit new members. On the recommendation of Ako Adjei, Nkrumah was offered the position of secretary general of the UGCC.

Nkrumah accepted the offer and on November 15, 1947, he left for Ghana. But ideological differences with the conservative leaders of the UGCC later forced him to leave the organization. On June 12, 1949, at a rally that drew over sixty thousand people, in Accra, Nkrumah announced the birth of the Convention People’s Party (CPP). With their slogan of “Independence Now” and their campaign for “Positive Action”, the struggle for the independence of the Gold Coast had started in earnest. Though Nkrumah was soon thrown into jail for the “conflagration” he helped to fuel, it was not long before positive action began to yield dividends. Soon, the colonial authorities announced a new constitution, providing for a new Executive Council that would include eight Africans in addition to three Europeans nominated by the governor. It also provided that the Legislative Council would be replaced by a Legislative Assembly of 84 members, 75 elected and nine nominated by the governor. Of the 75, 38 would be elected directly by the people, while the other 37 members were to be selected by the Provincial Council of Chiefs. Despite the fact that Nkrumah was in prison, he won his seat for the Accra district, while his CPP party won 34 of the 38 elected seats in the Legislative Assembly.

This was followed by Nkrumah’s release from prison, with an announcement that a mistake was made originally and that a Communist Party card found on him was unsigned. In response, Nkrumah said, "I come out of jail with hatred for nobody. We fight against systems not races. The places I know in Europe are London and Paris not Moscow and Prague. I am a Marxist socialist and a non-denominational Christian." In 1951, Kwame Nkrumah became the prime minister of Gold Coast. He was the “Leader of Government Business” and ranked ahead of the European ministers in the Cabinet and only ranked next to the colonial governor. The Gold Coast had achieved internal self-government.

One of the first things Nkrumah did was to invite his long-time comrade George Padmore to visit the Gold Coast. Padmore had obliged and toured the country for six months. After that trip, Padmore later wrote a book that he called “The Gold Coast Revolution”. Equally, he had agreed with Nkrumah to write another book, which would be the manifesto of the revolution. The book, titled, “Pan-Africanism or Communism?” by George Padmore, which had on the cover of its original edition, "Toward a Marshall Plan for Africa" was to appear in 1955.

On 10 July, 1953, Nkrumah delivered his “Motion of Destiny” and called for Independence. This necessitated a national election held on June 15, 1954. Nkrumah’s CPP won 72 seats out of a total of 104. Sadly, CPP’s triumph was followed by a period of violence, which was largely caused by the activities of the opposition National Liberation Movement that preferred a federal system of government after independence. In Ashanti, violence attacks were unleashed on local CPP members. And on the evening of November 10, 1955, an assassination attempt was made on Nkrumah when two explosions came in rapid succession at the back of his house. All the windows were shattered, but no one was hurt. In March 1956, the colonial authorities responded by calling for a new election. According to the then Secretary for the Colonies, A. T. Lennox-Boyd, “Her Majesty’s Government wanted to make sure that a reasonable majority really wanted independence in the near future and could agree on a workable constitution.” In the election that followed in July 1956, Nkrumah’s CPP won 71 out of the 104 seats, clearing the way for independence.

Following the success of CPP in the elections, W. E. B. Du Bois had written Nkrumah in these words, “I hereby put into your hands, Mr. Prime Minister, my empty but still significant title of ‘President of the Pan-African Congress,’ to be bestowed on my duly elected successor who will preside over a Pan-African Congress due, I trust, to meet soon and for the first time on African soil, at the call of the independent state of Ghana.”

Then at the stroke of midnight, on 6 March 1957, the Union Jack was lowered and the flag of Ghana was raised. Bands played Ghana’s national anthem, “Lift High the Flag of Ghana,” amidst joyous cries of “Freedom!” Ghana had become the first sub-Saharan African nation to win independence. In his speech on that historic day, Nkrumah had made an important declaration. “We are going to see that we create our own African personality and identity. We again rededicate ourselves in the struggle to emancipate other countries in Africa; for our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent,” he roared.

Writing in the same week of Ghana’s independence, W. E. B. Du Bois published an article that included a letter of congratulations and advice to Nkrumah. In it, he spelled out his own views on Pan-Africanism and the role he thought Nkrumah and Ghana should play. Ghana “must no longer be merely a part of the British Commonwealth... [but] must on the contrary be the representative of Africa... of Black Africa below the Sahara desert… Ghana should lead a movement of black men for Pan-Africanism... a new series of Pan-African Congresses should be held... The consequent Pan-Africa, working together through its independent units, should seek to develop a new African economy and cultural center standing between Europe and Asia, taking from and contributing to both... ...and should try to build a socialism founded on old African communal life”.

For Nkrumah, African independence was not an end in itself. The rapacious colonialists had arbitrarily partitioned Africa not for any other purpose apart from the satisfaction of their economic needs. He knew that most of the colonies could not make viable countries. In most cases, the borders had divided families into different countries. He wondered how those colonies, where tribalism and religious differences were promoted as means to keep the people divided, could cope after independence. Nkrumah was disturbed that without unity, it would take long for Africa to catch up with the rest of the world. For him, pan-Africanism presented the best means for Africans to recover their humanity which were taken by centuries of slavery and colonialism. As the first sub-Saharan African nation to win independence, Nkrumah knew that a huge responsibility fell on Ghana to show the way towards the redemption of Africa. But as most African countries were still fighting for independence, the first step was for Ghana to commit her resources to lead a collective effort towards the ridding of Africa of colonial rule.

