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Kwame Nkrumah, The Other Side

Discussion in 'Jukwaa la Siasa' started by JohnShao, May 6, 2010.

  1. J

    JohnShao Member

    May 6, 2010
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    Kwame Nkrumah, The Other Side.

    From The Editor’s Desk: “Following in the footsteps of Nkrumah?”
    The Standard (Zimbabwe)
    Saturday, 17 April 2010

    After re-reading President Robert Mugabe's speech on the eve of Independence
    in April 1980 (reproduced on page 21 of the print version) I and many other
    people have been asking: "What then went so completely wrong?" I thought of
    Ghana's independence ruler, who also just happens to be Mugabe's role model,
    Kwame Nkrumah. Mugabe was last week calling for the preservation of Nkrumah's

    Rashid Suleiman, who is one of the many of his biographers, had this to say:
    "Though Nkrumah is hailed in many quarters as a genuine African hero because
    of his rabid anti-imperialist stand and overzealous pursuit of Pan-African
    ideals, a look at his record reveals he was one of the worst dictators on
    the continent. Even his supposedly hallowed reputation as a Pan-Africanist
    par excellence is marred by his thinly veiled ambition to dominate the

    "In 1963, Nkrumah's suggestion to form a union government of Africa was
    rejected after he was accused of harbouring ambitions to rule the entire
    continent. Many fellow African heads of state were always wary of him
    because his overzealous pursuit of Pan-African unity betrayed a grand plan
    to dominate the continent.

    "On the domestic front, a liberal mixture of extreme paranoia, a verbose
    sense of grandeur, a misguided notion of messianic calling and know-it-all
    attitude turned Nkrumah into the worst dictator Ghana has ever seen.

    "Because he guided Ghana to become the first black African country to gain
    independence in 1957, it may be safe to say that later dictators on the
    continent learnt from his book of political tyranny. He set the stage and
    record for one-party dictatorship, personality cult, ruthless suppression of
    political opponents, detention without trial, paranoia, grandiose projects,
    economic mismanagement and election rigging.

    "Africa has produced many crazy dictators but none of them ever dreamt of
    turning into a one-man electoral commission like Nkrumah. In a
    yet-to-be-broken record in the continent, the late Ghanaian leader 'elected'
    an entire parliament of 198 MPs single-handedly within minutes.

    "The moment of history was June 1965, when a Nkrumah-weary Ghana was poised
    for elections. On the morning of polling day, the Osagyefo ("Redeemer") as
    Nkrumah was fondly known, entered the national radio station to announce
    there would be no election. He proceeded to read the names of those he had
    selected to become MPs and the areas they represented.

    "It was a fait accompli - the actions of a man who loved and worked to
    obtain absolute power. The move was inspired by Nkrumah's deep fear that his
    enemies would win the elections, though Ghana was a one-party state at his
    beck and call.

    "Ironically, Nkrumah performed the civilian coup despite the fact that he
    was in firm control and could easily decide who goes to parliament from
    behind the scenes. He did not need to be this crude and rash.

    "Right from Ghana's independence on March 5, 1957, Nkrumah made it clear he
    wanted to be an unchallenged dictator. He wasted no time in introducing
    measures meant to concentrate absolute power in his hands.

    "In the year of independence, he masterminded the enactment of the
    Deportation Act, which empowered him to kick-out anybody whose presence in
    Ghana he considered ‘detrimental’. A year later, the Preventive Detention Act
    followed to check the growing strength of the opposition alliance. The Act
    allowed Nkrumah to detain without trial anybody suspected of engaging in
    ‘anti-state activities’ for five years or longer.

    "By the time he was kicked out of power in 1966, it is estimated that at
    least 1,000 Ghanaians had been detained under the Act. The detainees
    included one of Nkrumah's most prominent opponents, Joseph Danquah. The
    lawyer politician who came second to Nkrumah in Ghana's presidential
    election in 1960 died in detention in 1965.

    "When Ghana became a republic in 1960, the hitherto Prime Minister Nkrumah
    became President with unbridled power. He made sure the constitution gave
    him the mandate to rule by decree. He formed an intricate network of spies
    to keep tabs on his real or imagined enemies.

    "In January 1964, Nkrumah contrived a special plebiscite to consign his
    opponents to the political wilderness. The referendum was to decide two
    major issues. The first was whether the country should become a one-party
    state under Nkrumah's ruling Convention Peoples Party. The second was to
    grant or deny Nkrumah powers to sack judges. After massive rigging and
    manipulation, the "Yes" vote narrowly carried the day.

    "Fresh from the stolen victory, Nkrumah flexed his muscles by sacking the
    Chief Justice who had acquitted his opponents in a treason trial. He then
    made himself life president though he was by then presiding over a tottering
    economy and a country where human rights abuses were rife.

    "After entrenching himself in power in the 1960s, Nkrumah seemed to have
    lost touch with the realities in Ghana. He preferred to pursue grand
    Pan-African schemes and paid little attention to the deep discontent in
    Ghana. Some of his close advisers even said he did not care about Ghanaians'

    "By this time, he had cemented his position and felt safe in power.

    "It was virtually impossible to remove Nkrumah from power by any means, as
    he had blocked all avenues.

    "However, he opened a weak chink in his armour when he ordered the military
    to undertake regular exercises in preparation for a war against the then
    white-ruled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

    "On the morning of February 24, the soldiers seized Accra and prepared
    themselves to fight a civil war if Nkrumah loyalists in the military
    resisted the coup. The resistance never came as jubilant Ghanaians
    celebrated the fall of a ruthless dictator who had traumatised them for nine

    "Despite his high intellect, Nkrumah's major weaknesses were paranoia and
    his love for flattery and quislings. This made it easy for him to be misled
    by court poets, sycophants, wheeler-dealers and influence peddlers. That is
    why he hand-picked socialist acolytes to top positions in the private and
    public sector.

    The appointees, most of them with shady backgrounds viewed their positions
    as a licence to loot and proceeded accordingly. Some of his loyalists used
    the detention law to arrest innocent people so they could inherit their
    business, wealth or positions.

    "He embarked on lavish spending on parlous and grandiose ventures that
    bankrupted Ghana, one of the richest African countries at independence. He
    nationalised most commercial, agricultural, mining and industrial activities
    in Ghana.

    "At independence, Ghana was one of the wealthiest and economically advanced
    colonies in Africa. But Nkrumah's penchant for grandiose projects,
    corruption, mismanagement and desire for rapid industrialisation brought
    economic ruin to the country."

    Adding anything to this would be totally superfluous.