The Pan-African Conference, Kumasi, 1953
Ms Marika Sherwood’s paper is published here for two reasons. One, to illustrate the fact that even at the time that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was yet to return to Africa the forces of imperialism and colonialism were afraid of him though he was not talking about or wielding weapons of war. The imperialists are always a paper tiger that must be confronted and can be successfully confronted to achieve the liberation and unification of Africa which this paper shows to be the last thing they ever want for Africa and its people. They live on African resources which our liberation will check.
They are seen here panicking at the prospect of a meeting of Africans in West Africa only to talk about how to liberate and unite Africa for African prosperity. Note the efforts they make to frustrate this simple meeting. Let no one think that the anti-imperialist struggle can ever be easy; and let no one think that victory is not certain for Africa. If you fear them, know that they fear you more. You defeat them even before the sound of the first shot because they know that as thieves theirs is an unjust Cause. We are armed by the justness of our Cause which gives us the assurance that we will win.
Two, they acknowledge that even in the forties Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was a Marxist protagonist. Those who doubt Nkrumah’s Marxist credentials in the 1940s and 195Os have here an opportunity to observe how the imperialists acknowledge this fact and are threatened by it even then. They call him a communist but he tells them that he is a Marxist-Leninist. They are then confused because their distorted definition of communism weighs them down as they fail to see that the two mean the same thing – that is, the liberation of Humanity.
Class Struggle in Africa and Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare are not the beginning of his Marxist orientation but the crowning of it.
I discovered the existence of this conference from some articles by George Padmore in the Ashanti Sentinel. As it had been written out of history, I decided it was important to discover all I could about it – after all, I had unearthed Nkrumah’s early interest in pan-Africanism when I researched his years abroad. Further research, I thought, might confirm my long-held belief of Kwame Nkrumah as the founder of what eventually became today’s Africa Union.
But the journey of exploration took me into some other directions. Nkrumah had asked many people to attend, but very few came. Why was this? Trying to find an answer, and the release of some of the British surveillance papers on Nkrumah, revived my curiosity about the effect of the Cold War on the Gold Coast and then Ghana. The now admitted involvement of the USA’s Counter Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the overthrow of Nkrumah indicates an American ‘interest’ in events in West Africa. So I began to ask more questions: how much interference was there in local politics? How difficult was it for Nkrumah to manoeuvre the future of Ghana between the Cold War warriors, all interested in Africa’s raw materials and undoubtedly fearful of a possibly powerful union between the emerging African states?1
This then took me to the relationship of Britain and France regarding their very different policies towards their colonies: Britain was recognising it had to grant political independence, while France was ‘assimilating’ its African colonies by opening up the French parliament to colonial representation.
Finally, there was the question raised by the Padmore articles. What was the relationship between Padmore and Nkrumah after Nkrumah returned home?
This paper therefore summarises Nkrumah’s interest in holding a pan-African conference, gives details of the 1953 gathering at Kumasi, and begins the process of finding answers to my questions.
Nkrumah’s dreams, hopes and plans 1942-7
While he was studying in the USA, Nkrumah had written about the need for a West African Federation to enable Africans to ‘rule and govern themselves without outside interference’.2 In 1942 he had sent a program3 to K.A.B. Jones-Quartey, then also a student there, which he should use as ‘a starting point for the developments and unifications of which I speak’. ‘It is our task’, he wrote, ‘to build, to unite and develop…’. In an undated note, while still in the USA, he wrote: ‘…I have always dreamed of a Union – the United States of West Africa under African hegemony’.4
The possibility of realising this dream probably began at the Pan-African Congress in Manchester in 1945. This was organised mainly by George Padmore, with the assistance of many other activists, including Nkrumah.5 Among those attending the Congress were Bankole Awoonor Renner then also a student6; G. Ashie Nikoi represented the Gold Coast Farmers’ Association, and Wallace Johnson represented both Sierra Leone’s Youth League and Trades Union Congress. After the Congress, these four men with Kojo Botsio7 and Bankole Akpata8 formed the West African National Secretariat (WANS).9
Among the aims of WANS was
a) to foster a spirit of national unity and solidarity within West Africa
b) to engineer the formation of an All-West African National Congress10
Recruited by Nkrumah, African delegates from France attended a WANS meeting, called in conjunction with the West African Students Union (WASU), on the theme of ‘Unity and Independence of all West Africa’. The resolutions called for the creation of a West African National Congress, to meet in West Africa ‘towards the end of next year… The ultimate aim of a ‘United Socialist States of Africa’ was stressed… A politically independent West Africa had to be achieved.11
The Gold Coast Observer (14 February 1947) and the Ashanti Pioneer (6 June 1947) carried information on WANS. On 12 November 1947 the Pioneer printed a letter signed by the WANS Treasurer, outlining the ‘framework’ for the West African National Congress, due to be held in Lagos in October 1948. All West African ‘territories’ were asked to send representatives ‘democratically elected by member organisations’.
Nkrumah left London about this time in order to take up a post with the UGCC in the Gold Coast. He stated that in order to publicise the Congress he would stop in Freetown and then Liberia where he intended asking President Tubman if he would open the Lagos Congress in about a year’s time.12
But the Congress was not held.
Why the Congress was not held I have not been able to ascertain. According to the information obtained by the American Embassy in London from Colonel Yeldham of the Colonial Office’s West Africa Department, ‘the Lagos meeting failed to come about because no effective groundwork was laid, in British West Africa, at least… The Colonial Office understand that Houphouet13, Nkrumah and Awoonor-Renner have decided that another attempt should be made to hold the All West African National Congress, this time at Abidjan. The date is not known… Yeldham felt the All West African National Congress group should be watched as closely as possible.’14
– attempts to hold a conference
Nkrumah, despite imprisonments, investigations, and then political success as leader of the Convention People’s Party, did not abandon his aim to call a unity conference. These attempts will be delineated in another publication. But, to give just an example: a conference was planned for August 1952, according to the Daily Graphic (22 December 1951). Central, East and West African nationalist movements were invited, as were leaders from the North; Bourguiba15 of Tunisia and El Fassi16 of Morocco were expected.17 Is it possible that it was cancelled because those invited could not obtain visas to enter the Gold Coast? For the use of this tactic by the British, see below.