In April 1958, Nkrumah convened the Conference of All Independent African States. That meeting was attended by Libya, Ethiopia, Liberia, Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt and Ghana. And the historic conference declared itself opposed to colonialism. It had also declared support for the struggle then going on in Algeria, and condemned apartheid in South Africa.

The year 1958 also fell into a period that presented serious challenges to the French empire, as agitations for independence were exploding in many of their colonies. Surely, the empire seemed to be shaking at its foundation. And thus compelling the then French Prime Minister Gen. Charles de Gaulle to propose a referendum that posed two stark alternatives to French colonies: adherence to the French Community through a “Yes” vote, or secession from France through a “No” vote. Adherence to the French Community entailed internal self-government, with foreign policy and defense remaining in French hands and compulsory adherence to the franc currency zone. The bait was economic aid from France and her partners in the recently established European Common Market. The other alternative was complete independence and severance of all ties with France. While openly threatening those territories that were considering independence, de Gaulle had declared, “It is well understood, and I understand it, one can desire secession. It imposes duties and carries danger. Independence has its burdens. The referendum will ascertain if the idea of secession carries the day. But one cannot conceive of an independent territory and a France that continues to aid it. The independent government will bear the consequences, economic and otherwise, that are entailed in the manifestation of such a will.”

On August 9, Radio-Dakar aired an interview with Sékou Touré. If de Gaulle had thrown down the gauntlet with respect to independence, Sékou Touré was willing to pick it up. He told his audience: “Listening to General de Gaulle yesterday, frankly, I was shocked. My self-respect for the dignity of Africa was shocked. One tells us that we can opt for independence, but that it will be with all the consequences. All right, I respond that the consequences are not only African. They also can be French.”

Later in the same month, Prime Minister de Gaulle toured French West and Equatorial Africa to rally support for his constitutional project. Initially, Guinea was not on his itinerary, as according to a former RDA activist, Bocar Biro Barry, “de Gaulle had intended to avoid Guinea, believing that its leader was boiling, hot and anti-French. So, he did not want to come to see himself insulted. Because, de Gaulle, you know, he had great pride. He was the great Frenchman. He did not want to be humiliated here. So, he was supposed to see all the countries except Guinea. He thought that Guinea was lost; the people were going to vote ‘No’. They were bunch of fools.” However, Bernard Cornut-Gentile, a former high commissioner of French West Africa and de Gaulle’s new minister of Overseas Finance, convinced de Gaulle that he could get Sékou Touré to comply.

While de Gaulle was received with fanfare in one colony after another, in Conakry, he was treated to a defiantly passionate, and what has now become the historic, speech by Sékou Touré. “We will not renounce and we will never renounce our legitimate and natural rights to independence…. We prefer poverty in liberty to riches in slavery…. We wish to be free citizens of our African states, members of the Franco-African Community. In effect, the French Republic, within the Franco-African association, will be an element, as all the African states equally will be elements, of this grand multinational community composed of free and equal states.”

Thus only the people of Guinea voted “No” and de Gaulle and France took immediate reprisals. The French pulled out all their technicians, teachers and other experts. They even took away typewriters from offices, unscrewed electric bulbs and took them, and also took rifles from the army. The idea was to punish Guinea for their audacity and so teach them a bitter lesson.

When Sékou Touré ran out of options and had nowhere else to go, he turned to Ghana, where he conferred with Nkrumah and Padmore. Luckily in those days, Ghana had a lot of money—over half billion dollars in cocoa marketing board reserves. And Nkrumah had no difficulties in lending 28 million dollars to Guinea to keep them ashore in the meantime. It was also at that meeting that the two parties agreed to start a union of African states in which each would put in its constitution that they would give up their sovereignty when the United States of Africa was achieved. Then on May 1, 1959, Nkrumah and Sékou Touré met in the capital city of Guinea, where they delivered the momentous Conakry Declaration, establishing the Union of African States. Mali joined the union in April 1961.

Nkrumah believed that only a united effort by Africans, and not just the heads of states, would secure the total liberation of the continent. On this note, he sent invitations to all known nationalist organizations, women’s groups, trade union groups, and youth groups, all over Africa, to come and discuss the final overthrow of colonialism. And between 5th-13th December 1958, the First All African People’s Conference (AAPC) held in Accra, Ghana. Nkrumah had dubbed the conference “The Plan for the Liberation of Africa by Gandhian Nonviolence”.

The conference, whose slogan was “Hands off Africa—Africa must be free” condemned imperialism and colonialism in whatever guise they were perpetuated. It was also resolved that “a permanent secretariat of the All-African People's Conference be set up to organize the All-African Conference on a firm basis”. The conference declared full support to all freedom fighters in Africa, including, “those who resort to peaceful means of non-violence and civil disobedience, as well as to all those who are compelled to retaliate against violence to attain national independence and freedom for the people”. It further condemned all laws that treated such freedom fighters as common criminals.

The conference had condemned apartheid in its totality and had called on the independent African countries to boycott South African goods and impose other economic sanctions, as a protest against racial discrimination. It was also declared that “no African state should have any diplomatic relations with any country on our continent that practices race discrimination”. Actually, it should be noted that what later became known as the international movement for sanctions against apartheid South Africa originated at this historic conference organized by Nkrumah.

