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THE DEVELOPMENT OF KWAME NKRUMAH'S POLITICAL THOUGHT IN EXILE, 1966–1972

  • AMA BINEY (a1)
Abstract

The focus of this article is an examination of the evolution of Nkrumah's political thought during the last years of his life. There is a discernible radicalization as Nkrumah's intellectual thought developed between 1966 and 1972. He had clearly abandoned the constitutional path to independence and begun to adopt revolutionary armed struggle as the only solution to Africa's myriad problems of capitalism, neo-colonialism and imperialism. The unfolding social and political struggles in Vietnam and Latin America and the unrest in America's black cities impacted profoundly on his thinking. The coup d'état which deposed Nkrumah on 24 February 1966 forced him into exile in neighbouring Guinea-Conakry. It therefore provides the political background against which Nkrumah's intellectual thinking unfolded.

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1 J. Milne, Kwame Nkrumah: The Conakry Years. His Life and Letters (London, 1990).

2 For a detailed discussion of the close relationship between the army and the police in executing the coup, see Simon Baynham, The Military and Politics (London, 1988), 153–76.

3 Baynham, The Military and Politics, 199; see J. W. K. Harlley, ‘The decisive role of the police’, PRAAD/ADM5/4/381 (Public Records and Archives Administration Department, Accra, Ghana).

4 Baynham, The Military and Politics, 199.

5 Ibid. 201.

6 Ibid. 198; see Harlley, ‘Decisive role of the police’; A. K. Ocran, A Myth is Broken (London, 1968).

7 Baynham, The Military and Politics, 198.

8 Kwame Nkrumah, Dark Days in Ghana (London, 1968), 42–3.

9 Baynham, The Military and Politics, 199.

10 Ibid. 235–9.

11 Nkrumah, Dark Days, 36.

12 Ibid. 38.

13 Ibid. 40.

14 Baynham, The Military and Politics, 148.

15 Nkrumah, Dark Days, 74.

17 A. B. Assensoh, Kwame Nkrumah: Six Years in Exile, 1966–1972 (London, 1978), 52.

18 Nkrumah, Dark Days, 94.

19 Seymour Hersh, ‘CIA said to have aided plotters who overthrew Nkrumah in Ghana’, in E. R. W. Schaap, K. van Meter and L. Wolf (eds.), Dirty Work: The CIA in Africa (London, 1980), 133–6; see also John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies (London, 1978).

20 West Africa, 19–25 Nov. 2001.

21 Cited in West Africa, 19–25 Nov. 2001. British MI6 files have yet to be released, which may shed further light on British involvement in the coup d'état.

22 Richard Dowse, ‘Military and police rule’, in D. Austin and R. Luckham (eds.), Politicians and Soldiers in Ghana (London, 1975), 17.

23 See Kwame Nkrumah, Revolutionary Path (London, 1973), 136–7.

24 Nkrumah, Dark Days, 16.

25 Nkrumah made this statement in his Message to the Black People of Britain, written in 1968; see K. Nkrumah, The Struggle Continues (London, 1973), 14.

26 Nkrumah, Dark Days, 18–19.

27 Nkrumah's entourage in Guinea numbered 89 in total; see Kwame Nkrumah Papers, Box 154-1, Folder 2, containing a full list of Nkrumah's entourage in Guinea-Conakry as of 20 Nov. 1966: Manuscript Division, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington DC.

28 Milne, The Conakry Years, 7.

29 Ibid. 30.

30 Lamine Janha was a young man of 22–3 years of age when he stayed with Nkrumah, from 1968 to 1970, at Villa Syli. He had been in Ghana from 1960 to the time of the coup as part of a Gambian youth group that visited Ghana for youth training at the Young Pioneers Institute (YPI) set up by Nkrumah, in June 1960, to orientate both Ghana's and Africa's youth towards Nkrumah's vision for Ghana. He was ideologically committed to Nkrumah and made the decision to serve him despite his own father's deep objections. Janha informed me that the ‘Old Man’, as he and the other young men referred to Nkrumah, treated him as a son. Telephone interview, 21 Sept. 2003. He currently lives in Washington DC.

31 Milne, Conakry Years, 16.

32 Interview with Lamine Janha, 21 Sept. 2003.

33 Interview with Madam Fathia (Mrs. Mkrumah), 14–16 Feb. 2004, Cairo, Egypt.

34 Janha, interview, 21 Sept. 2003. Nkrumah's frequent request for books are littered in his correspondence to Milne in Conakry Years.