In March 1953 Nkrumah called for a conference to be held in August, of ‘nationalist leaders in West Africa as well as leaders of other organisations against imperialism’, to whom invitations were being sent. Plans would be laid for a ‘united West African development and the co-ordination of nationalist movements’. This would be the forerunner to a ‘Pan-African Conference in 1954 to discuss Africa as a whole’.18 In June the US Political Affairs Department’s Counsellor in Dakar informed the State Department in Washington that Nkrumah had invited ‘Houphouet-Boigny, Diallo19 and d’Arboussier20’ to the conference; but a month later he reported that as d’Arboussier and Diallo were a communists Nkrumah had ‘forbidden their entry into the Gold Coast’. How was he going to resolve this conundrum, the Counsellor wondered.21 While visiting the USA, Nkrumah announced an ‘African nationalist leaders’ conference, the Daily Echo reported on 7 November, and went on to say that ‘this was being carefully examined by many international circles. Great interest and concern are attached to the conference.’
West African Federation Conference / West African National Congress22, Kumasi, 1953
Once the announcement was made, there was support from a number of West African newspapers, though I have not seen them all by any means. For example, Azikiwe’s West African Pilot noted on 5 December that ‘this is the first step towards the creation of a United States of West Africa some years after all the territories should have won their independence. Far-reaching decisions are expected to emerge from the conference’ On December 1 the Ashanti Sentinel printed a long article ‘West Africa in a New Era’. Dr Yaw Agyeman-Dickson claimed that there was a ‘quickening of all West African nationalists towards some form of federation… It must be recognised that none of the countries of West Africa can ever solve her economic problems in isolation… [O]ne wonders if federation is not the only key to unlock the doors of our industrial problems.’ The following two days the Sentinel published more support by S.B. Asare. In his ‘Towards United West Africa’, Asare is very supportive of the conference and thanks Dr Nkrumah ‘through whose foresight and machinations the unity of West Africa is becoming a reality… the conference will go down in history as a landmark in our political struggle for the emancipation of our land, our country…’
The dream conference was finally held in Kumasi on 4-7 December 1953. The Organising Committee stated that its ‘political objective’ was the ‘establishment of a strong and truly federal state, capable of protecting itself from outside invasion and able to preserve internal security’. The federation should be a parliamentary democracy which respects the traditions of various communities comprising West Africa. Such a state should give hope and create an atmosphere of goodwill among peoples of African descent all over the world… In external relations, such a Federation should cultivate the friendship of states interested in the destiny of Africa.’23
The Ashanti Sentinel reported that the agenda would include ‘fundamental problems of education, politics and economics in West Africa… The conference will seek means of co-ordinating the efforts of the countries for a united front to solve these intrinsic problems.’ The formation of ‘a United West Africa’ was how the Gold Coast Independent reported the main item on the agenda. A resolution would be proposed for ‘immediate steps to be taken to rally round international opinion to compel Mr Malan to repeal all racial laws in South Africa. One aim of the conference was to appoint committees to deal with different issues and a General Council to ‘co-ordinate the activities of African nationalists in their struggle for complete independence’.24
Various lists of invitees were published: The Gold Coast Independent reported on 13 November that Nkrumah had ‘sent out invitations to nationalist leaders in all parts of Africa’; the Ashanti Sentinel (24 November) was a little more specific by stating that ‘delegates from all over West Africa, both French and British territories had been invited. It gave I.M. Jahumpa and J.C. Paye as those invited from Gambia; M.A.S. Margai, A. Thompson, E. Taylor-Cummings, I.T.A. Wallace Johnson and Bankole Bright from Sierra Leone; Adewale Thompson, T.O.S. Benson, Nnamdi Azikiwe, H.O. Davies, Mallam Aminu, Obafemi Owolowo (sic), Madam F. Ransom Kuti (sic) M.A. Imoudu and the Sarduana (sic) of Sokoto from Nigeria. Sylvanus Olympio is listed among the 11 Gold Coast representatives as at that time the future of Togo was unresolved. Delegates were also expected from the Trade Union Councils of the British colonies.
The West African Pilot of Nigeria reported on 30 November that ‘French West African leaders’ had been invited. Interestingly, most of the papers listing invitees excluded Mrs F. Ransome-Kuti, the President-General of the Federation of Women’s Organisation in Nigeria. It was not until she announced that she had accepted the invitation that the papers bothered to mention a woman invitee! 25 The Pilot (5/12/1953, p.1; 9/12/1953, p.1) also adds P.S. McEwen, the President-General of the NCNC Youth Association to the list of Nigerian attendees.
The Ashanti Sentinel reported on 27 November ‘a stream of cablegrams and letters to the Prime Minister from all over West Africa and also some international figures in Europe and the USA, expressing willingness to be present.’
