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KWAME NKRUMAH

KWAMEH NKRUMAH

KWAME NKRUMAH was the leader of Ghana and its predecessor state, the Gold Coast, from 1951 to 1966. Overseeing the nation's independence from British colonial rule in 1957, Nkrumah was the first President of Ghana and the first Prime Minister of Ghana. An influential 20th-century advocate of Pan-Africanism, he was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity and was the winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963

BORN: 10 October 1909 Nkroful Ghana

DIED: 27 April 1972 Bucharest Romania

NATIONALITY: Ghanaian, British

RELIGION: Roman Catholic

PROFESSION: Lecturer

SPOUSE: Fathia Rizk

CHILDREN: Francis, Gamal, Samia and Sekou

Nkrumah trained to be a teacher at Achimota School in Accra from 1935-1945. For the following 5 years he worked as a teacher in several schools in the Gold Coast including a Catholic school in Axim, whilst saving money to continue his education in the USA. It was while he was in London in late 1935 that he heard the news of Fascist Italy's invasion of Abyssinia, an event that outraged the young Nkrumah and influenced his political development. In October 1935 Nkrumah sailed from Liverpool to the United States and enrolled in Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. While lecturing in political science at Lincoln he was elected president of the African Students Organization of America and Canada. As an undergraduate at Lincoln he participated in at least one student theater production and published an essay on European government in Africa in the student newspaper, The Lincolnian. During his time in the United States, Nkrumah preached at black Presbyterian Churches in Philadelphia and New York City. . Nkrumah encountered the ideas of Marcus Garvey and in 1943 met and began a lengthy correspondence with Trinidadian Marxist C.L.R. James, Russian expatriate Raya Dunayevskaya, and Chinese-American Grace Lee Boggs, all of whom were members of a US based Trotskyist intellectual cohort. Nkrumah later credited James with teaching him 'how an underground movement worked'. Nkrumah's association with these radicals drew him to the attention of the FBI and he was under surveillance by early 1945.

He arrived in London in May 1945 intending to study at the LSE. After meeting with George Padmore, he helped organize the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England. Then he founded the West African National Secretariat to work towards the decolonization of Africa. Nkrumah served as Vice-President of the West African Students' Union (WASU). Nkrumah's association with left wing radicals meant that he was watched by Special Branch whilst he was in England between 1945 and 1947.

In the autumn of 1947, Nkrumah was invited to serve as the General Secretary to the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) under Joseph B. Danquah. This political convention was exploring paths to independence. Nkrumah accepted the position and sailed for the Gold Coast. After brief stops in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast, he arrived in the Gold Coast on 10 December 1947.

On 28 February 1948, police fired on African ex-servicemen protesting the rising cost of living, killing or injuring sixty eight. The shooting spurred riots in Accra, Kumasi, and elsewhere. The government suspected the UGCC was behind the protests and on 12 March 1948 arrested Nkrumah and other party leaders. Realizing their error, the British released the convention leaders on 12 April 1948. After his imprisonment by the colonial government, Nkrumah emerged as the leader of the youth movement in 1948.

After his release, Nkrumah hitchhiked around the country. He proclaimed that the Gold Coast needed "self-governance now", and built a large power base. Cocoa farmers rallied to his cause because they disagreed with British policy to contain swollen shoot disease. He invited women to participate in the political process at a time when women's suffrage was new to Africa. The trade unions also allied with his movement. On 12 June 1949, he organized these groups into a new political party: The Convention People's Party. Nkrumah organized a "People's Assembly" with CPP party members, youth, trade unionists, farmers, and veterans. When the colonial administration rejected the People's Assembly's recommendations, Nkrumah organized a "Positive Action" campaign on 1 January 1950, including civil disobedience, non-cooperation, boycotts, and strikes. That day the colonial administration immediately arrested Nkrumah and many CPP supporters, and he was sentenced to three years in prison.

Facing international protests and internal resistance, the British decided to leave the Gold Coast. Britain organized the first general election to be held under universal franchise on 5–10 February 1951. Though in jail, Nkrumah's CPP was elected by a landslide taking 34 out of 38 elected seats in the Legislative Assembly.Nkrumah was released from prison on 12 February and was summoned by Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, the Governor, and asked to form a government on the 13th. The new Legislative Assembly met on 20 February, with Nkrumah as Leader of Government Business, and E.C. Quist as President of the Assembly.

A year later, the constitution was amended to provide for a Prime Minister on 10 March 1952, and Nkrumah was elected to that post by a secret ballot in the Assembly, 45 to 31, with eight abstentions on 21 March. He presented his "Motion of Destiny" to the Assembly, requesting independence within the British Commonwealth "as soon as the necessary constitutional arrangements are made" on 10 July 1953, and that body approved it.

