1909 - 1972
Dictator of independence for Ghanaby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
As the Gold Coast became the independent nation of Ghana on March 6, 1957, one of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's dreams came true. After ten years laboring for the cause of Ghanaian independence, his efforts had finally paid off. But he was not satisfied for Ghana alone to gain independence-he hoped to one day see all of Africa united under a single, sovereign government once the other African nations had followed Ghana in independence. Today he is remembered as one of the champions of the Pan-African movement-an attempt to unify the African continent. Many portray him as a noble opponent of imperialism and a strong advocate for a united, democratic Africa. However, Nkrumah transformed Ghana's newly democratic government into a suppressive, totalitarian state. Nkrumah turned out to be a dictator and a fraud.
Born September 21, 1909, Kwame Nkrumah attended a missionary school in the Gold Coast, then a British colony. Trained as a teacher at Ghana's Achimota School he traveled to the United States in 1935, where he earned various degrees, including a bachelor's degree in theology and a master's degree in philosophy.1 In 1945 he headed for London with the intention of completing a doctorate. There he became acquainted with George Padmore, and together they organized the first Pan-African Congress in London, pushing for the independence and unification of Africa. From then on the independence and unification of Africa was his lifelong obsession.
1947 saw Nkrumah return to the Gold Coast, where he toured the country giving rousing speeches in his continued drive for independence. In 1949 he formed his own party, called the Convention People's Party (CPP), which demanded "self-government now." However, he was arrested in 1950 when his call for "Positive Action" led to massive strikes and civil disobedience that in some cases turned violent.2 But while still in jail he won an astonishing victory in the elections of 1951 under a new constitution, and the British released him to lead a new government. The next year he became the prime minister of the Gold Coast. Finally on March 6, 1957 the Gold Coast gained independence under the name Ghana.
As the leader of the newly-independent Ghana, Nkrumah claimed to support democracy even as he transformed the country into a one-party, totalitarian state. In fact, Nkrumah was receiving aid from Russia and moving Ghana toward a Communist government while he continued to accept support from the West.3 Building an extreme cult of personality around himself, he imprisoned his enemies and took control of the national media, just as Russia's power-hungry communist leaders had done. He too was power-hungry, and although he continued his support for a United Africa, he hoped to rule it himself.4 Eventually a military coup rose up while Nkrumah was out of the country in 1966, and that was the end of his corrupt, totalitarian state.
Although Nkrumah professed Christianity, his religion was as much a facade as his support for democracy. His corrupt government and immoral lifestyle revealed his hypocrisy. He had several mistresses, including a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl, he took political prisoners and treated them extremely poorly, and he created an unjust court system.5 Despite all this, he set himself up as "His Messianic Dedication Osagyefo."6 Because Osagyefo means "Redeemer," Nkrumah was setting himself up in place of Christ, although he claimed to be a Christian. Clearly his actions demonstrated that his faith was not genuine.7 He was a fraud.
Even though Nkrumah was a dictator and a fraud, he continues to be idolized by the left. In 1972 he died in exile in Romania, far from completing his dream of uniting Africa. Still, many applaud him for his efforts and conveniently overlook his dark side and hypocrisy. But the real Nkrumah was a deceitful dictator who hid behind a masquerade of support for democracy and Christianity.