US officials in Accra, who were in close touch with G.H. Saloway, the Gold Coast’s Minister for External Affairs, reported that Nkrumah had invited 11 from Nigeria, 2 from Liberia; 6 from Sierra Leone, Sylvanus Olympio from Togo and three from the opposition in the Gold Coast, Danquah, ‘Ollennu’ and Busia. In a discussion in May 1953 Mr Saloway ‘pointed out that should Nkrumah insist on having the conference, the British would take steps to prevent it’.26
In one of the many letters intercepted and copied by MI5 there is a draft of the conference agenda and a list of ‘proposed invitees’, which differs considerably from the list published in November:
Gambia: I.M. Jahumpa, Henry M. Jones, Rev. J.C. Faye
Sierra Leone: Bankole Bright, Margai, Wallace Johnson, Siaka Stevens, Columbus Thompson
Nigeria: Awolowo, Azikiwe, Iyo Ita, Ikoro, Ade Wale Thompson, Mallam Aminu, Ilorin Kibe, Bode Tomas
Senegal: Gabriel L’Ossier
Ivory Coast: M. Apithy, M. Houphouet
French Togo: Slyvanus Olympio
French Guinea: Abdulai Dialo
Liberia: two unnamed Gold Coast: Danquah, Kojo Botsio, Casely Hayford, Gbedemah, Nii Amaa Ollennu, K.A. Busia, J.H. Allassani27
– the Conference/Congress
Is Mr Saloway’s above statement our clue to understanding why attendance was so sparse? Could Britain have prevented others from attending by not issuing passports or visas or by putting invitees on the prohibited immigrant list? Did France not issue passports to its African ‘citizens’?
It is not quite clear who actually attended the Conference. Recorded representatives from Nigeria were : Funmilayo Ransome- Kuti, Nnamdi Azikiwe (NCNC) H.O. Davies and his wife (Action Group), all well-known political figures, and Mallam Aminu Kano (Northern People’s Congress); also, according to the Sentinel (7/12/1953 p.1) , Kole Balogun (chair of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons) and Adewale Thompson, Secretary of the CPP in Nigeria. Also reported were Mr Conton, a Sierra Leonean living in the Gold Coast and Loyd Wishnant, the Liberian consul in Accra and, again from the Sentinel, Professor Dempster. The Sentinel also reported that delegates from Gambia and Sierra Leone could not come as they did not want to miss attending sessions of the Legislative Assemblies of which they were members. (I have been unable to check when these sessions were actually called. This could, of course, have been one way to prevent representatives attending.)
Thus the Conference (? congress) was clearly a very unrepresentative meeting, both in terms on countries (colonies) and political activists.28 Did this make it easier to arrive at agreements for the future? These included:
the necessity to form a permanent West African National Congress;
the Congress would work to advance the political, economic and social emancipation of all West Africa, of all Africa and of people of African descent;
it would lay the foundations for a federation of West Africa which would embrace all sections of Africans and people of African descent;
it would also lay the foundations for Pan-Africanism;
the headquarters would be in the Gold Coast;
membership would be by political parties and organisations.
Nkrumah pressed that the conference was a ‘step towards the liberation of the whole of Africa’. The Congress should meet in 1954 to delineate ways to achieve federation.29
The Statement issued also argued that a Federation would be capable of protecting itself from outside invasion and preserve internal security. [It would be] along the lines of a parliamentary democracy, respecting the traditions of various communities and should aim at creating an atmosphere of goodwill among peoples of African descent over the world. The Federation should also cultivate the friendship of States interested in the destiny of Africa and identify itself with the Commonwealth of Nations.30
Interestingly, despite the poor attendance, the international Reuters news agency thought the conference of sufficient importance to issue a news release. This was printed in The Times in London on 8 December: ‘the federal state should be a parliamentary democracy indentifying itself with the British Commonwealth’, the resolutions stated, according to Reuters.31 The ‘conference was described by Dr Kwame Nkrumah as “a step in preparing for the liberation of Africa”.’
– the ‘lighter side’ in Kumasi
There are no papers regarding the Congress in either the National Archives in Kumasi or the archives of the Asantehene there. Not only is this somewhat curious (could the British have removed them?) but also meant that I could not discover any clues as to why Nkrumah had decided to hold this international conference in Kumasi. Had he wanted to impress the Asantehene, with whom he had not always seen ‘eye-to-eye’?
The Ashanti Sentinel (24/11/1953, p.1) noted that a local committee had been set up in Kumasi to help Kofi Baako, the Secretary of the National Organising Committee with arranging functions. ‘A concert, Dance and other functions will form part of the entertainments’, which will conclude with a football match. The delegates were to be welcomed at a cocktail party by Nkrumah, the African Morning Post reported on 24 November, and would be introduced to the public at a meeting at the Prempeh Memorial Hall.
What we can gather from the newspapers is that the Asantehene had invited Congress attendees to a sherry party on December 6. He had been invited to ‘kick-off’ the football match planned for the conclusion of the Congress. (African Morning Post, 4/11/1953, p.1; 3/12/1953, p.1)
– after the congress/conference
In Kumasi Mrs Ransome-Kuti addressed a special meeting of about 800 women, arranged by the CPP. ‘Little drops of water make a mighty ocean’, she told the women, encouraging them to take action on issues important to them and to form organisations.
Azikiwe, H.O. Davies and Kole Balogun addressed a meeting in Accra organised in order to ‘introduce some of the leaders of the Congress’. In an article headed ‘Zik storms palladium’, the Sentinel reported that ‘about 45,000 people’ listened to ‘Zik’s explosive speech’, in which he ‘emphasised the fight against imperialism’.32 At another meeting Mrs Ransome-Kuti proposed that a conference of West African women should be held either in Nigeria or the Gold Coast.33
At the international level, the Sentinel reported that Harry Nkumbuga (sic), president of the North Rhodesia African Congress had been inspired by Nkrumah’s plans for a unity conference to call for a Central Africa Conference of Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Nyasaland and North and South Rhodesia. After the conference had met, he planned for ‘negotiations to be started with the West African national leaders to set up a regional headquarters of the Pan-African Congress in North Rhodesia in order to co-ordinate unity movements in Central and East Africa with West Africa’. But the conference did not take place as the ‘participants did not arrive’. ‘Mr Nkumbula accused the Government of Northern Rhodesia of trying to undermine the congress. He said he believed that the nine delegates who had accepted invitations…had deliberately been kept out of the territory.’ That Mr Benjamin Burombo, of the African National Voice organisation had been declared a ‘prohibited immigrant’ had been reported in the newspapers.34
George Padmore’s suggestions to the conference
According to Philippe Decraene35, until Padmore ‘arrived’ on the scene, the plans for a conference were ‘lethargic’. However, he writes, contact was maintained with Azikiwe, and with Léopold Senghor and Sourous Apithy, who had attended the WANS conference in London seven years previously.36 What Decraene did not know was the ongoing and constant correspondence between Padmore and Nkrumah, now revealed by the surveillance papers on Nkrumah.37 The two men discussed all/many/some of the issues faced by Nkrumah, including, for example, the terms of a new constitution in1954.
