Dr. Kwame Nkrumah: The greatest son of Africa
With the annual birthday celebrations of Kwame Nkrumah coming up on 21st September, it is worth reflecting on the man that many regard as the greatest son of Africa.
There are many contenders for the accolade of greatest son of Africa, from ancient to modern history. Off the top of my head I can suggest Shaka Zulu, Nelson Mandela, Fela Kuti, and Imhotep. The case is further complicated when you include the Diaspora, but one name that is commonly associated with these types of honours is Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah is hailed as Osagyefo which is the redeemer in Twi, a fitting title for someone who fought successfully for independence and inspired so many others to rescue the African continent from colonial oppression. This feat is even more impressive given his stance of non-alignment when much of the rest of the world was faced with the false dichotomy of siding with either the United States or the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He famously stated,
“We face neither East nor West; we face forward.”
Instead Nkrumah adopted a unique type of socialism that could accommodate traditional African egalitarianism and was influenced by his Pan-Africanist beliefs.
In 1967 he led Ghana to independence, becoming the first sub-Saharan African country to do so from European rule. He changed the nation’s name from Gold Coast, a vulgar remnant of the regions colonial history, to Ghana in tribute to the ancient empire that once existed in West Africa though not in the same region as modern day Ghana. Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism informed him that the best possible solution for post-colonial Africa would be if it were united. He was an advocate of the African Union long before it came into existence; though Nkrumah would have preferred something like a United States of Africa. He said,
“Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world. I believe strongly and sincerely that with the deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect for human lives, the intense humanity that is our heritage, the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.”
Dr Nkrumah was one of the few if not only African or even African Caribbean statesman that specifically addressed a message to Black people in Britain, in his ‘Message to the Black People of Britain’ (1968) thereby linking the struggle for equality, equal rights and justice to communities of African descent in the UK with the liberation struggle for a free and united Africa telling us that,
“Real black freedom will only come when Africa is politically united.”
He therefore reminded people of African descent in Britain that there was one struggle which had many fronts and that their situation would not improve until there was a united continent that was strong enough to protect the interests of all of its citizens including those who were in Western countries for historical reasons as a result of enslavement, colonialism and the continuing impact that British neo-colonialism was having on people of African descent in their respective countries of origin.
Thirty odd years later his message still rings true and is even more relevant since Black communities in Britain are still crying out and struggling for equality and an end to discrimination. Deaths in custody, stop and search, the national DNA database, the over-representation in prisons are just but a few examples of the continuing inequities experienced by Britain’s black communities.
Kwame Nkrumah was an African leader but he also recognised through his organising work with fellow Pan-Africanists, many of whom came from the Caribbean and other parts of the African Diaspora, that people of African descent in Britain had a historical role to play and a revolutionary potential in being an effective UK front of the African liberation struggle. He knew that the struggle for an end to racial hostility could not take place until Africa and Africans regained their power socially, economically and culturally.
Message to the Black People of Britain, Kwame Nkrumah, 1968
“You are in Britain not by chance or by choice; you are in Britain for historical reasons; you are in Britain because Britain colonised you and reduced the various countries to which you belong to the level of colonial status. You are in Britain because British neo-colonialism is strangling you in your home countries. You all know that even though your organisations are anti-racist, they face racism in Britain. There is no solution to the race question until all forms of racial discrimination and segregation anywhere are made criminal offences ... We know the difficulties you are going through in Britain: discrimination, prejudice and racial hostility. You know that what goes on in Britain, goes on in many parts of the world where white establishment holds power; be it in the United States of America, apartheid South Africa, Latin America, Australia, Rhodesia [Zimbabwe], Angola, Mozambique or Portuguese Guinea[Guinea Bissau]. Real black freedom will only come when Africa is politically united. It is only then that the black man will be free to breathe the air of freedom which is his to breathe in any part of the world.”
A special event is being held by Africa Media Services & VOAR Entertainment to celebrate the INTERNATIONAL achievement of the greatest son of Africa Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
The annual birthday celebration will be held on Friday 21st September from 7pm to 2am at a London location.
Tickets are FREE and can be obtained by visiting: www.voiceofafricaradio.com
(Please note this is not an OBV event, therefore all questions should be directed towards Voice of Africa Radio).
Alan Ssempebwa and Space Clottey