As a leader of this government, Nkrumah faced many challenges: first, to learn to govern; second, to unify the four territories of the Gold Coast; third, to win his nation’s complete independence from the United Kingdom. Nkrumah was successful at all three goals. Within six years of his release from prison, he was the leader of an independent nation.

At 12 a.m. on 6 March 1957, Nkrumah declared Ghana independent. The country became independent as a Commonwealth realm. He was hailed as the Osagyefo - which means "redeemer" in the Twi language.

On 6 March 1960, Nkrumah announced plans for a new constitution which would make Ghana a republic. The draft included a provision to surrender Ghanaian sovereignty to a Union of African States. On 19, 23, and 27 April 1960 a presidential election and plebiscite on the constitution were held. The constitution was ratified and Nkrumah was elected president over J. B. Danquah, the UP candidate, 1,016,076 to 124,623.

In 1961, Nkrumah laid the first stones in the foundation of the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute created to train Ghanaian civil servants as well as promote Pan-Africanism. In 1964, all students entering college in Ghana were required to attend a two-week "ideological orientation" at the Institute.

In 1963, Nkrumah was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union. Ghana became a charter member of the Organization of African Unity in 1963.

The Gold Coast had been among the wealthiest and most socially advanced areas in Africa, with schools, railways, hospitals, social security and an advanced economy. Under Nkrumah’s leadership, Ghana adopted some socialist policies and practices. Nkrumah created a welfare system, started various community programs, and established schools. Nkrumah’s time in office was initially successful, with forestry, fishing, and cattle-breeding expanded, production of cocoa (Ghana’s main export) doubled, and modest deposits of bauxite and gold exploited more effectively. The construction of a dam on the Volta River (launched in 1961) provided water for irrigation and hydro-electric power, which produced enough electricity for the towns as well as for a new aluminimum plant. Government funds were also provided for village projects in which local people built schools and roads, while free health care and education were introduced.Nkrumah attempted to rapidly industrialize Ghana's economy. He reasoned that if Ghana escaped the colonial trade system by reducing dependence on foreign capital, technology, and material goods, it could become truly independent. However, overspending on capital projects caused the country to be driven into debt—estimated as much as $1 billion USD by the time he was ousted in 1966. Nkrumah wanted Ghana to have modern armed forces, so he acquired aircraft and ships, and introduced conscription.

He generally took a non-aligned Marxist perspective on economics, and believed capitalism had malignant effects that were going to stay with Africa for a long time. Although he was clear on distancing himself from the African socialism of many of his contemporaries, Nkrumah argued that socialism was the system that would best accommodate the changes that capitalism had brought, while still respecting African values. He specifically addresses these issues and his politics in a 1967 essay entitled "African Socialism Revisited"

Nkrumah was also best known politically for his strong commitment to and promotion of Pan-Africanism. He was inspired by the writings of black intellectuals like Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. Du Bois, and George Padmore, and his relationships with them. Nkrumah's biggest success in this area was his significant influence in the founding of the Organization of African Unity.

He also gave military support to freedom fighters fighting against the government of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), which had declared independence from Britain in 1965. In February 1966, while Nkrumah was on a state visit to North Vietnam and China, his government was overthrown in a military coup led by Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka and the National Liberation Council. Declassified documents as well as several commentators, such as John Stockwell, a former CIA case officer, have documented that the coup received support from the CIA in conjunction with Britain and France

Nkrumah never returned to Ghana, but he continued to push for his vision of African unity. He lived in exile in Conakry, Guinea, as the guest of President Ahmed Sékou Touré, who made him honorary co-president of the country. He read, wrote, corresponded, gardened, and entertained guests. Despite retirement from public office, he was still frightened of western intelligence agencies. When his cook died, he feared that someone would poison him, and began hoarding food in his room. He suspected that foreign agents were going through his mail, and lived in constant fear of abduction and assassination. In failing health, he flew to Bucharest, Romania, for medical treatment in August 1971. He died of skin cancer in April 1972 at the age of 62. Nkrumah was buried in a tomb in the village of his birth, Nkroful, Ghana. While the tomb remains in Nkroful, his remains were transferred to a large national memorial tomb and park in Accra.

Over his lifetime, Nkrumah was awarded honorary doctorates by Lincoln University, Moscow State University; Cairo University in Cairo, Egypt; Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland; Humboldt University in the former East Berlin; and many other universities. In 2000, he was voted Africa's man of the millennium by listeners to the BBC World Service, being described by the BBC as a "Hero of Independence," and an "International symbol of freedom as the leader of the first black African country to shake off the chains of colonial rule." In September 2009, then President John Atta Mills declared September 21st (the 100th anniversary of Kwame Nkrumah birth), Founder's Day. A statutory holiday in Ghana to celebrate the legacy of Kwame Nkrumah

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