Kwame Nkrumah

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Kwame Nkrumah

Kwame Nkrumah (actually Francis Nwia Kofi Kwame Nkrumah ; born September 21, 1909 in Nkroful , Ghana ; † April 27, 1972 in Bucharest , Romania ) was a Ghanaian politician . He was the first President of Ghana.

With the demand Independence now! Kwame Nkrumah led the British crown colony Gold Coast under the name Ghana on March 6, 1957 as one of the first African countries to achieve independence ( see also: Decolonization of Africa ). During his stay in the USA and London he came into contact with the ideas of Pan-Africanism and became one of the most important spokesmen for the Pan-African movement.

childhood and education

Nkrumah came from the Akan ethnic group of the Nzema and was officially born on September 21, 1909 in the village of Nkroful in the southwest of what is now Ghana as the son of a small trader and a goldsmith. But he himself was not sure about the year and day of his birth, because he writes: “If we want to assume that the year 1909 was actually my year of birth, then the Saturday closest to mid-September falls on the 18th of month. I therefore think it likely that I was born on Saturday, September 18, 1909. ”He began his educational career in a Catholic mission school. At the age of about 17, Nkrumah was initially an assistant teacher before he attended Achimota College in Accra from 1926 , where he took his final exam in 1930. He then worked as a teacher at Roman Catholic schools in Elmina and Axim before he was employed as a teacher at a preparatory seminar for Catholic priests in Elmina. In 1935, with the help of a relative who had become rich in the diamond and gold trade, Nkrumah moved to the United States , where he obtained a BA in Economics (1939) and a BA in Theology (1942) from Lincoln University and a Master of Science in Graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Masters in Education and a Masters of Arts in Philosophy (both in 1943) . From 1943 to 1945 he lectured at Lincoln University and was President of the African Students Association of the United States and Canada. During the ten years that Nkrumah spent in the United States, he came into contact with the works of African American scholars and activists such as WEB Du Bois and Marcus Garvey , who had a major influence on his conception of Pan-Africanism. Among other things, he had dealings with Caribbean activists such as CLR James and George Padmore , from whom he learned political organization. In 1945 Nkrumah briefly studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science and was the vice-president of the West African Students' Union (Union of West African Students).

Political career

In London he developed more and more political engagement and a lively journalistic activity. In 1945 he organized the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester as General Secretary under WEB Du Bois . Back on the Gold Coast, Nkrumah became General Secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) party founded by Joseph Boakye Danquah in 1947 . Unrest that broke out in 1948, the so-called Accra Riots, made him a nationally known hero and led to his first short-term arrest. In 1949 he broke with the moderate UGCC and founded the more radical Convention People's Party (CPP), which became the strongest force in 1951 with its demand for immediate autonomy in the general election. Nkrumah, although imprisoned since the unrest he helped organize in 1950, won 98.5% of the vote in Accra and was subsequently released by the British. In March 1952 he was elected Prime Minister of the Gold Coast Crown Colony by the legislative assembly by secret ballot , which he named Ghana upon independence in 1957 . Ghana became the second independent state in West Africa after Liberia . In the same year Nkrumah married the Egyptian Fathia Halim Ritzk.

President of Ghana

Nkrumah in March 1961

Until 1960 Ghana initially remained a monarchy with Elizabeth II as head of state. Kwame Nkrumah was Prime Minister. After a referendum, Ghana became a republic in July 1960. In the presidential election, Nkrumah clearly won against JB Danquah , the opposition candidate. When Nkrumah took over the affairs of state, he was faced with a wide variety of problems. The country's economic structure, which until then had been one-sidedly oriented towards the interests of the British colonial power, should be eliminated as quickly as possible. Nkrumah realized that the Ghanaian economy was not only dependent on the cultivation and export of cocoa and that the development of the country was therefore linked to the world market prices for this cash crop product . In addition, there were no industrial plants in the entire country at the time of independence. Paradoxically, Ghana had the highest cocoa export rates worldwide, but there was not even a single processing facility for cocoa in Ghana itself. With the First Five Year Development Plan (1951–1956), the Second Five Year Development Plan (1959–1964) and the Consolidation Plan (1957-1959) laid the Ghanaian government under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah the basis for the modernization and industrialization of the country. An inventory in 1964 showed that the implementation of the development plans had been crowned with success. Ghana had the most modern road network in Africa. The ports in Takoradi and Tema had been enlarged and expanded or rebuilt. Agricultural production had been diversified and mechanized. The expansion of the education and health system was one of the priorities of the Nkrumah government. During his tenure, the Volta reservoir , the world's largest artificial reservoir in terms of area, was built.