Regarding Nkrumah’s ‘cherished ideal of a Pan-African socialist union’ and plans to call a conference, Loftus Brown of MI5 informed the Colonial Office that W.E.B. Du Bois, who ‘supported the conference’ had ‘recommended George Padmore…for assistance and advice’.38 Did Du Bois not know of the ongoing relationship between the two men? (I have not yet found whatever has been preserved regarding the plans for Kumasi. But I think it is most unlikely that Padmore would have written his articles without Nkrumah’s request/approval.)
Was Padmore’s message distributed to those attending the Conference? And perhaps to those attending the open meeting at the Prempeh Memorial Hall? After all, and very strangely, the Sentinel articles begin to appear on 10 December, that is, three days after the Conference ended! Had the British ordered that Padmore’s letter containing the article should be delayed?
Padmore begins his articles by stating that he could not return the Gold Coast to attend the meeting. (He had been there for some months in 1950). He began by asking those attending ‘to share their experiences, study the techniques of organisation, propaganda and party discipline… and review the shortcomings and mistakes of their respective movements’. He then listed what he believed were the ‘fundamental factors which constitute the essential elements for the successful realisation of [their] objectives’. Padmore compared the ‘disintegration of the tribal structure of social order under the impact of external economic and social forces’ to the movement in Europe from tribalism to feudalism and then to capitalism. But this had taken centuries, whereas Africans had to achieve this very quickly. Tribal loyalties were being replaced by ‘more embracing loyalties, which must be canalised if they are to serve usefully the emergent national aspirations’.
Political parties must move beyond tribal loyalties and reflect the social, political and economic hopes of the common people, cutting across sentiments of race, tribe, colour and creed… National integration can only be realised through nation-wide parties embracing all citizens… In their endeavours to create modern national states out of heterogeneous tribal communities, African leaders must always keep in view the objectives of a Federated West Africa, the precursor of a United States of Africa… [Africa must not] repeat the pitiful and exacting demands upon those who assume political leadership. [These include] ‘resistance to material temptations [and to the] wiles [of the British. They must not become] divorced from the mass of the people. … Leaders are the servants of their people, not their masters… Any departure from this relationship between the leaders and the people opens the door to dictatorship…. African political leaders must seek to create a new social order… a more egalitarian and humanistic and just society.’
He then went on to warn that ‘there is today the great danger of a ready acceptance of the material values of Europe and America’, and used Mahatma Gandhi’s beliefs and policies to demonstrate that ostentation was not a necessary prerequisite to power. ‘The leaders of the west African political parties must strive to close the social gap between the leaders and the people, between the “haves” and have-nots”. Only in this way can bribery and corruption be purged from the body politic.’
Padmore’s message ended with his hopes that the lessons learned at the Conference will ‘benefit …the common advance towards self-determination and the ultimate realisation of West African Federation’.39
However, as Nkrumah had to deal with the challenges of internal and Cold War politics prior to independence, this proposed meeting was not held till after freedom from colonial rule was achieved in 1957. Nkrumah’s appointed Padmore his Advisor on African Affairs, and Padmore co-ordinated the Independent African States Conference and the All-African Peoples Conference in 1958.
British surveillance – and interference?
Nkrumah was under surveillance by the British Secret Service MI5 from 1946 onwards. That naturally MI5 worked closely with the Colonial Office is indicated by the 1947 correspondence regarding the possibility of unity conference, the feelings of the French regarding this and the support WANS was receiving from the Communist Party of Great Britain.
It was decided as early as 1948 that there should be ‘closer liaison between civil intelligence officers and military commanders’. Kellar of MI5 toured the West African colonies that year, and the CO felt this would ‘likely result in permanent posting of MI5 representative there’.40
The Central Africa Department of the Dominions Office (DO) was also concerned about the possibilities of a Pan-African congress. ‘We cannot prevent such a conference but considering whether anything can be done that would make it less likely that such a meeting would eventuate or whether an antidote can be provided’ wondered DO official. The DO should propagate ‘a policy of partnership… the potential leaders…will surely be less likely to conceive themselves as engaged in a racial struggle if they feel they belong to the white civilisation’.41
But policy is not necessarily action. In the same DO file we catch a glimpse of what actions the colonial governments could take to prevent conferences taking place. There is a report from Northern Rhodesia, regarding the postponement of a proposed unity conference planned in Ndola, also for December 1953 (mentioned above): ‘no orders were issued to keep delegates out of the country. Those who had been refused entry…had been sent back because of their inability to comply with the normal immigration regulations’.42
Is it possible that some international manipulation lay behind the accusations by F.B. Asare in his article ‘Towards United West Africa’ regarding the Kumasi conference:
Bandits of the pan-imperialist agents and capitalist hirelings through their press are doing their worse to sabotage the plans of the Convention People’s Party under whose auspices this august conference is being convened. Through distorted campaigns of lies and slander they are giving a wrong picture to the issue.43
The Times of London, usually recognised as the ‘Establishment’ news-sheet, carried an article, ‘Nationalism in West Africa’ on 14 June 1949. This argued that Africans can ‘have little proper apprehension of the meaning’ of communism. But ‘most nationalist leaders have maintained Communist connexions at one time or another for this reason’ (p.5). However, two years later, the paper argued that ‘there is little doubt that as a method of psychological attack in the cold war, or as a preparation for a “shooting” war, the propaganda campaign (regarding the Korean war) at present being waged is most dangerous. Much of the literature coming in depicts the Atlantic Powers as the aggressors… Lurking at the back of many African minds is the thought that, were a war to break out, they might emerge on balance as the gainers… There is then a distinct threat that the Communist campaign might succeed in persuading many Africans to adopt a neutral position should the Commonwealth be involved in a war with Russia.’44 These articles seem to me to indicate the absolute necessity that the UK felt to do more to stop the supposed spread of communism that merely ensure that all communist material was banned in the Gold Coast.
