Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ghana 50th Anniversary Independence Tribute: Kwame Nkrumah and the Convention People's Party

The Convention People's Party of the Gold Coast and Ghana

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

Editor's Note: This article is excerpted from Pambana: Journal on World Affairs mongraph series number 23. It was published under the title "Pan-Africanism: Historical Analyses From The Grassroots" in the Summer of 1998. These writings are being reprinted in honour of the 50th anniversary of the independence of Ghana on March 6, 1957.

At the end of 1947, Kwame Nkrumah was invited to return to his place of birth, the Gold Coast, to serve as general secretary of a newly created organization called the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). During his tenure in the United Kingdom, he had built up quite a reputation as an organizer and propagandist for the anti-colonial cause. Although the UGCC was led by a small group of middle class lawyers and traditional leaders who were far less dedicated to the struggle for self-determination than Nkrumah, he decided to accept the offer after consultations with his political colleagues in Britain. Nevertheless, after arriving back in the Gold Coast, Nkrumah realized that there were political and class differences which would prevent him from building the UGCC into the type of organization that could wage a protracted campaign for national independence.

Objections arose to the founding of the Accra Evening News, a publication started by Nkrumah in September of 1948, by the leadership of the UGCC. Also after the expulsion of students and teachers from the colonial schools, Nkrumah founded the Ghana College in order to accomodate those pupils and educators who fell victim to the retributions of the European authorities for their involvement in the anti-imperialist struggle. Later on in 1948, Nkrumah formed the Committee on Youth Organization (CYO) in order to mobilize the young people of the colony into an effective political force. Consequently, these actions brought about the removal of Nkrumah as general secretary of the UGCC. At the urging of his colleagues in the CYO, a new political organization was formed in 1949, called the Convention People's Party (CPP). The CPP's slogan became "Self-Government Now," which caused tremendous alarm among the colonial authorities as well as the conservative leadership of the UGCC, which had merely called for "self-government within the shortest possible time." (Kwame Nkrumah: Ghana, 1957, pp. 88-110).

In early 1950, a Positive Action campaign was adopted by the CPP aimed at bringing about independence for the Gold Coast. After a general strike proved to be successful, Nkrumah and many other leaders of the CPP were arrested and imprisoned on various charges. Strike action by the Trade Union Congress in conjunction with the CPP effectively paralyzed the colonial economy. After the imprisonment of Nkrumah and other party leaders, Komla Gbedemeh of the CPP took effective control of the party during the incarceration of the other leadership.

By February of 1951, an election was held under the new Coussey Constitution which was drawn up to create limited political representation for Africans within a legislative assembly. The CPP won the overwhelming majority of seats within the new assembly. On the day after the election, Nkrumah was released from prison an invited to form a transitional government. Appointed as Leader of Government Business, Nkrumah selected seven cabinet ministers, five of whom were CPP members. According to the CPP leader:
"I proposed to the central committee, therefore, that of the seven ministers, five should be party members, one should come from the Northern Territories and the other one from Ashanti. At first the central committee objected to this proposal as they felt and understandably so, that all ministers should be chosen from the ranks of the party supporters. After a long discussion, however, they accepted my suggestion, I then submitted the names to the Governor.

The five ministers belonging to my Party were:
Kojo Botsio--Minister of Education and Social Welfare;
K.A. Gbedemah--Minister of Education and Labour;
A Casely-Hayford--Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources;
T. Hutton-Mills--Minister of Commerce, Industry and Mines;
Dr. Ansah Koi--Minister of Communications and Works." (Kwame Nkrumah: Ghana, 1957, p. 139).

Later in 1954, after additional elections, Nkrumah became Prime Minister and set the pace for a full declaration of independence on March 6, 1957. After changing the colony's name from the Gold Coast to Ghana (a traditional African kingdom during the earlier pre-colonial centuries in West Africa), Nkrumah declared that the independence of Ghana was meaningless unless it was connected to the total liberation of the African continent. Within a short period, Ghana not only was the first sub-saharan colony to become independent, it also became the center of anti-colonial and Pan-African political activity on the continent. Prime Minister Nkrumah appointed George Padmore, who he had worked closely with in the Pan-African Congress at Manchester, the Pan-African Federation (PAF)and the National Association of Socialist Students Organizations (NASSO) in Britain, as his chief advisor on African affairs. It was the Bureau of African Affairs (BAA) under Padmore's direction that organized the first non-governmental Pan-African gathering on the continent in December of 1958, when the All-African Peoples' Conference (AAPC) was convened in Accra.

AAPC's initial gathering drew representatives from 62 African nationalist organizations from throughout the region and representation from the African community in the United States. Other Pan-African organizations sprung up from the advent of the AAPC and the Bureau of African Affairs, the most notable being, the All-African Trade Union Federation (AATUF). The AATUF challenged the imperialist's attempt to control the African worker's utilizing the cold war American and British controlled trade union movement. The AATUF insisted upon an independent position and worked closely in many instances with the socialist oriented World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) in opposition to the US-dominated International Confederation of Trade Unions(ICFTU). Founded by a preparatory committee based in Accra, Ghana, the AATUF held its inaugural congress in Morocco during May of 1961. This organization attempted to link the African worker's movement throughout the continent with the overall world anti-imperialist struggle.

According to Wallerstein:
"If the trade unions constituted the key popular organizations in the avant-garde of the movement toward African unity, they were not alone. There were the Pan-African Youth Movement(headquarters, Conakry); the Pan-African Students Movement (headquarters, Algiers); the All-African Women's Conference (headquarters, Bamako); the Pan-African Union of Journalists (headquarters, Dar Es Salaam); the All-African Farmers' Union (headquarters, Accra); the Union of African Veterans Organizations (headquarters, Accra); and the Encyclopedia Africana (headquarters, Accra). It is no accident, of course, that the headquarters of all these groups were so well distributed among the capitals of what were, in the period we are discussing, the radical nationalists states in Africa. None of these groups has played the important role that the trade unions have, but the collective effect of their existence has served to provide organizational sustenance to the avant-garde." (Immanuel Wallerstein, Africa: The Politics of Unity, 1967, p. 211).

With the advent of the CPP in Africa, a new era of Pan-African formations were launched on the Continent. As we have outlined in this section, the evolution of these political developments can be traced to the activities of the early Pan-African Congresses, the Garvey Movement of the 1920s, the International African Service Bureau as well as other historical organizational antecedents. At the beginning of the 1960s, the African independence movements on the Continent coupled with the influence of Pan-Africanism, served to influence and shape events which were unfolding within the African-American struggle against national oppression in the United States. The year 1960 would usher in a militant youth and peasant character in the burgeoning mass civil rights movement that sprang from the Montgomery Bus Boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1955-56 in Alabama.

Abayomi Azikiwe published these writings in 1998 as the director of the Pan-African Research and Documentation Center.

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