The conference had also urged the British government to end the state of emergency in Kenya, and also called for the release of all political prisoners in that country.

Another highlight of the 1958 Conference was the presence of a young Congolese nationalist leader, Patrice Lumumba, who, according to St. Clare Drake, “was going around handing out cards from a beer company he worked for – Patrice Lumumba, beer salesman”. Drake had also pointed out that the conference politicized Lumumba and “was the beginning of a working relationship between Nkrumah and Patrice in which Patrice became his protégé, so to speak”.

In his speech on the final day of the conference, Nkrumah challenged delegates, saying, "Now you've seen an independent state, we've had this big conference, now go on and free your part of Africa." And among those in his audience were Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda, Tom Mboya of Kenya, Felix Moumie of the French Cameroons, Roberto Holden of Angola, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, and Malawi’s Hastings Banda, and others who later played leading roles in “freeing” their part of Africa.

After the 1st AAPC, other pan-African conferences would soon follow. The All-African Trade Union Federation was launched at a conference in Accra, Ghana in November 1959. The aim was to unite workers in Africa. The Conference on Positive Action and Security in Africa also held in Accra, Ghana in April 1960.

The Second Conference of All Independent African States took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on June 15, 1960. In addition to the eight countries that attended the first conference, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Cameroon and the Algerian Provisional Government took part in this one. Nkrumah was not at this conference in person, but was represented by the then Foreign Minister of Ghana, Ako Adjei, who in his speech stressed the need for African unity. “To us in Ghana the concept of African unity is an article of faith,” he said, among other things.

There was also the Conference of African Women, which was held in Accra, Ghana on 18 July, 1960.

The Second All African People’s Conference was held in Tunis, from the 25th – 30th of January, 1960. That meeting took place against the backdrop of the threat by France to explode their atomic bomb in the Sahara, and the continued fighting in Algeria. It was announced during the conference that the Congo would attain independence on June 30, 1960. The conference adopted a proposal by the Algerians and Moroccans for an 'international corps of volunteers' to go to fight in Algeria in the manner of the International Brigade that had gone to Spain in the 1930s. It was at that conference that the AAPC would adopt resolutions on neo-colonialism for the first time, albeit as a passing reference. African governments were urged to “… actively set about liquidating the gangs of neo-colonialism”. So, it actually appeared that the nature of neo-colonialism was not yet clearly understood as the main vehicle of imperialism at that time.

Indeed, the year 1960 was eventful in African history in many ways. Firstly, many African countries won independence that year. Cameroon, Mali, Senegal, Togo, Madagascar, the Congo (DRC), Somalia, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Central African Republic, Congo (Brazzaville), Gabon, Nigeria, and Mauritania, all became independent in 1960.

Secondly, crisis in the Congo would soon split African leaders into different antagonistic groups and deal a deadly blow to Nkrumah’s pan-Africanist vision.

Many people have wondered why the independence of the Congo had happened so precipitously. The reason for this becomes easy to decipher upon considering the fact that the Belgians failed to do anything to prepare the Congolese for independence. On the eve of independence, only a very few persons were trained in any kind of administrative position and only three African managers were in the entire civil service. The Africans were seen as mere suppliers of manual labour. Worse still, there were only 6 university graduates and no black technician in the Congo before 1960. And in the colonial army, known as the Force Publique, there was no black commissioned officer as the Belgian colonialists were in charge of everything. In fact, the first Congolese university graduate was only in 1956.

Another consequence of the failure of the Belgian colonialists to prepare the Congolese for independence was that by 1959 almost all the political groups were tribal organisations championing tribal agendas. Only the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC) founded by Patrice Lumumba could make any pretention of being a nationalist movement, because the MNC was the only organization that had support across various tribes and understood the importance of national unity.

Therefore, it is clear that the so-called Congolese independence was designed to fail from the beginning. The Belgians never had any intention to leave the Congo. It was their plan to contrive such a calamity that would ensure their hegemony in the post-independent Congo. And sadly, that was exactly what happened.

Having won the most votes in the May 22 1960 national elections, on 24 June 1960, Lumumba’s MNC formed a coalition government with him as the Prime Minister, while the leader of ABAKO (a party promoting the interests of the Bakongo people) Joseph Kasavubu took the essentially ceremonial post of the President.

On 30 June 1960, the Congo became independent as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The main highlights of the independence celebrations on that day were the speeches by King Baudouin of Belgium and the new Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.

That Baudouin regarded the Congolese independence as a farce was revealed during his speech when he declared that "The independence of the Congo is the crowning of the work conceived by the genius of King Leopold II, undertaken by him with courage and continued by Belgium with perseverance.”

If King Baudouin really had some respect for the people of the Congo, their leaders and their sovereignty, how could he have travelled all the way from Belgium to come to Congo to heap praises on a man that is detested by not only the Congolese, but all people all over Africa? This is because King Leopold II is best remembered as a murderer whose reign of terror in the Congo Free State has no comparison in history. Rubber was needed to manufacture tyres for the military vehicles of the imperialists, and in Congo, rubber was found in abundance. The only thing King Leopold had to do, in order to meet his rubber quotas, was to deploy brutal force against the unfortunate African population. So he dispatched his colonial army, the Force Publique (FP) to go and terrorize the people. So, the Force Publique made the practice of cutting off the limbs of the natives, as a means of enforcing rubber quotas, a matter of policy. And at the end, most colonialist agents and other missionaries that took count told us that while millions of people were murdered, other millions were savagely mutilated. Various historical accounts tell us that over half of a population of 25 million people was hacked to death by Leopold and his agents in the Congo.

