The Youth, Nkrumah, African Integration, Free Movement and Pan-Africanism
Bankie F Bankie presented this Paper for the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students, convened by World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), held Quito, Ecuador, from 14 to 18 December 2013.
Forums such as this convened by the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) are important spaces to remind, mobilise and energise young people around the world, as well as the progressive forces globally, of the responsibility they have to transform society. Technology today, in the form of the internet and social media, facilitates this process on an unprecedented scale.
From Kenya in Africa, the late Wangari Maathai left a message for the youth. The message is that youth must replenish the earth and they must save the world planet. Global warming is real and if we are not mindful, nature will take its revenge. The parents failed to learn this lesson. Hopefully, the youth will.
The continent of Africa has the youngest population in the world. Some 60 percent of Africa’s unemployed are reported to be between the ages of 15-24. The high rate of unemployment among the youth of Africa has implications for political and social stability, as well as development.
The use of religious terrorism as a tool of colonialism has been the practice for centuries. However, its generalisation has ominous implications. Recruits for these operations are most often drawn from the marginalised youth. Proxy wars that serve the interests of external forces from outside Africa, be they Arab, North American or European, are destabilising Central Africa and the Great Lakes region, as part of their project to redraw the map of Africa and colonise its people. The epicentres of this now are the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR). The statist African Union Commission (AUC) is unable to influence these events. In such instances, Africa remains the playground of the great powers and their Middle East adjuncts, some 50 years after nominal Independence. Wars in Africa are preferred to social unrest in the metropoles.
Mohamed Bouazizi, the 27-year-old Tunisian fruit and vegetable seller, set himself alight on December 17, 2010, setting in motion the Pan-Arab rebellion and its related ‘Occupy’ movement in the Western world. This taught us the constant tension and contradiction between the undeveloped world and imperialism’s aggressive need to conquer and monopolises resources be this in Egypt or in Syria.
In the Congo basin in Africa, Patrice Lumumba struggled for African Liberation. He wrote:
“United as the children of one family, we shall defend the honour and freedom of Africa.”
He was ‘put down’ as a rabid dog and his remains dissolved in acid. His words are those of a Pan-Africanist, who understood the role of the youth and the centrality of the Congo in the African revolution.
Franz Fanon had famously said “every generation must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it”.
Thirty years ago on June 16, 1976, South African youth protested against a decree of the Department of Bantu Education, of the racist government of South Africa, stating that a form of Dutch language be used to teach in secondary schools in South Africa. In the resultant massacre, over 500 youths lost their lives. In South Sudan, the imposition of Arabic in school curricula was yet another cause of conflict that left over two million dead during the more than a half century-long conflict. The year 2013 saw the biggest uprising in the cities of Brazil, since those during the government of Fernando Collor de Mello in 1992. From the onset, the youth played an active role in this process.
Drawn by poverty and unemployment, like lemmings in their rush to the sea, thousands of marginalised African youth are headed to the Mediterranean Sea and Europe, as their best option in life, in a human trafficking of immense dimensions, by way of forced migration. Similarly, Ethiopians, Sudanese and Somalis, despite racism in Arabia and Israel, head for Yemen, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, as economic migrants and domestic workers. Overwhelmingly young, aged from 18 to 30 years of age, from rural and semi-rural environments, poorly educated, mostly lacking basic literacy, they have no other means to escape poverty.
In the African Western Diaspora in the Americas, North and South, as well as in Europe, in the Black ghettoes there is the issue of gang warfare and ‘Black on Black’ violence. In the United States, despite its Black President, Black males are among the most marginalised in the society. In the US Blacks account for 12 percent of the US population, but represent some 44 percent of the prison population. The War on drugs which began around 1971 in the US gave rise to the prison industrial complex, which produces significant profit for parasitic segments of the US economy, the prisons being mainly populated by African Americans and Latinos.
This presentation would be remiss if it failed to mention the Western conspiracy to export gayism to Africa. Gayism, these days, being tied to the grant of technical assistance. Such practices are tantamount to the unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of African states and are particularly targeted at the Youth.
