Kwame Nkrumah was a Ghanian political leader and statesman who served as the Ghanian first and only Prime Minister from 1952 to 1960, and then a President from 1960 to 1966.
Kwame Nkrumah was also a nationalist who led the struggle for the independence of Gold Coast (now Ghana) from the British colonial rule until the achievement of the independence in 1957.
In Africa, Kwame Nkrumah have also became one of the top African nationalist who supported and popularized the Pan-Africanism movement in Africa. He even became one of the founding members and fathers of the Organization of African Union (OAU) now African Union (AU).
Early Life of Kwame Nkrumah
Kwame Nkrumah was born in Nkroful, Gold Coast in 1909 to a father Kofi Ngonloma who was a goldsmith, and a mother named Elizabeth.
He started his primary education at a Roman Catholic elementary school in the coastal town of Half Assini. After the completion of his primary, he started his secondary education at the Achimota College in Accra. Immediately, after his graduation from Achimota in 1930, he secured a job as a teacher and taught at Elmina and Axim junior schools all between 1930 to 1935.
As part of his desire to further his education, Nkrumah went to the United States where he enrolled into the Lincoln University in Pennsylvania State in 1935. He graduated in 1939 with a bachelor degree in economics. Again, he joined Pennsylvania University for his masters degree which he finished in 1942.
Political Career of Kwame Nkrumah
While a student in the United States, Kwame Nkrumah developed interest in politics more especifically Pan-Africanism movement. He studied several socialist ideas such as that of Karl Marx, and also associated himself with Pan-Africanists in America. That was why, he admired and be influenced by Marcus Garvey, who was one the leading Pan-Africanists. Gradually, Nkrumah’s commitment towards African future led to his election as the President of the African students organization of the United States and Canada.
Hoping to further his education and secured more opportunity in his struggle, Kwame Nkrumah left the United States to England in 1945. Upon his arrival in England, he started his PhD degree at the London School of Economics. But, due to some misunderstanding with the School, he was unable to make it.
However, Kwame Nkrumah went ahead with his Pan-Africanism movement in England. In 1945, he and another Pan-Africanist called George Padmore organized the 5th Pan-African Congress held in Manchester between 15 to 19 October. During the Congress, they proposed the idea of establishing the United States of Africa.
Kwame Nkrumah returned to Gold Coast from England in 1947. Upon his return, he joined the newly formed political party the United Gold Coast Convention (UGGC) as the General Secretary. The UGGC was a Party with energetic mind towards nationalist struggle. Therefore, Nkrumah ad Party Secretary, engaged in rallying and presenting public awareness lectures in the Gold Coast. In 1948, the UGGC leaders including Nkrumah helped in the planning and outbreak of the ex-service men riot in Accra. After the colonial police overcame the rioters and calmed the situation, UGGC Nkrumah together with the Party President J.B. Danquah and some other Party leaders were arrested accused as those behind the riot and therefore detained for about two months before being released.
Later, misunderstanding and disagreement erupted and split the UGGC between the supporters of Kwame Nkrumah who was more radical like and the supporters of J.B. Danquah who seems to be conservative like. In 1949, Nkrumah left the UGGC and founded the new party called Convention Peoples Party (CPP), with the aim of fighting for the immediate self government for the Gold Coast.
Under the new Party, Kwame Nkrumah became more committed to the Gold Coast independence. In the struggle, he planned and organized several civil disobedience movements such as demonstrations, strikes, and even boycott. In January 1950, he organized general strike under the banner of ‘positive change’ throughout the country, and eventually turned into civil protest. Therefore, Nkrumah was arrested and sentence to three years term imprisonment.
While in prison, legislative election was held in February 1951. His Party the CPP won the majority of the seats winning 34 out of 38. Fortunately, Nkrumah was one of the elected members despite being in prison during the election.
On 12 February, 1951, Nkrumah was released from prison after the internal and foreign pressures. Upon his release, he was asked to form a government due to his position of the President of the party with majority. With forming of the new government, Kwame Nkrumah became the Gold Coast Prime Minister under the Gold Coast Colonial Government. Under the new position, he continued demanding for the independence of Gold Coast from the Great, and also tried his best to unite the country as well as working for nation building.
Gold Coast Independence
After a great effort by the nationalists through constitutional and conferences led by Nkrumah, Gold Coast attained independence on 6 March, 1957, and also became member of the Commonwealth of nations. Likewise, Gold Coast was renamed Ghana after the name of the former Ghana Empire, Kwame Nkrumah retained his position of the Prime Minister.
After assuming power as the Prime Minister of the Independent Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah issued the Africanization policy which aimed at giving more opportunities to the Ghanians. He also embarked on providing infrastructural facilities such as roads, railroads, hospitals, schools, and others for the development of the young nation. However, his government was in some ways seems to be totalitarian due to his socialist ideologies, and therefore opposed by some Ghanians.
In April 1960, presidential election was held in Ghana with Kwame Nkrumah and J.B. Danquah as top contenders. The outcome of the result showed Nkrumah as the winner with 1,016,076 votes defeating Danquah who scored 124,623.
Upon his assuming power, Kwame Nkrumah started making effort in securing a total power in Ghana. Gradually, he reduced powers any institutions that would threatened his power such as that of the traditional chiefs. He also did his best in reducing opposition from other political parties and increased the power and importance of his party the CPP. He lastly even went further by amending the Ghanian constitution in which the CPP was made the only legal party and he himself the Ghanian President for lifetime. However, this action caused huge outrages in Ghana.
In his policies in the African scene, Kwame Nkrumah held a belief that Africa must be united. In 1961, he opened Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute in order to promote Pan-Africanism ideas as one of its primary purposes. Another his most important contribution towards the African unity and consolidating the emerging African countries was being one of the leading figures in the creation of the Organization of the African Union (OAU).
1966 Military Coup
Though respected in Ghana and throughout Africa Kwame Nkrumah’s government started to faced unpopularity as a result of his totalitarian rule and some economic problems around 1965 to 1966.
As a result, on 24 February, 1966, while on a state visit to China, a group of army and police who called themselves as the National Liberation Council led by Joseph Ankrah overthrown the Nkrumah’s government and declared a new military government in its place.
Later Years and Death
After he was removed from power, Kwame Nkrumah got an asylum in Conakry by the then Guinean President Ahmed Sekou Toure. During his life in Guinea, Nkrumah continue his support for the African unity and also criticizing the Western nations.
Unfortunately, his health started showing some signs of deterioration as he was suffering from cancer. Therefore, he was taken to Bucharest, Romania, for medical treatment. He suddenly died on 27 April, 1972, at the age of 62.