Therefore, for Baudouin to praise such a man as Leopold, who did great physical and psychological harm to the people of the Congo, on a day when they won independence from Leopold’s cousins, reveals that he never believed in the authenticity of that independence.

Luckily, Prime Minister Lumumba, who though was not scheduled to speak on that day, had to mount the rostrum in order to lift the morale of his compatriots which was dampened by Baudouin: “For this independence of the Congo, even as it is celebrated today with Belgium, a friendly country with whom we deal as equal to equal, no Congolese worthy of the name will ever be able to forget that it was by fighting that it has been won, a day-to-day fight, an ardent and idealistic fight, a fight in which we were spared neither privation nor suffering, and for which we gave our strength and our blood. We are proud of this struggle, of tears, of fire, and of blood, to the depths of our being, for it was a noble and just struggle, and indispensable to put an end to the humiliating slavery which was imposed upon us by force,” Lumumba had roared in response.

Patrice Lumumba had embraced Pan-Africanism, when he attended the 1958 first All African People’s Conference in Ghana. Conscious of the ugly situation that imperialism had created in the Congo, he saw in pan-Africanism the only hope to truly liberate his country and, according to St. Clare Drake, Lumumba was willing to bring Congo into the Ghana-Guinea-Mali union.

The Belgians had felt threatened by Lumumba’s revolutionary outlook. So, they were not ready to take chances. After only five days of independence, they orchestrated a crisis that would forestall the revolution that was developing under Lumumba. On June 5, 1960, the racist commander of the Force Publique General Émile Janssens sparked a mutiny after insulting the Congolese soldiers at a meeting in the Léopoldville garrison. He had told the soldiers that their plight would remain the same even after independence. Janssens was reported to have written "After independence = before independence" on a blackboard. As a result, the garrison mutinied against its white officers and attacked some European targets. But it was the exaggerated stories about the incident that caused the mass exodus of Europeans to Brazzaville and Stanleyville.

Then in a move that confirmed they viewed the Congolese independence as a farce, on July 10, 1960, Belgium desecrated the sovereignty of the Congo when thousands of her parachutists landed in Katanga, under the guise of protecting their citizens. In Leopold, the capital, they took over the airport; they strafed Matadi, on the Lower Congo River, while a Commando ship fired on the town. And believing that the Belgians were back to away their independence, the soldiers became mutinous again. But the Belgian plot became clearer when the next day, on 11 July 1960, Moïse Tshombe with the support of the Belgian government and Union Minière declared the independence of the province of Katanga as the State of Katanga. So, it was confirmed that the Belgian troops were there to defend their hegemonic interests, and it did not worry them that they were in violation of the sovereignty of an independent nation. Within a few days, notorious mercenaries were hired by Katanga to support what was available in the defence of their new African enclave. Soon, Union Minière paid the sum of 1.25 billion Belgian francs (35 million USD) into Moïse Tshombe's bank account, as an advance on 1960 taxes which should in fact have been paid to Lumumba's government. Everything happened accordingly like they do in most action movies. But it was clear that everything had been planned in advance, even before independence, as Belgium had much at stake in the Congo.

The Congo is one of the richest countries in the world, particularly when it comes to natural resources. It is the world’s largest producer of cobalt ore, and one of the major producers of copper and industrial diamonds. Over 70% of the world’s coltan and its derivatives like tantalum, and more than 30% of the world’s diamond reserves are found in the Congo. Tantalum is used today in the fabrication of electronic components in computers and mobile phones. The country also houses over 50% of Africa’s forest, and a river system that could provide hydro-electric power to the entire African continent. More than 80% of the uranium in the American atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 came from Congo's heavily guarded mine at Shinkolobwe.

The province of Katanga was by far the richest and the most developed in the Congo. It was also home to the vast industrial mining complex, Union Minière du Haut-Katanga, jointly owned by Société Générale de Belgique, Belgium's largest holding company (which controlled 70% of the Congolese economy) and Tanganyika Concessions Ltd.

So Belgium had much at stake in the Congo. And in Moïse Tshombe, a close associate of Union Minière du Haut-Katanga who was in control of the Katanga Province, they had a key political ally.

That blatant act of aggression compelled Lumumba and his government to call on the United Nations (UN) to intervene and restore their country’s dignity. On July 14 1960, the UN Security Council issued Resolution 143 and authorized the deployment of a peacekeeping force, United Nations Mission in the Congo (ONUC), and called for Belgium to withdraw its troops from the Congo.

Sadly, the United Nations failed to enforce its resolution. And the Belgian forces remained entrenched in the country, while the political situation continued to deteriorate. In fact, the UN forces clearly took sides against the legitimate authorities. According to Lumumba, “But what we wanted for our country—its right to an honorable life, to perfect dignity, to independence with no restrictions—was never wanted by Belgian colonialism and its Western allies, who found direct and indirect, intentional and unintentional support among certain senior officers of the United Nations, that body in which we placed all our trust when we called on it for help.”

