Devolution in Ghana: 50 Years After Independence
by Ron Wilkins
"It seems that corruption knows no bounds."
Professor Ron Wilkins of
California State University, Dominguez Hills attended Ghana's 50th
Independence Anniversary celebrations. He filed the following report.
Ghana occupies a special place among African nations as the
first country on the continent south of the Sahara to win independence from
colonial rule. Having visited Ghana previously, I began my eleven day stay with
some reservations, as I was aware that no government, since the original
government of President Kwame Nkrumah -
which was overthrown by a 1966 CIA-led coup - has surpassed his achievements.
Under Nkrumah's brilliant leadership Ghana began to develop industrially and
played a major role in liberating the rest of the African continent. Within 10
years of Ghana's independence, 31 additional African countries became
independent. Declassified National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency
documents have provided new evidence of the 1966 U.S. engineered
overthrow of Nkrumah's progressive government.
Immediately upon my arrival in the capital city of Accra, I
was floored by the deepening poverty and desperation of its inhabitants. The
lack of running water in my guesthouse, power outages and the foul odor from
open sewers lining the streets. The cumulative effect of these conditions
exacted a heavy toll on my senses and dampened any enthusiasm that I may have
had for the celebrations. It seems that corruption knows no bounds, as Ghana's
current leaders spent over 20 million dollars, imported 250 luxury cars and
shabbily decorated Nkrumah's mausoleum in preparation for the celebrations.
"The people who are in the government today are the same
people who opposed the independence struggle."
Eventually I held discussions with Nkrumaists, officials
from the former Rawlings government, academics and students at the University
of the Cape Coast and expatriates from the U.S. now residing in Ghana. Perhaps,
one of the most insightful meetings was with Kwesi Pratt. Kwesi Pratt is a
member of Socialist Forum, a central committee member of the Convention
People's Party, and one of the most visible
and outspoken critics of the present government.
Wilkins: I would like to get some of your impressions of Ghana's 50th
Independence Anniversary celebration.
I'm having real problems with it. I'm not impressed with the government,
or the progress that Ghana has made. I
would like your comments because I know you're doing a great deal of work and
are involved with many other people. I
can imagine that the struggle must be very difficult. Just where do things
stand at the moment? Your impressions.
Pratt: I think it is important to understand that there are two
kinds of celebrations taking place at the same time. There is the official
celebration which is sponsored by the government and there are private
celebrations which involve the democratic and progressive forces in the
country. If you are looking at the government celebration, it is basically a
celebration of the victory of the oppressor over the masses. The people who are
in the government today are the same people who opposed the independence
They come from the same tradition which appealed to the
Queen of England not to grant Independence to Ghana because the Ghanaian people
could not manage their own affairs. They come from the same tradition which subverted
the independence movement, even after independence by exploding bombs in
stadiums, by plotting to assassinate Kwame Nkrumah, by working with the Central
Intelligence Agency of the U.S. (CIA), and so on. So their celebration of the
50th Independence anniversary is in reality a celebration of their
temporary victory over the masses.
Those of us on the other side are celebrating the victory of
the masses over the exploiters and the oppressors. That is why the manifestations are very different. We believe in organizing street marches
which involve all of our people. They believe in organizing elitist parties and
celebrations that exclude the masses.
That difference is obvious.
Again, for us this is a celebration of the progressive ideas of Nkrumah,
W.E.B. Dubois, Malcolm X, and all. They
are celebrating, Busia and Danquah, who were agents of imperialism. And we have to understand this very clearly.
"For us this is a celebration of the progressive ideas of
Nkrumah, W.E.B. Dubois, Malcolm X, and all."
They make all kinds of obscene comments about how they
initiated the independence struggle and that they led it and so on. But all that is lies. They claim for example
that it was them, Busia, Danquah and others, who invited Kwame Nkrumah to join
the United Gold Coast Convention.
The impression they create is that Nkrumah was doing nothing
but sitting idle until they invited him. But that is false. Because long before Nkrumah came back to the
Gulf Coast in1948 to lead the struggle, he had actually been involved in
organizing nationalist agitators across the whole of the West African
Sub-Region. He was not just interested
in Ghana's independence; he was interested in the independence of all people
under colonial rule everywhere in the world. And he was already engaged in
those agitations. He had been part of
The Manchester Pan-Africanist Congress, and so on.
And he came here precisely because the elite who were
leading the independence struggle knew about their own shortcomings and they
knew that they could not carry the struggle very far. And they needed the expertise and knowledge of somebody like
Nkrumah to change the situation. And indeed, Nkrumah arrived in 1948, and by
1951 we had gained partial independence, by 1957 we had gained complete
independence, and by 1960, we were already a Republic. So it is clear that this struggle gained
special importance by the arrival of Nkrumah in Ghana.