Labelling Nkrumah a communist
During this Cold War era, labelling someone a communist was one way of dismissing them in public and providing grounds for actions against them in private. Thus, having been labelled a communist, Nkrumah could easily also be called a ‘subversive’ and arrested and imprisoned for supposedly fomenting strikes.
In 1947 the Governor’s Deputy at the Gold Coast45 reported to the Colonial Office that Nkrumah, who had just arrived, was a man of ‘extreme political views’; his political associations in the UK had been ‘mostly with communists and other extremist groups. He has attempted to enlist the support of the CPGB via M. Rogerson for the West African National Congress to be held in 1948’. In the 10th fortnightly reports on ‘Communism in the Colonies’ Nkrumah is labelled as a ‘communist protagonist’.46 The report for a 1949 meeting in Accra noted that ‘Nkrumah’s command over his audience was complete… The Communist line was plugged extremely adroitly’.47 The Political Intelligence Reports from the West African colonies for 1950 included a claim that Nkrumah had been a member of the CPGB; though WANS had never been ‘under communist control…Nkrumah was a much more dangerous character’.48 There is much more on Nkrumah‟s supposed communist allegiances in the released MI5 files.
The attempt to call Nkrumah a communist did not abate. For example, Maurice Smith of the CO noted in June 1953 that there was ‘a serious trend, particularly in trade union matters, towards communism’ and there were ‘one or two samples of CPP press propaganda on communist lines’, and there was also an ‘increasing use of communist techniques in fomenting strikes’.49
The theme of communist influence was also taken up by the Nigerian Governor in a letter to the Secretary of State for the Colonies on 10 November 1953, regarding an article by George Padmore published in the West African Pilot: ‘Previously in his contributions Padmore, though not a Party members, has stuck fairly closely to the Party line or has at best been a fellow traveller.50 Another CO official called Padmore a ‘West Indian Trotskyite’.
Britain’s relationship with France
Britain and France had different approaches to the increasing demands for independence by their colonies. The French, according to Guy Martin, ‘after World War II realized that the loss of formal control would not necessarily be accompanied by a loss of real power and influence’.51 This ‘loss’ in fact declared African colonies to be an integral part of the French Republic, and all France’s African subjects were declared to be French citizens. Territorial Assemblies were also established, with two ‘electoral colleges’ – one for resident Europeans and one for Africans, whose franchise was very limited. And these Assemblies were only consultative – i.e., they had no power.52
However, given that this was the Cold War era, it was important for France and Britain to be able to co-operate on retaining as much power and control as possible. Efforts at communication and co-operation were clearly succeeding as in March 1947 the British Embassy in Paris wrote to the Foreign Office that it was ‘very gratifying that our relations with the French colonial field are developing satisfactorily…. Quite appreciate the reasons for not considering at the moment to exchange colonial attachés between Paris and London.’53 A year later the Colonial Office and MI5 discussed the exchange of security information with France regarding their West African colonies.54 In 1949 the French government, now as fearful as the British of ‘subversive’ influences, announced that anyone wishing to enter a French colony must have a passport and a Carnet d’Etranger. 55
Britain was also very much concerned about what effect a unity conference would have on its relationship with France. It might have been this fear that led to the appointment of D.G. Pirie as vice-consul in Dakar in 1951 – he was to gather information on ‘all aspects of political constitutional, economic and other current questions in French West Africa and Liberia’. He had to get enough information to pass over to the French, or ‘he is not going to be able to obtain all the information he might get from them unless he can reciprocate’.56
Early in 1952 Pirie advised the Foreign Office (FO) that the ‘French don’t understand that HMG [the British government] is virtually powerless to stop Nkrumah…from holding such a meeting… [they] will see it as British support for anti-French nationalist movements’. S.A. Lockhart of the FO now wrote to the Colonial Office: ‘if it is decided that it would be politically inadvisable to prohibit the Congress, we very much hope that Sir Charles Arden-Clarke will be able to persuade Nkrumah to call it off’. However, as he doubted the possibility of the Governor succeeding in this attempt, Lockhart wrote to Pirie on 21 January that ‘as we have little time to decide whether we can prevent intending participants entering the country… We have been sometimes successful by delaying the issue of visas when we are not allowed to refuse them and we shall certainly pay attention of any requests by Bourguiba, El Fassi and Laghzaoui’.57 It was agreed to send out a ‘circular that visas should not be granted (to the Gold Coast) to the delegates to the Congress without prior reference to London’.58
On 27 February1952 the FO informed Sir John Martin, Under-Secretary of International Relations at the CO, that the proposed ‘Congress would cause extreme embarrassment to the French… and South Africans, and indeed to all colonial powers’. Though the FO was ‘loath to embark upon’ the non-issue of visas, ‘but might find it difficult to resist… Important that…the Congress should not take place in British territory’.59
The interests of the USA
The USA had established its embassy in the Gold Coast immediately after the end of WWII. Presumably this was because the USA might have wanted to discover how it could gain access to African raw materials and markets, which were denied by both Britain and France. 60 And of course, during the Cold War, it wanted to prevent the spread of Soviet influence.61
The reports sent back by its officials are copious and cover all angles of the economy, politics, labour, transport and all other aspects of life in the colony.62 The US tried to influence Gold Coasters via the United States Information Service, the equivalent of the British Council. Exhibitions were held, student exchange programs introduced, books donated to the libraries and many thousands of copies of US newspapers distributed. What the CIA did is as unknown as are the activities (other than surveillance) of Britain’s MI5.