On August 17, 1960 a disappointed Lumumba, in a desperate bid to restore order to his country, asked for military assistance from the Soviet Union, thus bringing the crisis to a climax. The Americans, who were haunted by the Communist takeover of Cuba in January 1959, feared that history was about to repeat itself and went into overdrive. In one of his messages, the CIA station chief in Leopoldville cabled the CIA director that “Congo [is] experiencing [a] classic communist effort [to] takeover government… there may be little time to take action to avoid another Cuba”. In the midst of the paranoia, the then US President Dwight Eisenhower gave an authorization to the CIA to assassinate Patrice Lumumba. Through the UN officials, the U.S. was able to win over many important actors in the Congo catastrophe. Just four days before he ousted Lumumba, the U.S. authorized payments to then President Joseph Kasavubu. When that did not work as Prime Minister Lumumba continued to win the support of the majority members of the Parliament, they supported Mobutu to seize power in an alleged military coup on September 14, 1960, after which his collaborator President Kasavubu retained his position.

Patrice Lumumba was kidnapped on December 1, 1960 by agents working on behalf of their Belgian and American paymasters. The United Nations was there when he was delivered into his enemies den in Katanga, where he was later assassinated by the imperialist masters and their Congolese puppets.

There is no doubt that Nkrumah and other progressive African leaders did not stand aside. But the greatest mistake which all of them, including Lumumba, made was to put their trust in the United Nations. When the UN Security Council had decided to intervene in the Congo, Nkrumah, in the name of Ghana, was the first African head of state to offer help to Lumumba. So the first contingents of UN troops that arrived in the Congo actually came from Ghana and Tunisia.

But at the end, Nkrumah had learnt some bitter lessons about the real nature of neo-colonialism and its agents like the United Nations.

Ludo de Witte in his book, The Assassination of Lumumba, made an important observation when he wrote as follows, “Lumumba’s very short political career, his relatively easy overthrow, and finally his assassination which has taken decades to clarify, have had a very demoralizing effect on African nationalism.”

Truly, the assassination of Lumumba and the Congo crisis helped to bring divisions among African leaders to the open. Different groups with various ideological inclinations would sprout forth. One of such groups was made up of mostly former French African colonies including Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Dahomey (now Benin), Gabon, Cote D’Ivoire, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), which met in a December 1960 Conference in Congo Brazaville. There, they towed the line of France and declared their support for Lumumba’s enemies in the Congo.

Interestingly, though most of these former French colonies were declared independent in 1960, the French had retained key control over their strategic sectors like the economy and security. So following independence, the French maintained military bases in many of these countries—in a typical neo-colonialist relationship. Moreover, the triumph of French neo-colonialism in the so-called French Africa hinged on the successful imposition of French quislings and puppets on those countries. Hence, leaders like Felix Houphouet Boingy of Cote D’Ivoire were men who were well-tutored and fanatically sympathetic to the French cause, as can be seen in the following instance.

On 7 April 1957, Nkrumah was on a visit to Côte D’Ivoire, where he called on all African colonies to declare independence. Houphouët-Boigny had, in return, responded in the following words, “Your experience is rather impressive ... But due to the human relationships between the French and the Africans, and because in the 20th century, people have become interdependent, we considered that it would perhaps be more interesting to try a new and different experience than yours and unique in itself, one of a Franco-African community based on equality and fraternity.”

Thus in order not to disappoint the French, the Brazzaville Group supported Lumumba’s enemies and refused to recognize the Algerian Provincial Government. Instead, they spoke in friendly terms about the well-known recalcitrant French President Charles de Gaulle and nebulously preached about “peace” and “negotiation”. On African unity, they remained hesitant and non-committal because they valued their relationship with the French, more than anything.

Clearly, it was the Brazzaville Conference that provoked another conference that followed in Casablanca, Morocco, from January 3-January 7, 1961. But this time, it was led by Nkrumah and attended by most of the so-called progressive countries like United Arab Republic, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Libya, Morocco and the Algerian Provisional Government, this group later became known as the Casablanca Group. On the issue of the Congo Crisis, they were in support of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Also, they took a swipe at the French quislings in the Brazzaville Group, when in their preamble they proclaimed their determination to liberate the African territories still under foreign domination, by giving them aid and assistance; to liquidate colonialism and neo-colonialism in all their forms; to discourage the maintenance of foreign troops and the establishment of bases which endanger the liberation of Africa, and to strive equally to rid the African Continent of political and economic interventions and pressure.

Unlike the Brazzaville Group, the Casablanca Group did not only recognize the Algerian Provisional Government, they readily supported the Algerian struggle, and welcomed the Algerian Provisional Government to be part of their meetings. Definitely, Morocco’s involvement in this group was related to her interest in the Mauritanian saga. But though countries like, Ghana, Algeria and Libya were in support of the Mauritanian independence, their point of convergence with Morocco was in their opposition to neo-colonialism and French impositions in Africa. The Casablanca Group also differed completely with the Brazzaville Group in the sense that most of them favoured Nkrumah’s call for the United State of Africa.

So, it was against the backdrop of the Congo crisis that the 3rd All African People’s Conference, was held in Cairo, Egypt on March 25-30, 1961. According to George M. Houser, a co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), who was in attendance, the mood was defined by the events in Congo and it was not business as usual. He wrote, “Large banners were suspended across major Cairo boulevards during the Conference with-slogans such as ‘Unify Congo as One Country’, ‘Death to Lumumba’s Murderers’, ‘Colonialists and Imperialists Hands Off Africa’, ‘Down with Verwoerd’s Government’ , ‘Freedom to Kenyatta’, etc.” He also wrote that “large photographs of Patrice Lumumba, Jomo Kenyatta, Roland Felix Moumie (President of the Union of the Populations of the Cameroons who was poisoned in late 1960) and John Kale (representative for about three years in Cairo of the Uganda National Congress who died in a plane crash in 1960) added to the symbolism of the Conference. Pictures of these four African leaders, three of whom had died or had been killed since the last All African People's Conference, were prominently displayed in many of the numerous halls or centers where conference business was carried on.”