Dr Kwame Nkrumah ‑ background
Dr Kwame Nkrumah was born in Nkroful, on the coast, in western Ghana probably on September 21, 1909. He was baptised in the Roman Catholic Church and was given the Christian name of Francis. He was his mother’s only child. He attended the Roman Catholic Elementary School at Half-Assini, where his father worked as a goldsmith. He spent some eight years at this school and showed promise as a student. He was recommended for training as a teacher at the Government Training School in Accra. It was probably in 1927 that Dr Nkrumah arrived at the school, which was absorbed into Achimota College. This was the year that Kwegyr Aggrey, also known as ‘Aggrey of Africa’, left Achimota College, in the then Gold Coast, where he had been assistant vice-principal, for the USA to complete his Doctorate. Aggrey was the role model, who persuaded Nkrumah to proceed to America.
Nkrumah’s attendance at Achimota College lasted some four years and was the equivalent of secondary education. He was appointed a teacher at the Roman Catholic Junior School at Elmina in 1930. The next year, he was appointed head-teacher at the Roman Catholic Junior School at Axim. Two years later he moved to the newly opened Catholic Seminary at Amessano, near Elmina. While there, he considered becoming a priest.
According to Marika Sherwood, Nkrumah’s mentors in this period included the trade unionist SR Wood and Kobina Sekyi, the African nationalist man of letters. Most likely he would have read Nnamdi Azikiwe’s editorials in the African Morning Post, in the Gold Coast, where Azikiwe was Editor-in- Chief, before he left for the United States in December 1934. Azikiwe was later to become President of Nigeria, failing to mark any particular Pan-African achievements.
At page three of her book ‘Kwame Nkrumah : The Years Abroad 1935-1947’, Sherwood, who researched Dr Nkrumah’s sojourns in both the USA and the UK in depth, reports that in both countries Dr Nkrumah received the close attention of both the US and UK secret services. An attention that remained with him on his return home, leading ultimately to the overthrew of his government in 1966 by the US’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Sherwood states and I quote:
“But Nkrumah was not just a product of Diaspora influences. He was also a son of Africa and more particularly of the Gold Coast. Through his contacts as a young teacher in Western Ghana, near the intellectual/political centre of Cape Coast, he became heir to certain political traditions. More than some of the men who shaped his early life reappear in his life ten to twelve years later.”
Nkrumah arrived in the United States in 1935 and left 10 years later in 1945. Those who went there later bear testimony as to how the African-American experience helped to shape their worldview. One characteristic of note concerning Dr Nkrumah’s stay in North America was that he immersed himself, without fear or favour, in the situation of the Africans and their descendants, who he found there. Many travel overseas for education and on arrival remain sealed within a small community of those from their ethnicities and countries of origin. By the time he left North America, Dr Nkrumah had completed the preliminary stages of his PhD studies.
In May 1945, instead of returning to the Gold Coast, Dr Nkrumah headed for the United Kingdom, where he arrived with letters of introduction to leading Pan-Africanists, with the intention of qualifying to practice law ( ie being ‘called to the English Bar’ ). He directed little time to legal studies and most of it to student activism. In the UK, he worked alongside George Padmore, CLR James, Ras Makonnen and others, who were later to assist him in the shaping of affairs in Africa. From England and active participation in the 5th Pan-African Congress of 1945, along with Jomo Kenyatta, Du Bois and others, Dr Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast in 1947 and immediately engaged in an intense involvement in the affairs of the country.
Latin-American and Asiatic nationalists in this period were branded communists. This was at the height of the Cold War, after the Second European War, when the balance of power in international relations, to a large extent, revolved around the two power centres, capitalism and communism. With hindsight, it was noted that those states which aligned with capital received substantial investment, those who opted for non-alignment did not. For instance, South Korean and Taiwanese development after 1945 was on the back of a ‘Marshall Aid’ plan for rapid development. None of the emerging self-governing countries in Africa was so assisted.
Comparisons between African development and that in Asia have been in vogue, based on the underlying Western psychology that Africans are unable to develop due to laziness or their inability to budget. The experience of Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP) should be understood from this perspective and its place in development studies, as analysed in the Western press.
The South East Asian, Ho Chi Minh, was of the same school of thought as Dr Nkrumah. The differences being geographic and geo-strategic, in that Asia preceded Africa on its road to development, due to the choices of the colonialists. African decolonisation was signposted by the Independence of Ghana under the CPP in 1957.
Dr Nkrumah was essentially a socialist and an African nationalist. His definition of the African nation was continental, most probably due to his sympathies with socialism and proletarian internationalism. Most of his advisors were left of centre in their political orientation. All shared his vision of a continental Afro-Arab union. Indeed, continentalism is signposted after the 5th Pan-African Congress of 1945 in which Nkrumah had some secretarial responsibilities. Prior to 1945, what was to become known as the ‘Diop South Sahara plus Diaspora’ interpretation of African unity had held sway since the Pan-African movement emerged from slavery in North America.