Not unnaturally the USA felt it had to discuss Nkrumah and this conference with the British government. Its official met with R.H. Saloway, the Gold Coast Minister of Defence and External Affairs on 20 May. The US official was told that 20 had been invited, including d’Arboussier, Diallo, I.T.A. Wallace Johnson, Bankole Bright, Awolowo, Azikiwe and Danquah. Saloway had advised Nkrumah that ‘his attention should be on constitutional changes’, not pan-Africanism.
Saloway stated that the Colonial Office was ‘quite concerned…sent Secret letter to the Governor… keep the French fully informed’. In November the Minister passed on more information: 11 delegates had been invited from Nigeria, 6 from Sierra Leone, 2 from Gambia, 2 from Liberia and 8 Gold Coasters. ‘The French Consul General thinks no invitations’ had been sent to the French colonies. The conference was ‘of no special significance… [B]ut possible [that] the Colonial Office attaches more importance as indicative of a trend or as raising possible apprehensions on the part of certain colonial powers.’63
However, the US Ambassador in Paris decided to discuss the conference with Jean Jurgenson, the Chief of the African Section of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Jurgenson thought that the ‘Conference seemed to have been of little significance… However, [he] was not disposed to deprecate the significance of growing African nationalism… subsequent conferences could be expected to assume increasing importance from the point of view of developing solidarity among West African nationalists.’64
Nkrumah’s enthusiasm for African unity resulted in his holding a conference in 1953 to further this aim. That very few of those whom he had probably invited, including representatives from the French colonies, actually attended, might well have been due to manipulations by the respective colonial governments.
That Nkrumah might perhaps have realised this, and that he might have needed Padmore by his side to arrange a successful event, is perhaps evidenced by his not calling the next conference till after the Gold Coast had become independent Ghana.
Much more research is needed to attempt to uncover the manipulations by the various powers on both sides of the Cold War as Africans marched towards and attained independence, and then attempted to unite.
If Nkrumah was not a communist, then how did he define his politics? The Times article on ‘Communism in Africa’, mentioned above, stated that ‘Dr Nkrumah…has publicly stated that that he is not a Communist but a Marxist-Leninist’. But labels often tell us very little. So how did Nkrumah define his politics and his policies? All his books are replete with these; however, it seems important to quote some excerpts for those at the Colloquium who have not had access to these books. I have chosen quotations which appear to me to be relevant to today’s Ghana and Africa. (The emphases are mine.)
Our objectives are defined by the three political components: Nationalism, Pan-Africanism, Socialism (Revolutionary Warfare, 1968, p.24)
The problem of education is uppermost in my mind …. Education [is] the key to our liberation and advance. (Africa Must Unite, 1963 p.44)
Each minister must show himself as an example to the people by his devotion to his work, by simple living, by leading in service. (Africa Must Unite, 1963 p.83)
We are setting our hands as firmly as we can against the growth of a privileged sector… [T]hose who are responsible for running our affairs must acquire a socialist perspective and a socialist drive keyed to national needs and demands… The spirit of service to our nation [must] permeate throughout our society… The executives of our public and statutory organizations must achieve a new attitude to their jobs… [We] cannot afford to drain [our] resources in subsidizing unproductive ventures from which only well-paid executive profit. (Africa Must Unite,1963 pp.103, 124, )… It is the indigenous bourgeoisie who provide the main means by which international monopoly finance continues to plunder Africa… (Class Struggle in Africa, 1970, p.63)
A country-wide self-help programme of community development [must be] arranged, to promote the building of schools, roads, drains, clinics, post offices, houses and community centres. (Africa Must Unite, 1963 p.103)
Africa needs a new type if citizen, a dedicated, modest, honest and informed man. A man who submerges self in service to the nation and mankind. A man who abhors greed and detests vanity. A new type of man whose humility is his strength and whose integrity is his greatness. (Africa Must Unite, 1963 p.130)
Transportation constitutes the key to industrial development… plans for four new railway lines from Awoso to Berekum, Kumasi to Navrongo, from Achiasi to Nwawam, Takoradi to Bonyeri. (George Padmore, reporting CPP plans in Gold Coast Revolution, 1953 p.222)
At present farmers are greatly handicapped in marketing their produce because of the lack of roads in the food-growing areas of the country, especially the Northern Territories. (George Padmore, reporting CPP plans in Gold Coast Revolution, 1953 p.224)
Owing to the facts of history in the Northern Territories there have been fewer opportunities for education… this is no reason why the people of the North should not have exactly the same rights and that their opinions should not have exactly the same weight as those of the people of the South… Because the price of cocoa varies…we cannot undertake those large schemes of not immediately productive development which are absolutely essential for the Northern Territories. (I Speak of Freedom, 1962, pp.76, 100)
A close analysis of the specific conditions under which independent African states emerged reveals that neo-colonialism was incipient during the movement for independence, and emerged fully once independence was acquired. (Revolutionary Warfare, 1968 p.32)
Psychological attacks are made through the agency of broadcasting stations…the war of words is supplemented by written propaganda… the invasion of evangelist brigades…information agencies and international ‘aid’ organisations. (Revolutionary Warfare, 1968 p.17)
A Union of African States must strengthen our influence on the international scene, as all Africa will speak with one concerted voice… We must stand firmly together against the imperialist forces… We need the strength of our combined numbers and resources to protect ourselves from the very positive dangers of returning colonialism in disguised forms. (Africa Must Unite, 1963 pp.193, 217)
1. Historians, as far as I have been able to discover, have not attempted to explore this. The exception is D. Zizwe Poe, who in his Kwame Nkrumah’s Contribution to Pan-Africanism (2003) wrote that ‘European imperialists did not sit idly by while the opposition performed acts of terror and lawlessness, it encourage such activities. It also encouraged irredentism’. (p.104)
2. Francis Nwia-Kofi Nkrumah, ‘Education and nationalism in Africa’, Education Outlook, November 1943, p. 9. It was after his arrival in London that Nkrumah dropped ‘Francis’ and called himself ‘Kwame’.