Not surprisingly, the one issue that dominated proceedings at the 3rd AAPC was the Congo crisis and the killing of Lumumba. The conference was spot-on in its assessments of many of the central characters in the crisis. The United Nations was seen as an instrument for the imperialist domination of Africa. The then UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld was attacked for his connivance in what transpired in the Congo. He was called the “handmaiden of the imperialists and colonialists”. The West was blamed as being responsible for the Congo crisis, while Moise Tshombe and Joseph Kasavubu were declaimed as the stooges, puppets, vassals and quislings of the imperialists.

As expected, the 3rd AAPC tackled neo-colonialism in much detail. The meeting gave its definition of neo-colonialism as "the survival of the colonial system in spite of formal recognition of political independence". Neo-colonialism was recognized as "…the greatest threat to African countries that have newly won their independence or those approaching this status," and manifests itself through "economic and political intervention, intimidation and blackmail in order to prevent African states from directing their political, social and economic policies towards the exploitation of their natural wealth for the benefit of their peoples". The conference declared that “neo-colonialism neutralizes independence by imposing unequal economic, military and technical conventions, by creating puppet governments following false elections, or by inventing so-called constitutional formulas of multi-national co-existence intended only to hide the racial discrimination favouring settlers" and operates "through the guided intervention of the United Nations, the balkanization of newly-independent States or the systematic division of the political or trade union forces, and in desperate cases like in the Congo… by plots, repressive measures by army and police, and murder in cold blood". Some of the countries named as the main perpetrators were the United States, Federal Germany, Israel, Britain, Belgium, Holland, apartheid South Africa and France.

Though it was decided that the 4th All African People’s Conference would hold in Bamako, Mali in February 1962, it never materialized as the battle between the Casablanca and Brazzaville groups intensified.

Attempts were made to reconcile both the Brazzaville and Casablanca Groups in a proposed conference on May 8, 1961 in Monrovia, Liberia. But the organizers’ refusal to invite the Algerian Provisional Government forced the Casablanca Group to pull out. Morocco refused to attend because of the invitation of Mauritania. However, the meeting was attended by all countries in the Brazzaville Group plus other countries like, Nigeria, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Ethiopia, Libya, Tunisia and Liberia. This group of countries later became known as the Monrovia Group. It was dominated by the French quislings and other Western puppets, who claimed to favour economic relations as the best way to promote African unity. Among the principles outlined by this group include, respect for the sovereignty of each member state and its inalienable right to existence and the development of its personality. According to the Monrovia Group, the unity that was needed at that time was not the political integration of sovereign African States, but unity of aspirations and actions considered from the point of view of African solidarity and political identity. It was said that they however regretted the absence of the Casablanca powers and addressed hopes that they would attend future conferences.

But the knotty issues of the Algerian struggle and status of the Algerian Provisional Government would continue to pose an obstacle to the so-called reconciliation. Thus even when all the independent African countries, including the Casablanca states, accepted to attend a proposed January conference in January 1962, the Casablanca group again pulled out because the Algerian Provisional Government was not invited. And on that occasion, the Libyan, Sudanese and Tunisian diplomats who were already in Lagos for the meeting, had to fly back home. At the Lagos meeting, it was proposed that the next summit be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on a date to be decided by the Ethiopian authorities in consultation with all the independent African states.

It is true that Nkrumah considered those African leaders, who opposed his idea of unification, as traitors. He despised them as enemies of African progress and did not see any difference between them and their imperialist sponsors. So under Nkrumah’s government of Ghana, many opponents of many of the Africa’s pro-Western regimes ran to Ghana for refuge. And for this reason, fingers were pointed at Nkrumah and accusations of interference were made.

In the early 1960s, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the leader of the opposition Action Group party, visited Ghana after which he stated in a speech that he would bring Nigeria into the Ghana-Guinea-Mali union, if he were prime minister. Soon, his party started running on that ticket. But in December of 1962, Awolowo and other 26 leading members of his party were charged with treason and a conspiracy to overthrow the government. They were accused of arranging for the training of guerilla forces and procurement of weapons and other assistance from Ghana. Witnesses told of plans for a coup d’état in September of 1962, and how they travelled to Ghana, under Awolowo’s instruction, and received assistance from President Nkrumah in obtaining the necessary weapons. Awolowo and many of his colleagues were later sentenced to twelve years in prison for colluding with Ghana to overthrow the government of Nigeria.

On January 13, 1963, the President of Togo, Sylvanus Olympio, was killed in a military coup. He was gunned down at the gate of the American embassy in Lome, where had ran to for refuge. Again, fingers were pointed at Nkrumah’s direction.