As we look at the domestic policy of Dr Nkrumah, we can draw conclusions as to its ideological orientation. From those conclusions, we should be able to better assess his foreign policy agenda. There is a belief that the Pan-African foreign policy of the CPP superseded domestic considerations, especially as regards cost effectiveness.
Working back from what we now know, the development experience of Ghana under the CPP was not unique in Africa. Ghana led the way. Indeed many looked to Ghana for concrete lessons. For instance, all were interested in industrialisation based on import substitution. Dr Nkrumah was guided by what he thought were the best interests of Ghana. Whereas Asia was centre stage in the East West contestation, Africa hardly featured. Simonstown at the Cape in South Africa was, in those days, said to be strategic. Other parts of Africa, apart from the Suez Canal and Red Sea, were not. Countries such as Ghana were expected to remain mono-crop cultures, whose minerals, where exploited, would add to the coffers of the developed world. Some 50 years later, little progress has been marked towards self-sustaining economic development in Ghana. The understanding now being that Ghana needs to work within the framework of the unity of the global African community, to progress attempts to break out of neo-colonialism, into economic integration, self-sufficiency and Pan-African unity.
Dr Kwame Nkrumah – Pan-African foreign policy
“Ghana’s Independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa (P 4 of Axioms of Kwame Nkrumah” – Freedom Fighters Edition published 1967 by Panaf Books, London)
Late last year one of the ‘Top Four’ in Namibia was heard to say words to the effect that he knew nothing about Africa until he arrived in USA. It is unlikely Dr Nkrumah was different. The influence of US-based Pan-Africanists such as John Hendrik Clarke on Africans and those of African descent is not well known or understood internationally.
This initiation in the US was experienced by sojourners in North America from all over the African continent, whether it was Duse Mohamed Ali from Sudan/Egypt, Pixley Seme from South Africa or Kwame Nkrumah from the then Gold Coast. Each carried back to Africa a vision of African unity and self-rule. Dr Nkrumah was different in that as a subsequent Head of State in Africa he was particularly well placed to actualise Pan-Africanism and did so with exemplary dedication. Succeeding African leaders, in general studiously avoided Nkrumah’s example.
Dr Nkrumah’s commitment to the liberation of Africa was unshakable. Indeed, some Ghanaians complained of what they considered as the excessive expenditure by the CPP on international affairs and under expenditure on domestic affairs during the CPP rule in Ghana. All African nationalists who could attended the All Africa Peoples Conference and the First Conference of Independent African States both in Accra soon after Ghana’s self-government. Both of these meetings in Accra marked the assertion of African nationalism and decolonisation in Africa. In those days, it was expected that the granting of Independence amounted to sovereignty.
By the time Ghana obtained self-government in 1957 under the CPP Government it would not be an exaggeration to say that its leader Dr Kwame Nkrumah was a schooled Pan-Africanist. Having been on the north east coast of the United States and thereafter in London, Dr Nkrumah had been particularly well placed to imbibe African Nationalism from a particular generation of African Americans, Caribbeaners and from Pan-Africanists in the UK. Those who came later, such as Julius Nyerere were not as fortunate. It was that exposure, which later was to guide his approach to the unity movement. Not only had he submitted to teaching, whilst a student, but he distinguished himself at the earliest opportunity on his return home by inviting those teachers to join him, such as Du Bois, Padmore and Makonnen, to settle in Ghana, in order to better avail himself of their wisdom. This was an approach to research and foreign policy formulation, which was not duplicated by any of his peers, including Azikiwe in Nigeria and goes a long way in explaining Nkrumah’s unique position in contemporary African politics. By all accounts, Nkrumah’s relationship with these African foreign policy Advisors was based on long standing humility and mutual respect.
Whilst in North America and Europe Dr Nkrumah studied in depth the global African situation. He had the assistance of others well versed on the subject. On the opening of the George Padmore Memorial Library in Accra on 30 June 1961, Dr Nkrumah developed our understanding of African Nationalism. Padmore had risen to the highest heights in foreign policy formulation in the Soviet system, to become a member of the Comintern in Moscow for a number of years. In as much as Dr Nkrumah is hailed these days as a Pan-Africanist, it may be that in future he will be remembered foremost as essentially an African Nationalist, who had an early understanding of the significance of African nationalism in the collective mobilisation of the global African community.