3. I have not been able to find a copy of this.
4. PRAAD, SC21/1/43, Nkrumah Papers: Nkrumah to Jones-Quartey in Brooklyn, New York, 1 July 1942; SC1/120: undated note. In SC21/1/125 there are some ‘Notes for a proposed West African Independence League with a permanent Secretariat’.
5. See Marika Sherwood, Kwame Nkrumah: the Years Abroad 1935-1947, Ghana: Freedom Publications, 1996, chapter 9; S.K.B. Asante, ‘Kwame Nkrumah and Pan-Africanism: the early phase, 1945 – 1961’, Universitas 3/1 October 1973, pp.36-49. This somewhat magnifies the contribution of Nkrumah to the 1945 Congress.
6. Renner, had been espousing the creation of ‘one Federated West African State…strong, and independent free from feudalism’ since 1937 – quoted by Asante (1973, p.39 –see n.5). Renner in his West African Soviet Union (London 1946, p.7) had called for ‘one Federated West African State…strong, and independent, free from feudalism’. See MI5 files on Renner: TNA: KV2/1840-41; files begin 1942; note that not all files have been released.
7. MI5, the British secret intelligence agency, has now released some of its files on Botsio: TNA: KV2/1915, 1916. These begin in 1948. In 1945 Botsio was a student in England.
8. Akpata, then studying in the UK, was a member of the British Communist Party; he served as assistant, then as secretary to WANS. When WANS collapsed he accepted a scholarship offered by Charles University, Prague, to read for a Master’s, then PhD degrees. He returned to Nigeria in 1953.
9. There will be a fuller account of WANS in my planned booklet on Nkrumah’s attempts to foster unity 1945 – 1958.
10. There is a copy of the Aims and Objectives in PRAAD, SC21/2/84 Nkrumah Papers.
11. Socialist Leader, 21 Sept. 1946; West Africa, 14 September 1946, p.845.
12. According to his Autobiography (pp.64-5) Nkrumah was welcomed in Freetown by Wallace Johnson and spent two weeks in Sierra Leone holding discussions and addressing meetings. President Tubman was not in Monrovia but he met ‘with several politicians with whom I discussed my mission’.
13. From the Cote d’Ivoire, Félix Houphouet-Boigny held a ministerial position in the French parliament. In 1946 he and other nationalists from the French colonies in Africa formed the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA), which was originally allied to the French Communist Party. However, by the 1950s Houphouet-Boigny led the party to a more moderate, pro-French stance; by 1956 he was firmly opposed Nkrumah’s political positions as he declared: ‘to the mystique of independence we oppose the reality of fraternity’. (Crawford Young, ‘The heritage of colonialism’, in J.W. Harbeson & D. Rothchild (eds), Africa in World Politics, Boulder: Westview Press 1995, p.91)
14. NARA: RG59:848K.00B11-1748, Embassy to Secretary of State, Washington, 17/11/1948.
15. Habib Bourguiba was the founder of the Neo Destour Party which led the struggle for Tunisia’s independence.
16. Mohamed Allal al-Fassi (1910-1974) Moroccan nationalist leader, one of the founders and later the president of the Istiqlal party.
17. TNA: FO371/96644, S.A. Lockhart to Consul Pirie in Dakar, 21/1/1952. This was also announced in the Daily Graphic 22/12/1951.
18. West Africa, 11 April 1953, p.325, Manchester Guardian, 31/3/1953, p.7
19. Pan-Africanist Diallo Telli was Guinea’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1958; he chaired the UN’s Special Committee on the Policies of Apartheid of the Government of the Republic of South Africa from April 1963 and became the first secretary-general of the OAU, serving from 1964 and 1972.
20. One of the founders of the RDA, Sudan-born Gabriel D’Arboussier served on the French Constituent Assembly from 1946 till 1962, when he was appointed Minister of Justice of newly independent Senegal and then Ambassador of Senegal to France.. He went on to serve as Deputy Director of UNESCO from 1963 to 1964 and then as Deputy Director of the Research Institute of the United Nations (1965-1966).
21. NARA: RG59, Box 3579, 745G.00.6-1953, Dakar 19/6/1953; 746G.00/7-753, Dakar 7/7/1953.
22. The title of the conference/congress changes continually: it is called The All West African Nationalist Conference by F.B. Asare in the Ashanti Sentinel 2/12/1953.
23. West Africa, 12 December 1953, p.465; Daily Graphic, 8 December, p.1.
24. Ashanti Sentinel, 24/11/1953, p.1; Gold Coast Independent, 13/11/1953, p.1.
25. Her acceptance is reported e.g. in West African Pilot, 3/12/1953, p.1; Daily Echo, 12/11/1954, p.1
26. NARA: RG59, Box 3579, 745G.00.11-2753, Embassy, Accra to State Dept, 27/11/1953; 745G.00.5-2253, Embassy, Accra to State Dept. 22/5/1953.