35 Milne, Conakry Years, 93.

36 Ibid. 16.

37 Interview with Janha, 21 Sept. 2003.

39 Milne, Conakry Years, 123.

40 Ibid. 17.

41 She was the daughter of the famous African American novelist Richard Wright. Milne, Conakry Years, 17.

42 Ibid. 15.

43 Basil Davidson, Black Star: A View of the Life and Times of Kwame Nkrumah (London, 1973), 204.

44 David Rooney, Kwame Nkrumah: The Political Kingdom in the Third World (London, 1988); Bankole Timothy, Kwame Nkrumah: From Cradle to Grave (London, 1981).

45 K. B. Assensoh, Kwame Nkrumah, 14.

46 June Milne, Kwame Nkrumah: A Biography (London, 1999).

47 Madam Fathia informed me she was desperate to visit Nkrumah in Conakry but he constantly told her to wait until they returned to Ghana; interview 14–16 Feb. 2004.

49 Daily Graphic, 14 July 1972.

50 The magazine was set up in 1964 and funded by the CPP government. The idea originated with Nkrumah who wished it to be published in London to disseminate the concept of African unity. It gave publicity to economic and political news from all over the African continent. Its circulation numbered some 30–40,000 copies; interview with Douglas Rogers, a British journalist who was sympathetic to Nkrumah's government and wrote for the magazine, 12 Feb. 1999.

51 Milne's Conakry Years contains a sample of some of the letters sent to Nkrumah. However, the Kwame Nkrumah Papers at the Moorland-Spingarn Center at Howard University contain many more.

52 Nkrumah refused to be interviewed by the British Africanist historian, Basil Davidson. See Davidson's letters to Nkrumah dated 2 Dec. and 13 Dec. 1966, Kwame Nkrumah Papers, Box 154, Folder 32. Nkrumah's response was dated 21 Dec. 1966. However, during his ‘exile’ in Conakry, he only gave one interview, with Douglas Rogers, editor of Africa and the World. It was published in the May 1966 issue.

53 See cables to editor of the British Sunday Express and BBC TV dated 13 Oct. 1966 and 9 Feb. 1967, respectively, in which Nkrumah refused interviews. Kwame Nkrumah Papers, Box 154-11, Folder 1. Nkrumah also refused a request from Thomas Hodgkin, head of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Legon in Ghana, who had been sympathetic to his government in the 1950s.

54 Milne, Conakry Years, 13.

55 Ibid. 9. Assensoh also describes Nkrumah's trust in Ghanaians to restore him to power. See Kwame Nkrumah, 46–7.

56 Milne, Conakry Years, 9.

57 Interview with Janha, 21 Sept. 2003.

58 Milne, Conakry Years, 10.

59 Janha spoke disparagingly of individuals who misled Nkrumah. Interview with Janha, 21 Sept. 2003.

60 S. Carmichael, Ready for the Revolution: The Life and Struggle of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) (New York, 2003), 692. Carmichael later changed his name to Kwame Ture in honour of Kwame Nkrumah and President Sékou Touré of Guinea.

61 Ibid. 693.

62 Ibid. 694.

64 Milne, Conakry Years, 19; see Daily Graphic, 29 Nov. 1966. Immediately after Nkrumah's death, the Ghanaian Times of 2 May 1972 withdrew the reward for Nkrumah's capture.

65 Milne, Conakry Years, 93.

66 Ibid. 106.

67 Nkrumah dedicated Dark Days to these men who were executed for their action.

68 Milne, Conakry Years, 171.

69 Nkrumah, The Struggle Continues, 9. This short booklet contains some of Nkrumah's articles written in exile.

70 Ibid. 11.

71 Ibid. 12.

72 However, the CPP were proscribed from participating in the elections. See Y. Twumasi ‘The 1969 election’, in Austin and Luckham (eds.), Politicians and Soldiers, 140–64.

73 Milne, Conakry Years, 94, letter dated 4 Dec. 1966.

74 Interview with Janha, 21 Sept. 2003.

75 Milne, Conakry Years, 29, letter dated 28 Mar. 1966.

76 Ibid. 29–30.

77 Kwame Nkrumah, Class Struggle in Africa (London, 1970), 10.

78 Milne, Conakry Years, 176.

79 Ibid. letter dated 18 Dec. 1967.

80 Ibid. letter dated 14 May 1967, written to Milne.

81 Ibid. letter dated 24 Oct. 1967, written to Milne.

82 Ibid. 157.

83 Ehiedu E. G. Iweriebor, ‘African nationalism: the struggle for national liberation, 1960s–1990s’, in T. Falola (ed.), Africa, v: Contemporary Africa (Rochester NY, 2003), 193–218.