In his address and tribute to Padmore Dr Nkrumah stated:-
“Comrade Padmore’s life was spent in the development of African nationalism.”
Of his relationship with Padmore, who originated from the Caribbean, Dr Nkrumah states “it was a genuine spiritual and intellectual loyalty”. The library was, and still does, serve as a research centre and as a repository of culture and wisdom. Dr Nkrumah never ceased to promote the power of “intelligent reading”. In his view, progress was dependent on reading.
Figures in Ghana’s foreign policy such as Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, Victor James Gbeho and K B Asante have affirmed the Ghana’s foreign policy from 1957 to the 21st Century, spanning 10 different administrations has remained basically unchanged from that established by the CPP. Ambassador Debrah asserts that Dr Nkrumah pursued an active and aggressive foreign policy:
· he led the fight against colonialism, ultimately leading to the total liberation of Africa· he sensitised Africa on the need to be free by hosting African conferences at the level of states and freedom fighters
· he set the example of regional integration by his unions of Ghana with Guinea and Mali and
· he built the Volta project as a basis for Ghana’s industrialisation
African integration and free movement
The historical significance of Dr Nkrumah within the Pan-African Movement is that he:-
…served as the link between the Fifth Pan-African Congress, the West African Secretariat (in London ) and the Independence movement in Africa. He connected his Pan-Africa background to his later international activities as the first President of Ghana. For Nkrumah, the goal of Pan-Africanism was to go beyond the geographic, national and cultural barriers imposed by colonialism. ( P 136 Pan-Africanism for beginners by Sid Lemelle, Writers and Readers Publishing, Inc, New York, 1992 )
It is the Pan-African movement, which gave birth to the idea of African integration, Pan-African unity and the possibility of free movement in Africa and its Diaspora. By free movement is meant the ability to travel within Africa, without borders and without passports. This remains a distant prospect, given the fact that the post-colonial state is jealous of its sovereignty.
The Ghana-Guinea Union of African states formed on 1 May 1959 represented the first practical step towards African integration post ‘Independence’. It was to have been joined by the Republic of the Congo, whose Premier, Patrice Lumumba, in early August 1960, signed an agreement to join the Union, during a brief visit to Accra. By September, Lumumba had been removed from office and was later murdered by Western Special Forces. Mali joined the Union on 1 July 1961.
In 1958, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, who played a leading role, through the OAU Liberation Committee, in the decolonisation of Southern Africa, formed the Pan-African Movement for East and Central Africa (PAFMECA).
Mwalimu Nyerere, despite his earlier differences with Nkrumah on Pan-African interpretation, in his Opening Speech delivered at the 6th Pan African Congress of 1974 held in Dar es Salaam, paid tribute to both Nkrumah and Kenyatta for their input in the work of the 5th Pan- African Congress as well as to Garvey, Makonnen and others for their contributions to the Pan-African movement.
Dr Nkrumah’s leadership of Ghana towards the building of meaningful African unity, via the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the reception those efforts encountered, was a lesson in determination, courage and fortitude. Despite the hostility and resistance his initiative met from some quarters, such as the Francophone community (excluding Guinea and Mali), which could have led to discouragement and cynicism, since they amounted to personal attacks on his character and questioned his integrity – despite all these Nkrumah refused to relent and continued his work to unite Africa and its people.
These days in Africa, we hear and read little about what is discussed in this paper. It is now said that the rational for interstate relations within Africa today is Pan-Africanism. Currently, the 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU is being celebrated under the banner of ‘Pan-Africanism/African Renaissance’. The ideology of the unity movement has been researched by the likes of P Olisanwuche Esedebe, as expounded in his work ‘Pan-Africanism – the Idea and the Movement 1776-1991’ (Howard University Press, Washington DC, 1994 ). At page 5 Esedebe states:
“…we can say that Pan-Africanism is a political and cultural phenomenon that regards Africa, Africans and African descendants abroad as a unit. It seeks to regenerate and unify Africa and promote a feeling of oneness among the people of the African world.”
At Pan-African gatherings, whether continental or regional, we do not hear the language of Pan-Africanism and its authorities such as Rodney, Cabral and Nabudere.
Rather what we hear are the platitudes and verbiage of the bureaucracy. This does not augur well for our collective memory and the realisation of the ideology.