27. TNA: KV2/1851, MI5 Nkrumah papers volume 5, letter is dated 16/4/1953. To whom it was addressed is not given, but I guess it would have been to Padmore. Literally hundreds of letters between Nkrumah and Padmore, both using apparently ever-changing aliases and addresses were intercepted. – some were just noted, others were copied.
28. This was emphasised in the report in West Africa (19/12/1953, cover page) which quoted Nkrumah as acknowledging this by saying the conference was ‘the nucleus of great potentialities’.
29. Daily Graphic, 4/12/1953, pp.1, 12, 7/12/1953, p.1 and 8/12/1953 p.1; Spectator Daily, 8/12/1953, p.1; Ashanti Sentinel, 11/12/1953, p.1; African Morning Post, 8/12/1953, p.1.The London –based journal West Africa commented that ‘One hopes that the initiative will one day bear fruit, even though a political federation of West African territories now seems as unlikely as a federation of Western Europe.’ (19 December 1953, p.1177-78). In its brief report the Chicago Courier (26/12/1953, p.1) states that Nkrumah’s plan is for ‘one independent African government’.
30. West Africa 19/12/1953, cover page; West African Review, February 1954, pp.112-3 with a number of photographs of the event.
31. I think Reuters misreported: I believe the resolution spoke of the federation being associated with the Commonwealth of Nations, not the British Commonwealth, as reported in West Africa.
32. Ghana Daily Express 9/12/1953, p.1; Ashanti Sentinel 11/12/1953, p.1; Daily Graphic 9/12/1953, p.1; Spectator Daily, 9/12/1953, p.1
33 Ghana Daily Express 10/3//1953, p.4.
34. Ashanti Sentinel (20/1/1954, p.2; The Times, 16/12/1955, p.5, 11/12/1953, p.6. For announcements of the conference, see The Times, 22/8/1953, p.5 & 9/12/1953, p.7. The conference was also mentioned in a very brief article in the Pittsburgh Courier of 26/12/1953, which also noted the Kumasi congress.
35. Philippe Decraene, Le Panafrcanisme, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1963, p.34.
36. Senghor had not attended but had sent a deputy.
37. Despite my requests for the surveillance papers on Padmore since 1991, MI5 has destroyed these.
38. TNA: KV2/1851, MI5 Papers on Nkrumah, volume 5, Brown to Barton, CO, 1/7/1953. Did MI5 obtain this information from the CIA?
39. The Ashanti Sentinel, 10, 11 and 12 December 1953.
40. TNA: CO537/2760, Minutes of meeting at the CO 9/6/48.
41. TNA: DO35/7621 SECFET file on ‘Afro-Asian and Pan-African Congresses’, G.H. Baxter 17/10/1953.
42. Ibid, ‘Extract from Saving 122’.
43. S.B. Asare, ‘Towards United West Africa’, Ashanti Sentinel, 3/12/1953.
44. ‘Communism in African’, The Times, 23 November 1951, p.5
45. TNA: CO537/3559, K. Bradley, Governor’s Deputy to CO, 12/12/1947.
46. TNA: O537/2638.
47. TNA: CO537/2670, West African Intelligence Summary No.3, 14/1/1949.
48. TNA: CO537/5946, Political Intelligence Report for 1950, p.55
49. TNA: CO554/371 Notes by Maurice Smith, 17/6/1953.
50. YNA: CO554/371, Nigerian Governor to CO, 10/11/53.
51. Guy Martin, ‘Francophone Africa in the context of Franco-American Relations’, in Harbeson & Rothchild (see n.13). See also John Kent, ‘Anglo-French Colonial Co-operation 1939-49’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 17/1 1988, pp.55-82.
52. See e.g. T. Hodgkin & R. Schachter, French-speaking West Africa in Transition, New York: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1960.
New York: E. Mortimer, France and the Africans, 1944-1960, London: Faber & Faber, 1969.
53. TNA CO537/3544, Paris Embassy to Foreign Office, 8/3/1947.
54. TNA: CO537/2760, Minutes of meeting held on 9/6/1948.
55. TNA: CO537/5769, SECRET Annexe to second bulletin on Anglo-French co-operation, December 1949.
56. TNA CO537/7121, Draft letter from CO to A.N. Galsworthy, West African Inter-territorial Secretariat, Accra, 4/9/1951
57. Mohammed Laghzaoui was a Moroccan a nationalist.
58. TNA: FO371/96644, Lockhart to Pirie 21/1/1952; Memorandum by R. Black 19/1/1952; by R.A., 25/1/1952. The Paris Chancery was supportive of the delaying tactic. (Chancery to FO, 11/1/1952)
59. Ibid, Letter to Sir John Martin, 27/2/1952. That such ‘delaying tactics’ were successful in preventing ‘El Yassi from coming to the UK’ is noted in file J/1017/2.
60. Early history of UK/US relations regarding colonies, see Wm. Roger Louis, Imperialism at Bay, New York: OUP, 1978.
61. See, e.g. Pieter Lessing, Africa’s Red Harvest, New York: John Day Co., 1962.
62. Among those giving information to the Embassy was the novelist Richard Wright who visited the Gold Coast in June/July 1953. See NARA: RG59, Box 3582, 745K.00/0-1553 Accra to State Dept. 15/89/1953; 745K.00/12-1053 Paris to State Dept. 10/12/1953.
63. NARA: RG59 Box 3579, 745G.00/5-2253, Accra to Department of State, Washington 22/5/1953; 745G.00/2753, Accra to Department of State, Washington 27/11/1953.
64. NARA: RG59 Box 3579, 745G.00/2-1754, Robert P Joyce, Counsellor at US Embassy, Paris to Department of State, Washington, 17/2/1954