GUYANA UNDER SIEGE
KWAME NKRUMAH: HIS RISE AND FALL
|Page 3 of 3||(7 March 1957 - 24 February 1966)|
The political wave that swept Kwame Nkrumah into office as Prime Minister of Ghana was a true expression of her population. The nation was enjoying prosperity; foreign and domestic reserves were healthy; cocoa prices were excellent and stable and, in general, the prospects for the country's future were outstanding.
Nkrumah's government immediately embarked upon a very costly nationwide infrastructure improvement scheme. Roads were built and/or improved, in most cases, to all weather standards. The Accra to Tema Motorway was built to near Autobahn proportions. Medical services were greatly improved and expanded. Positive steps were taken towards implementation of the vast and extraordinarily costly Volta River hydro-electric dam at Akosombo. Tema township and world class harbor were built.
Nkrumah focused enormous resources on improving Ghana's export agricultural base which, traditionally, was heavily dependent upon cocoa. The Agricultural Development Board was established to regulate cocoa production, purchasing and marketing and to identify, subsidize and promote the production of other cash crops to alleviate the tenuous cocoa dependency.
The Industrial Development Corporation was formed to plan and undertake a full range of industrial projects. The Management Development and Productivity Institute was chartered along with its principal division, The Ghanaian Business Bureau, designed to develop and nurture small to medium size Ghanaian-owned businesses.
Government was determined to reduce Ghana's dependence on foreign manufacturers and bring an end to the nations' vulnerable position as a supplier of raw materials.
When Nkrumah took office as Prime Minister on 6 March, 1957, there was every indication that the above very noble activities could be successfully undertaken on a sustained basis. Cocoa prices were stable and at a near high, providing a steady and seemingly reliable source of foreign exchange.
In addition, and most importantly, Ghana was united behind her leader, succumbing to his extraordinary oratory, glib rhetoric and zeal. There was a vibrant national passion for development and self-reliance. Throughout the nation, in every region, in every Chiefdom, the population was enthusiastically and earnestly engaged in Nkrumah sponsored and supported self-help schemes; building schools, clinics, village and town centers, roads, drains and irrigation systems. Ghana of 1957-1959 experienced a massive outpouring of productive energy and was being keenly observed by the international community as the development model for emerging African nations.
So what went wrong? How and why did the brilliant, charismatic Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the outspoken Marxist/Communist, Pan-African Founding Father of Ghana, begin his political slide and ultimate ignominious fall from power?
The list of reasons is lengthy and complex but it is safe to say, that Nkrumah's decline began in early 1960. Until then, the population, because he had lead them to Independence from Britain, was generally willing to overlook Nkrumah's Marxist/Communist ideological pronouncements, his costly demands for pomp and splendor and his assumption of more and more power, in many cases, usurping elected and Traditional Authority.
However, beginning in mid-1960, at about the time that he assumed the Presidency and approved the new Republican Constitution, the economic fallibility of Ghana clearly manifested itself and materially effected the lives of all Ghanaians. From 1960 to 1965, world cocoa prices plummeted, and the enormous development spending begun by Nkrumah four years earlier, severely impacted the country's economy. Foreign exchange and government's reserves shrank and disappeared. Unemployment rose dramatically. Food prices skyrocketed up over 250% from 1957 levels and up a phenomenal 66% in 1965. Eventually, there were massive food and essentials shortages effecting every area, sector and individual in Ghana. Econmic growth, which had ranged from 9% to 12% per annum until 1960, dropped to 2% to 3%, insufficient to sustain a population expanding at almost 3% per year.
Nkrumah's response was an austere socialist budget which imposed flawed Marxist concepts of economic resuscitation on the population, primarily through harsh and unrealistic taxation. Financial mismanagement and economic chaos increased and the country was eventually poised at the brink of national bankruptcy and international disgrace.
In the meantime, to shore up his eroding political strength, Nkrumah assumed more and more power which he exercised capriciously. Obsessed with personal safety after two failed assassination attempts, he established a very well and heavily armed Secret Security Service and Presidential Guard recruited from abroad and under his direct control. Resentment by the ill-equipped Army and Police followed.
In 1964, Nkrumah declared himself President for Life and summarily banned all opposition political parties. His enemies, real and imagined, were detained. In the process, innocent people from all over Ghana were swept up and imprisoned in complete abuse of their individual rights and liberties. Laws were suspended and/or manipulated to prop up Nkrumah's faltering regime.
The power of traditional Chiefs was diminished and, in some cases, removed. This in a country where traditional authority through the great Akan chiefs had existed for a thousand years.
In the meantime, the Cult of Nkrumahism continued to develop and propound preposterous quasi-marxist theory and dogma hatched in the name of Nkrumah, at the Ideological Institute at Winebba. The Nkrumah cult, created by Nkrumah himself to perpetuate and mythicize himself, forced acquiescence by all, to what was called "the Nkrumahist Gospel".
To those of us who watched these events unfold during the years of Nkrumah's leadership, it was not a matter of if the bubble would burst, rather, when. On 21 February, 1966, President Kwame Nkrumah flew out of Accra bound for Hanoi, Democratic Republic of North Vietnam at the invitation of President Ho Chi Minh. Nkrumah was journeying to Hanoi prepared to offer his Vietnam War solution. Ghana was left in the control of a three-man Presidential Commission, consisting of a traditional Chief and two politicians.
On 24 February, 1966, the bubble did not merely burst, it exploded! In the early morning hours, Ghana's armed forces, with the cooperation of the National Police, took over government in "Operation Cold Chop", a well organized coup d'etat. The first announcement made from Radio Ghana said that the coup was led by Colonel Emmanual Kwasi Kotoka of the 2nd Infantry Brigade. Kotoka, an outstanding soldier, was a national hero, honored for valor and bravery while serving as part of Ghana's United Nations 1960 and 1961 Congo contingent. A National Liberation Council was formed to run the affairs of state. Parliament was dissolved. Nkrumah's ruling political organization, the Convention People's Party (C.P.P.), was banned and Nkrumah himself was dismissed as President of Ghana's First Republic. The reign of the Osegyefo, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, was over.
The great Ghanaian statesman, scholar, lawyer, philosopher, author and patriot, Dr. J. B. Danquah, wrote that "The true role of leadership must be support of individual freedom and personal worth. Human beings, not things make a nation great. Kwame Nkrumah forgot that and condemned his nation to many years of political and economic agony".
Nkrumah was a very complicated man. The times were turbulent and unpredictable and his undertaking was of extraordinary complexity. His successes, his Pan-African enthusiasm, the political galvanization of a very diverse, multi-faceted society, the attainment of independence for Ghana and his early economic achievements have earned him an important place in history. His failures emphasize the extreme fragility of the developing world. It is a world with little or no tolerance for political, economic, social or natural shortcomings.
Nkrumah's serious shortcomings resulted in his political destruction and the near-devastation of a magnificent land and people
© 2001 Guyanaundersiege.com