Forward Ever, Backward Never

Kwame Nkrumah is a highly regarded figure in Ghana. Not only did he dedicate his life to freeing the country from colonial rule but he was also an active leader in the Pan-African movement, advocating the total liberation of all Africans. He was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity and was the winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962.

Kwame was an intelligent and resourceful young man and he was determined to improve the lives of his fellow Africans. He won a scholarship to study abroad and consequently spent time in the US and the UK. In the US he experienced great inequality based on skin colour. He started to believe that if Africa could be freed from colonial rule then Africans, wherever they lived, would be respected and able to improve their living conditions.

Back in Ghana (known as the Gold Coast at that time) the British felt that Africans were not educated enough to govern themselves. After 12 years away from the Gold Coast Kwame returned, and in 1949 became involved in setting up the Convention People’s Party (CPP). Their moto was Forward Ever, Backward Never and their target was self-government, Now.

In early 1950 peaceful protests and mass refusal to work, due to dissatisfaction in the colonial government, lead to a number of arrests within the CPP party. Kwame was thrown in jail, but he refused to give up the fight for independence. From his cell, with the help of a friendly warden, he made plans with party members to run in the 1951 election. He stood as a candidate for the Accra region and the CPP won with a landslide victory. The British were left with no choice but to free Kwame, after a year of imprisonment. He was then called on by the colonial Governor to appoint 7 cabinet members. Although the party were still answerable to the Governor and had to include 3 colonial ministers, Kwame and his followers saw it as a step forward towards independence.

Kwame pushed to set up a civil service and slowly replaced colonial police and army officers with Ghanaians. In 1954, when the next general election was held, all seats were won by the CPP and the move towards self-government grew. Finally, on March 6th 1957 the flag of the Gold Coast was lowered and Ghana was born. Kwame Nkrumah became the first President of the newly independent country. Not content with this massive achievement Kwame pushed forward with his Pan-African vision. He spoke with the 7 other independent African states of that time and encouraged them to work together to gain liberation across Africa. The movement grew, and in just 6 years the number of independent African nations had risen from 8 to 32.

In addition to supporting these independence drives across Africa, Kwame was pushing forward with his vision of a better Ghana. State farms were developed, free education and health care put in place and plans for the Akosombo Dam were progressed so hydro power could improve the lives of the people. Factories were built and the harbour and township of Tema developed.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all plain sailing and Kwame’s socialist views were not shared by all. There were members of his party more interested in improving their own lives and maintaining their privileges, even if that meant betraying the trust of the people. In the early 1960’s there were several attempts on his life. In 1966 Kwame felt that Ghana was on the threshold of economic independence. No sooner did he express this than the first in a long line of Coup d’etat occurred whilst he was out of the country.

The years that followed saw all his hard fought changes undone. Factory builds were abandoned, rubber plantations sold off to western companies, free health and education was abolished. There was little he could do but watch in dismay from afar. When he died from cancer in 1972 he had never been able to return to Ghana. I can see why this man is so highly respected, having dedicated his life to freedom, not just in Ghana, but across Africa. Today you can pay your respects at the Nkrumah Mausoleum in Accra. As well as being the first Presidents final replacing place there is a small museum with a collection of photographs and other artefacts.