In March 1964, the Ghanaian government presented the Seven Year Development Plan , according to which Nkrumah placed three essential points at the center of the country's development: a rapid increase in the growth of the national economy, a socialist transformation of all economic sectors and the radical annihilation of all existing economic structures of the colonial era. Kwame Nkrumah also achieved great recognition at the inner-African level for his political and economic efforts. He proclaimed the unity of Africa and called on all Africans to shake off the shackles of colonialism. In Africa Must Unite (1963) he pointed out: “Just as our strength rests on a unified policy and progressive development, so the strength of the imperialists rests on our disunity. We in Africa can only effectively counter them if we confront them with a unified front and the awareness of our African mission. ”Due to his increasing popularity in the fight against injustice and for the liberation of Africa, the Ghanaian president developed into one of the colonial powers nascent danger. Nkrumah made the economic exploitation of African raw materials by transnational corporations particularly clear in his book Neocolonialism. The Last Stage of Imperialism (1965) highlighted. In this work he emphasized that even with the formal independence of the African countries nothing has changed in the economic exploitation structures of the colonial era. In the context of the now practiced neocolonialism, the power and influence of international oil and mining companies such as the Anglo-American Corporation or the American Metal Climax would continue to manifest in Africa.

One of Kwame Nkrumah's favorite projects was the gliding school in Afienya, 30 km from Accra, which was set up by Hanna Reitsch , Täve Löhr and development workers from 1964 onwards. As part of this project, model making teachers were also trained, who passed on their knowledge in the classes of secondary schools. Local gliding instructors were also trained at the Afienya gliding school, who were to continue the entire school on their own from mid-1966. With the fall of Kwame Nkrumah on February 24, 1966, the gliding school was closed to the local population.

In the course of his reign, Nkrumah acted increasingly authoritarian. People could be imprisoned for up to five years without trial, and disrespectful statements about the head of state were punishable by law. In 1964, Ghana became a one-party system under Nkrumah.


Soviet stamp issue on the occasion of Nkrumah's 80th birthday in 1989

Nkrumah was in 1966 during a foreign trip to Vietnam by a coup of the military from the pro-Western National Liberation Council overthrown (NLC). This coup was justified by the fact that the government of Kwame Nkrumah had led Ghana into economic chaos and that the president himself had enriched the state as a kind of socialist dictator. Allegedly, after its release from British colonial possession (in 1957) Ghana had good starting conditions and Nkrumah ruined the country through wrong decisions and mismanagement. Nkrumah went into exile in Guinea , where he received the honorary title of co-president until 1967 . He contradicted the allegations and allegations in his book The Big Lie (1968), in which he countered the allegations against himself and his reign with tough arguments. In 1972 the most popular advocate of Pan-Africanism in the world at the time died in Bucharest .


Paulin Hountondji emphasized the breaks in Nkrumah's thinking. While the early Nkrumah insists on the continuity of socialism in relation to the "communalism" of "traditional" Africa, paints an idealizing picture of pre-colonial Africa (no human exploitation by humans) and sees himself as a student of Gandhi , the late Nkrumah sees that The need for a violent break with neo-colonial conditions, the fight against imperialism and its African allies. In African Socialism revisited Nkrumah therefore also rejects the idea of ​​“ African socialism ” in the sense of Nyerere , which propagates an ideology of continuity ( Hountondji ).