Wilkins: What should we be
looking at in terms of this new thing that the Bush administration has come up
with as far as an African Command? What
should we be looking for from President
Kufuor of Ghana and his role now coming up as the African Union chair? What is
one to make of all this? Because, actually I'm very nervous about it. Just from
what I've heard and what I've picked up on already, it seems that the United
States has gained a foothold in Ghana and is expanding its influence here.
Pratt: I am very alarmed
after reading what is called the Cheney Report. When Bush came to power, he set up a
committee chaired by Dick Cheney his Vice President to assess America's energy
requirements up to the year 2015. The Cheney Report actually says that by the
year 2015, twenty percent of American oil requirements will be supplied by West
Africa and therefore it is important to maintain a foothold in West Africa in
order to ensure that oil supplies from West Africa to the United States of
America will not be interrupted.
Consequently, the United States is planning to establish
military bases across West Africa including Ghana. And I am very worried that
at a time when we are celebrating our national independence we are going to
tolerate the establishment of foreign military bases, especially American
military bases on our soil. The great
Osageyfo Dr. Nkrumah, Malcolm X, Kwame Ture, and all of them emphasized that
Africa ought to be free from foreign military bases and weapons of mass
destruction. We cannot allow that dream
"The United States is planning to establish military bases
across West Africa including Ghana."
That is why, it is important for us to resist all attempts
to establish foreign military bases on African soil especially forces of the
United States, must be prevented from establishing on African soil. Clearly
because they are not on African soil to protect our interests, they are on
African soil to facilitate the exploitation of our resources for the benefit of
the tiny minority that controls the wealth of the American people and who are
sitting on top of this world exploiting the Chicanos, exploiting the African
Americans and exploiting all of the other independent and healthy forces in the
United States of America. We have to resist all attempts to build U.S. military bases in Ghana and elsewhere
Wilkins: The Joseph Project. What's your take on
it? It is very important that Africans
in the Diaspora, especially in the United States, assist Africa's development
and assist the struggles against neo- colonialism and imperialism. However, The Joseph Project is being couched
in very religious terms. I am not a
Christian, but I love Africa. I have
long acknowledged Africa as my ancestral home. And I want to come here as do
many others, but not within a Christian framework. There are some other obvious meanings to this Joseph project that
have been established. I just wondered
what your take on it is.
Pratt: I think
that The Joseph Project is an insult to all people of African descent, whether
you are on the continent or you are in the Diaspora. It is an insult because it
starts from the basis that there was something positive about slavery, that as
a result of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade our brothers have become the Josephs
of Africa today. And they are returning with their wealth that they acquired
from slavery. I think this is absolute
nonsense. It is something we should not countenance at all. There could not
have been anything good about the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. And the concept of a Joseph coming back to
deliver us from poverty is a foolish concept that must be rejected by all
dignified African people.
"It is important for us to understand that those of our
brothers and sisters in the U.S. have a responsibility to work in the United
States of America to weaken the enemy."
Our brothers in the Diaspora are welcome back home as
Africans with a commitment to help us to develop, and with a commitment to help
us fight against the penetration of imperialism into the continent. They are
not coming as Messiahs, they are coming as one of us. And they are not coming because they benefited from the
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade; indeed they themselves are victims of oppression
and victims of exploitation. That point
must be made abundantly clear to those who think that something was gained from
the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. That is
the whole concept of The Joseph Project, and I reject it completely.
Evidence of the African struggle can be found all over the
world. We can talk about Akente, we can
talk about Imhotep, we can talk about all those who lived 3,000 years before
Jesus Christ was born, and we can talk about the modern revolutionary fighters
of the United States of America. We can talk about those who led the Black
Panther Party, we can talk about Malcolm X, and the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee. We can talk about all of them. I think it is important for all of us,
wherever we are to continue the struggle that these great sons of Africa have
fought to deliver the continent from oppression and exploitation. It is important for us to understand that
those of our brothers and sisters in the U.S. live right at the center of the
oppression and exploitation, and they have a responsibility to work in the
United States of America to weaken the enemy and to make it impossible for the
enemy to carry out its agenda on the African Continent or anywhere. Oppression everywhere is against decency,
and we have a commitment to fight oppression and exploitation wherever we find
it. This is our historic duty.
Wilkins: Thank you
Ron Wilkins can be
contacted at: [email protected]