Here Is Why Kwame Nkrumah’s Socialist, Pan-African Vision Continues to Inspire Radicals Today

Here Is Why Kwame Nkrumah’s Socialist, Pan-African Vision Continues to Inspire Radicals Today

By Frank Kamuntu

Kwame Nkrumah (1912-1972), a pioneering pan-Africanist and Ghana’s independence leader (1957-1966), till today is still regarded by many as one of Africa’s greatest politicians while commentators, historians and scholars have given him accolades such as ‘the Black Star’, ‘Africa’s Man of Destiny’ and ‘the Pride of Africa’. Twenty years ago, the BBC’s African listeners voted him as Africa’s Man of the Millennium.

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Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah was a postcolonial icon who tried to fight the forces of imperialism and capitalism to build a nation, continent, and world based on equality and self-government. That’s why, despite his faults, young people in Ghana today are resurrecting Nkrumah’s vision as a radical alternative to neoliberalism.

On March 6, 1957, Kwame Nkrumah took to the stage in Accra to announce the independence of the Gold Coast, renamed Ghana in homage to the ancient West African empire. Nkrumah declared that 1957 marked the birth of a new Africa, ready to fight its own battles and show that black people were capable of managing their own affairs. “Our independence is meaningless,” Nkrumah famously maintained, “unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.”

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Ghana was the first African country south of the Sahara to win independence, and three years later Nkrumah promoted himself to the president of Ghana, a post he held until 1966. A Pan-African socialist, he sought to unite and quickly industrialize the country, putting it on a path that could resist the twin threats of capitalism and imperialism. When his efforts attracted internal dissent, however, he cracked down. Ghana became a one-party state (led by the Convention People’s Party, the CPP), with strong repression of dissent.

In 1966, Nkrumah’s enemies in the army overthrew him, as Western powers, as they usually do, looked the other way. His ideas — partly formed in the United States, where he spent a decade in the 1930s and 40s — were largely marginalized in the 1970s as the successive government made a rightward turn. He died in Romania in 1972, following his exile in Sékou Touré’s Guinea.

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But Nkrumah is making something of a comeback. With both major parties, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), pushing different variants of neoliberalism, young people in organizations like the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are returning to Nkrumah to think about the role of the state, development, and about Ghana’s (and indeed, Africa’s) place in the world.

Nkrumah’s Use Of Metaphor

A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. It may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas.

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Analysing Nkrumah’s speeches on African independence, we found that he used metaphor to articulate a strong resistance against colonialism and imperialism. He did it in a way that inspired confidence in his leadership, boosted the morale of Africans and empowered them for sociopolitical action.

Using metaphor, he constructed heroes and villains, protagonists and antagonists. At the same time, he portrayed himself as a valiant leader and a noble revolutionary. And he vilified and demonised the systems and people he saw as the enemies of Africa, in a way that advanced his sociopolitical goals.

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These extracts show Nkrumah using expressions such as “evil”, “enemy”, “monster”, “hydra-headed” and “harpy” to describe the brutal nature of colonialism and imperialism and to underscore the threat they pose to Africa. By using these words, he was inviting people to take action.

He also invoked religious imagery by selecting a word like “evil” to describe the colonialists and by asserting that colonialism and imperialism have ‘no morals’. Given that religion is considered by many to be the ultimate moral force, Nkrumah is seen to be imposing a moral imperative on Africans to rise up in armed resistance.

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Nkrumah also designated the colonialists as the “enemy”. This established moral order and created a sense of solidarity. Combining the word “enemy” with expressions such as “forces”, “war”, “prosecute” and “crush”, he portrayed Africa as the battlefield and Africans and the colonialists as opposing armies.

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