Algeria had become independent on July 5, 1962, under the leadership of the FNL. And sensing that the main hurdle to reconciling the Casablanca and Monrovia groups had been resolved, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia felt he could use the planned African summit in his country to bring the two together. On June 28, 1962, Nkrumah’s confidante and colleague in the Casablanca Group, the Guinean President Sekou Toure, was the guest of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. At the end of his visit, both leaders issued a joint communiqué underlining their agreement that all the member countries of the Casablanca and Monrovia groups should be made to attend the proposed summit in Addis Ababa—in order to avoid further division.

Selassie was equally pleased when on January 15, 1963 the secession of Katanga came to an end in the Congo after the UN forces took control.

However, Nkrumah renewed his call for African unity at the historic summit. His new book, Africa Must Unite, which was published just in time for the meeting was widely distributed at the summit. According to St. Clare Drake, “Nkrumah had put on everybody's desk, a copy of his book, Africa Must Unite, and he's there pumping for the United States of Africa.” Through the book, he once again made a passionate plea for unity: “We must endeavour to eradicate quickly the forces that have kept us apart. The best means of doing so is to begin to create a larger and all-embracing loyalty which will hold Africa together as a united people with one government and one destiny," he wrote. “We need the strength of our combined numbers and resources to protect ourselves from the very positive dangers of returning colonialism in disguised forms. We need it to combat the entrenched forces dividing our continent and still holding back millions of our brothers. We need it to secure total African liberation.”

During the summit Nkrumah lampooned regionalism and called for an end to the various groupings and regional blocks. So, at the end of the meeting, the Casablanca and Monrovia blocks were declared dissolved, and Nyerere announced the planned dissolution of the regionalist Pan-African Freedom Movement for East, Central and Southern Africa (PAFMESSA).

The conference gave birth to the Organization of African Unity (OAU) after the 32 heads of states, in attendance, on May 25, 1963, signed the charter for its formation. Sadly, the Organization of African Unity indirectly made itself the greatest obstacle to African Unity through that single decision that the boundaries in Africa needed to be kept as they were before independence. So, instead of embracing progressive pan-Africanism, the majority of the African leaders embraced what St. Clare Drake correctly described as “Conservative pan-Africanism”.

But Nkrumah remained unflinching and would not be deterred by opposition and even mockeries by many African leaders. He refused to throw in the towel and continued with the fight for African unification. When the East African leaders declared their intention to federate in June 1963, Nkrumah saw it as a defiance of the OAU agreement to dissolve regional blocks and he responded, as follows, “Having accepted a common destiny for Africa at Addis Ababa, we can no longer stand aloof in the face of any danger that threatens our common cause. It is for this reason that I have been compelled to express my own apprehensions concerning the proposal to unite the East African States into a single political entity”. But Nkrumah’s major worry with the proposed East African merger derived from what he saw as the “Anglo-American neo-imperialist enthusiasm for the federation which, to him, destined it as a tool of neo-colonialism.” Nkrumah’s apprehension was heightened when the “British government appointed a High Commissioner to the projected federation even before negotiations towards it by the East African countries could seriously get under way.”

Nkrumah took his fight against the East African Federation to the OAU Cairo Conference in 1964. And in a swipe aimed at President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania he said, “What could be the result of entrusting the training of Freedom Fighters against imperialism into the hands of an imperialist agent?”

President Nyerere was the brain behind the East African Federation and his country had been chosen by the OAU as the headquarters of the African Liberation Movements. Nyerere was equally furious when he took the podium to address the 1964 conference. He also used the opportunity to lambaste Nkrumah’s thesis on African unity. “I am becoming increasingly convinced that we are divided between those who genuinely want a continental Government and will patiently work for its realization, removing obstacles, one by one; and those who simply use the phrase ‘Union Government’ for the purpose of propaganda,” he declared. “To rule out a step by step progress towards African Unity is to hope that the Almighty will one day say, ‘Let there be unity in Africa,’ and there shall be unity.’ … to say that the step by step method was invented by the imperialists is to reach the limits of absurdity.” Nyerere also teased Nkrumah about “the Redeemer” title of his and attacked those he said had wanted “some stupid historians in future” to praise them for being in favour of a big continental ambition before anyone else was willing to undertake it.

Despite the opposition, Nkrumah continued to push for the unity of Africa. In 1965, he published another book, Neo-Colonialism, Last Stage of Imperialism. This very comprehensive book thoroughly exposed how the imperialist powers and their agents had continued to maintain hegemony even after independence. According to Nkrumah, Neo-Colonialism operates “not only in the economic field, but also in the political, religious, ideological and cultural spheres.” He showed how the imperialist powers and their agents used the so-called “multilateral aid” to retain control: “Another neo-colonialist trap on the economic front has come to be known as ‘multilateral aid’ through international organisations: the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-national Bank for Reconstruction and Development (known as the World Bank), the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association are examples, all, significantly, having U.S. capital as their major backing. These agencies have the habit of forcing would-be borrowers to submit to various offensive conditions, such as supplying information about their economies, submitting their policy and plans to review by the World Bank and accepting agency supervision of their use of loans. As for the alleged development, between 1960 and mid-1963 the International Development Association promised a total of $500 million to applicants, out of which only $70 million were actually received…. Nor is the whole story of ‘aid’ contained in figures, for there are conditions which hedge it around: the conclusion of commerce and navigation treaties; agreements for economic co-operation; the right to meddle in internal finances, including currency and foreign exchange, to lower trade barriers in favour of the donor country’s goods and capital; to protect the interests of private investments; determination of how the funds are to be used; forcing the recipient to set up counterpart funds; to supply raw materials to the donor; and use of such funds a majority of it, in fact to buy goods from the donor nation. These conditions apply to industry, commerce, agriculture, shipping and insurance, apart from others which are political and military.”