While the early works emphasize that there was no class struggle in pre-colonial Africa , the late Nkrumah rejects the fetishization of pre-colonial Africa. "Nkrumah will never again think of Africa as a special world, but instead accepted that our societies are subject to the same laws as any other society in the world, and that the African revolution, if properly understood, is inextricably linked to the world revolution."

In Africa must unite (1963), Nkrumah called for the formation of an all-African government immediately. He later relied on a grassroots unification movement, while there could be no common ground between anti-imperialist governments and the “puppet regimes” supported by the West.

See also


Writings of Nkrumah

  • Towards Colonial Freedom
  • What I mean by Positive Action , Accra 1949
  • Ghana. Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah , 1957, reprinted 1970
  • I speak of Freedom: a Statement of African Ideology , (New York 1964)
  • Africa must unite (1963, reprinted by Panaf)
  • Consciencism. Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonization and Development (in Heinemann 1964, with important changes in 1970 in Panaf)
  • Neocolonialism, the last stage of Imperialism , 1965
  • Challenge of the Congo , 1967
  • Dark Days in Ghana , New York 1968
  • Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare , 1968
  • The Big Lie , 1968
  • The Struggle Continues , 1968
  • Two Myths includes African Socialism revisited and The Myth of the Third World

Writings on Nkrumah

in order of appearance

  • Samuel G. Ikoku: Le Ghana de Nkrumah. Autopsy de la Ire République (1957–1966). (Translation of Mission to Ghana by Yves Bénot ). Maspero, Paris 1971.
  • Hanna Reitsch: I flew in Africa for Kwame Nkrumah's Ghana . Herbig Verlag, Munich, 2nd improved and expanded edition 1979, ISBN 3-7766-0929-X .
  • Paulin Hountondji: The end of "Nkrumahism" and the (re) birth of Nkrumah. In: ders., African Philosophy. Myth and Reality. Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-320-01805-1 .
  • David Birmingham: Kwame Nkrumah. The Father of African Nationalism . Ohio University Press, 1998.
  • Christian Kohrs: Nkrumah-Rawlings. An approximation of the political thinking of two Ghanaian statesmen. Books on African Studies, 2001.
  • Ulrich van der Heyden: Kwame Nkrumah in the German-German tension . In: Berliner debatte INITIAL. Social and human sciences journal , No. 3, Berlin 2016, pp. 117–132.
  • Bea Lundt, Christoph Marx (eds.): Kwame Nkrumah 1909-1972. A Controversial African Visionary . Steiner, Stuttgart 2016 (= Historische Mitteilungen, Vol. 96), ISBN 978-3-515-11572-8 .
  • Ulrich van der Heyden: Kwame Nkrumah - Dictator or Pan-Africanist? The political evaluation of the Ghanaian politician in the GDR in the field of tension of German-German competition in West Africa . Potsdam 2017.
  • Ulrich van der Heyden: The German-German system competition in Africa in the early 1960s, represented by the independent Ghana and its President Kwana Nkrumah . In: Dotsé Yigbe, Amatso O. Assemboi, Kuassi A. Akapo (eds.): L'afrique post / coloniale. Enjeux culturels des études littéraires et historiques , Berlin 2018, pp. 123–144.

Individual evidence

  1. Hakim Adi : Pan-African History. Taylor & Francis, 2003, ISBN 9780203417805 , p. 143.
  2. a b Kwame Nkrumah: Schwarze Fanfare, Munich 1958, p. 17
  3. a b Guy Martin: African Political Thought . Ed .: Springer. 2012, ISBN 978-1-137-06205-5 , pp. 87 .
  4. FK Buah: A History of Ghana. Revised and updates, 1998, p. 182
  5. ^ Deutsche Welle ( Kwame Nkrumah: visionary, dictator, national hero | Africa | DW | 02/24/2016. Retrieved January 17, 2018 .
  6. ^ Kwame Nkrumah: The First President of the Independent Nation of Ghana. Retrieved January 17, 2018 .
  7. Kwame Nkrumah PRESIDENT OF GHANA. Britannica, accessed April 6, 2020 .

Web links

Commons : Kwame Nkrumah  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files