84 Kwame Nkrumah, Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare: A Guide to the Armed Phase of the African Revolution (London, 1968), 42.

85 Milne, Conakry Years, 326.

86 Paulin J. Hountondji, African Philosophy (London, 1983), 150.

87 Kwame Nkrumah, Consciencism (London, 1964; revised ed. 1970), 74.

88 Nkrumah, Class Struggle, 80.

89 Ibid. 80.

90 Ibid. 10.

91 Ibid. 17–22.

92 Ibid. 33.

93 Ibid. 57.

94 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (London, 1961), 122.

95 Ibid. 122.

96 Nkrumah, Class Struggle, 56. Fanon, Wretched of the Earth, 119–65.

97 Nkrumah, Class Struggle, 48–9.

98 Ibid. 54.

99 Ibid. 87.

100 Ibid.

101 Ibid. 87–8.

102 M. Garvey, cited in A. J. Garvey, The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey (Dover MA, 1986), 52.

103 Nkrumah, Class Struggle, 88.

104 Milne, Conakry Years, 161, letter dated 1 July 1967.

105 Kwame Nkrumah, The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah (London, 1957), 12.

106 Milne, Conakry Years, 161.

107 Nkrumah, Class Struggle, 84–8.

108 Ibid. 28.

109 Ibid. 29.

110 The pamphlet was first published in Africa and the World in January 1968. For a copy of the draft see the Kwame Nkrumah Papers, Box 154-31, Folders 13, 14, 15.

111 Milne, Conakry Years, 170, dated 10 Aug. 1967.

112 Ibid.

113 Ibid. 186, letter to Milne, dated 6 Oct. 1967.

114 Ibid.

115 Ibid. 187.

116 Nkrumah, The Struggle Continues, 13–15 and 36–45.

117 K. Nkrumah, The Spectre of Black Power, in The Struggle Continues, 39–40.

118 Milne, Conakry Years, 247. Nkrumah expressed this in a letter to Milne dated 13 July 1968.

119 Ibid.

120 Ibid. 253, letter dated 27 Aug. 1968.

121 Nkrumah, The Spectre of Black Power, 41.

122 Nkrumah, The Struggle Continues, 74–8.

123 Ibid. 74.

124 Ibid. 76.

125 Ibid.

126 Ibid.

127 Ibid.

128 Ibid.

129 Ibid.

130 Milne, Conakry Years, 53, letter dated 8 July 1966.

131 Ibid. 136, letter dated 9 Apr. 1967.

132 K. Nkrumah, Africa Must Unite (London, 1963), 217–18.

133 Milne, Conakry Years, 53, letter dated 8 July 1966.

134 Ibid. 76, letter dated 10 Oct. 1966.

135 Ibid.

136 Ibid. 77.

137 Ibid. 326. Nkrumah expressed his frustration over the OAU in a letter to the British communist writer, Idris Cox, dated 16 Aug. 1969.

138 Ibid. 72–3, letter dated 27 Sept. 1966.

139 Ibid. 331, letter dated 6 Sept. 1969 to an African American woman by the name of Reba Lewis.

140 Ibid. 335.

141 Ibid.

142 Nkrumah, Autobiography, 12.

143 Ibid. 291, letter to Reba Lewis dated 3 Feb. 1969.

144 See T. Manuh, ‘Women and their organisations during the Convention People's Party period’, in K. Arhin (ed.), The Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah (Trenton, 1992), 101–29.

145 Milne, Conakry Years, 45; Milne noted these criticisms in her notebook dated 10–23 June 1966.

146 Ibid. 97–8.

147 Milne, Conakry Years, 56, 324. Interview with Janha, 21 Sept. 2003.

148 Interview with Janha, 21 Sept. 2003.

149 Milne, Conakry Years, 214.

150 Ibid. 279.

151 Ibid. 280.

152 Ibid.

153 Interview with June Milne, 21 June 1999, London; interview with Madam Fathia, 14–16 Feb. 2004.

154 Madam Fathia recalled that, during their marriage, Nkrumah was frequently visited by doctors who gave him injections. She suspects that the cancer had begun to develop soon after their marriage. When she asked Nkrumah about his health, he would tell her not to worry herself. She believes he shielded her from his illness. Interview with Madam Fathia, 14–16 Feb. 2004.

155 Milne, Conakry Years, 410.

156 Ibid. 406.

157 Ibid. 412–13. As this drug was unavailable in Romania, Milne managed to get her own doctor to prescribe it. Interview with Milne, 21 June 1999, London.

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