The CIA of the United States overthrew Dr Nkrumah’s CPP government while he was in Asia seeking to assist peace in Vietnam. When his plane landed in Beijing, China, he was informed that the military and police had taken over the government in Ghana. He proceeded to Guinea in West Africa where its leader, Sekou Toure, appointed Nkrumah deputy president, a titular post he retained until he passed away in 1972. His stay in exile consolidated his life experience and it was in this period he wrote a number of essential books.
Men and women migrated out of East Africa to populate Africa and the world, specifically from the Rift Valley. Overtime these Black Africans changed their pigmentation due to the climatic conditions they experienced. To this day in parts of Asia and Australasia, Black people are still found or are remembered as having been present.
Fourteen million people of African descent live in the Caribbean. It is estimated some 15 million people of African descent live in the European Union. Some 40 million people of African descent live in the United States and Canada and around a 100 and 13 million people of African descent live in Latin and South America. These are persons of African descent living in the African Western Diaspora, the origins of which can be traced to forced migration, resultant from slavery. New arrivals in the United States and Canada from Africa are, in the main, economic migrants.
As regards those in the African Eastern Diaspora in the Middle East, Palestine, the Gulf States and points further East, as well as North Africa, some are the remainders of those that originally populated North Africa before the Arabs crossed the Sinai into Africa in AD639-640. These are African nationals who are only now being conscientised to Africanism, as a conscious stream of world civilisation, having been cut off from their African roots. Arabia in general, does not admit that it entered Africa from without, claiming that it was always in Egypt.
The forced migration of Africans out of Africa went east towards Asia. Thereafter, the migration was partly diverted westwards to the Caribbean and the Americas, whilst continuing a pace, particularly to the Middle East and Egypt. Those taken eastwards were Islamised and Arabised. The long and continuing wars in Sudan, which the Western media sort to hide, represent historical resistance. Recent events in the Central African Republic teach us that these struggles will continue and that this hegemony will reach further towards the Equator, given African existing passivity.
The African Union, the statist/bureaucratic outcome of the pioneering work of Nkrumah, as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, is reflecting on Africa 2063. With difficulty it has sort to bring on-board the Western Diaspora as its Sixth Region. It has yet to pronounce itself on those of African descent in the Middle East and South America. It is also the lieu for discussion on ‘giving back’ to Africa by way of remittances from the Diaspora, as a construct for African Unity, thus harnessing the liberating ideal of Pan-Africanism for material purposes. This approach is articulated by Mbungeni Ngulube of the ‘Global Native’ in Leeds, UK. This approach implies that the Diaspora could carry the costs of the implementation of Pan-Africanism. It is said that in 2012 some US$50 billion was sent by way of remittances by the African Diaspora back to Africa. Ghana in the 1990s encouraged the ‘right of return’ by way of revenue generation through tourism.
The relationship of Africa and its Diaspora, based on the study of history, has been one of complementarity – neither dog wags the tail. It is important to keep this in view.
The Sixth Region approach fails to recognise this norm. Indeed after the creation of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963-4, the statist body, which did not represent the thinking of Late Nkrumah, lost contact with its Western Diaspora and implemented the continentalist project, otherwise known as continentalism.
The slave trade to the Western hemisphere, resulted in Pan-Africanism, as the political and philosophical reaction of Africa to imperialism and the outside world. This resulted in the reparations movement getting underway, especially in those areas, such as Namibia, where extermination was used as a policy for colonisation.
For a people who have been written out of their own history by outsiders, reparations offer an attractive form of acknowledgement.
Slavery was so pernicious causing physiological damage such that as a matter of choice most Africans and African descendants automatically choose the side of the master rather than that of the servant. The OAU/AU has been unable to reach out to the global African community, fearful of upsetting the global status quo.
Pan-Africanism has yet to be taken seriously by African elites, especially those in politics. Walter Rodney had foreseen this. Pan-Africanism is an expression of African political thought, which encompasses the realisation of the African Nation, linking all those of African descent with or without Africa. It is the diplomatic and foreign policy arm of domestic African nationalism.
It assumes such role due to its flexibility and creativity and its capacity to mutate and take new directions dependent on the exigencies of the circumstances.
It is a dynamic thesis, ready and able to incorporate new constituencies and accommodate new thinking.
• Bankie F Bankie is a qualified lawyer and has worked with administration and diplomacy, education and research. He can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org