The book compelled Western countries, especially the U.S. to take reprisal actions. A promised U.S. aid to Ghana was cancelled and the Ghanaian charge d’affaires in Washington was summoned by the U.S. State Department to receive their formal protest. But no one has been able to show that any of the claims made by Nkrumah in the book is incorrect.

The Vindication of Nkrumah

President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was overthrown in a February-1966-CIA-sponsored military coup, while he was on a state visit to Hanoi. He later went to live in Guinea, where President Sekou Toure made him a co-President. Nkrumah continued his work on African unity until on April 27, 1972, when he passed on in a Romanian hospital.

Nkrumah’s death paved the way for the then President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania to emerge as the leading voice for African unity. Nyerere is also mostly remembered for his key contributions to OAU’s war against apartheid South Africa, and its support to the anti-colonial struggles in many other Southern African countries like Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia. Unfortunately, all these happened at a time when much of Africa was already embroiled in serious crisis. The irony is that Nkrumah, in the manner of prophets, had foreseen everything and warned Africa. Even at a time when the imperialists were putting final touches to the overthrow of Nkrumah, on 25 November 1965, in the Congo, they helped their cherished ally, Joseph Mobutu, to organize a second military coup through which they took complete control of political power in that country. It was under the OAU that the French imperialists and their neo-colonial agents consolidated their hold on all the former French colonies, the so-called Francophone countries. Cote D’Ivoire, under former President Félix Houphouët-Boigny, which served as the headquarters of French imperialism in Africa, was held up as a good example for Africa. But events in recent times have revealed that Cote D’Ivoire is nothing but really a pack of cards.

Nigeria under the then Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa was staunchly opposed to Nkrumah’s idea of unity. But the fate of Nigeria today is not different from that of other African countries. The truth about Nigeria is that the imperialists had nurtured a crop of corrupt members of the ruling elite who inherited power at the dawn of independence. And in conniving with their imperialist sponsors, they abused power and totally left the country permanently perching on the precipice. Though Nigeria saw a bloody Civil War between 1967 and 1970, the country remains nothing but a keg of gun-powder that can explode at any moment. Another reality is that while the imperialists and their neo-colonialist agents have since independence immensely enjoyed Nigeria’s riches in mineral resources, the people of Nigeria have known only pain, grief and anguish.

In one of his many prophetic declarations, Nkrumah had in his speech at the Casablanca meeting on 7th January 1961 warned other African leaders as thus, “What I fear worst of all is that if we do not formulate plans and take active steps to form a political union, we would soon be fighting and warring among ourselves. ” Unfortunately, this is exactly what has happened and it is really shameful that Africans have ended up fighting to protect borders that were created for their oppression. And today, the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia remains a problem. Chad and Libya battled over the same issue in the early 1980s. Others include Somalia-Ethiopia dispute, Kenya-Somalia border crisis, Tanzania-Uganda crisis, Nigeria-Cameroon dispute over Bakassi peninsular, among many others.

Who can forget the Rwandan genocide in 1994 when over 800,000 African people were massacred in just 100 days? Or can we forget the role played by the imperialists and neo-colonialists in that genocide? The sad truth is that though Nkrumah warned Africa, still all these grisly things happened under the watch of the OAU.

It was also under the OAU that Africa witnessed internecine wars and other bloody crisis in countries like Liberia, Sierra-Leone, Somalia, Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, among others.

One of the sad outcomes of these wars and crisis is that African leaders have ended up diverting Africa’s productive energies and resources towards the prosecution of some stupid and crazy wars. And while all these are going on, poverty, diseases, under-development, dependence on the so-called developed countries, illiteracy and ignorance have remained the plight of the continent.

So, when all is said and done, there is no doubt that the Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah has been vindicated and it was upon this realization that the movement of pan-Africanism has continued unabated. The Sixth Pan-African Congress took place in the early 1970s in Tanzania. And 20 years later in April 1994, the 7th Pan-African Congress was held in Kampala, Uganda.

In 1997 during his speech in Accra, Ghana, to mark the 40th anniversary of Ghana’s independence, Julius Nyerere, made what one can correctly refer to as his famous confession. While talking about Nkrumah in that speech, Nyerere said, “He wanted the Accra summit of 1965 to establish Union Government for the whole of independent Africa. But we failed. The one minor reason is that Kwame, like all great believers, underestimated the degree of suspicion and animosity, which his crusading passion had created among a substantial number of his fellow Heads of State. The major reason was linked to the first: already too many of us had a vested interest in keeping Africa divided”. Nyerere further confessed when he added as follows, “We of the first generation leaders of independent Africa have not pursued the objective of African Unity with vigor, commitment and sincerity that it deserves. Yet that does not mean that unity is now irrelevant.”



Post your Comment


comments powered by Disqus

NOTABLE PAN-AFRICANISTS

Latest Additions

Kwame Nkrumah

Nnamdi Azikiwe

Pixley ka Isaka Seme

Robert Sobukwe

George Padmore

Read Biography>>>

WHO IS WHO IN AFRICA

Latest Additions

Robert Mugabe

Goodluck Jonathan

Mwai Kibaki

Winnie Mandela

Thabo Mbeki

Read Biography >>>