Monday, January 01, 2018

To The People Of Ireland From Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, President of the First Republic of Ghana
Dublin, May 18, 1960

Some 80 years ago, the Irish Parliamentary Party, then under the leadership of Charles Steward Parnell, adopted as one of its cardinal principles, the following:

"To remember that nationality is sacred in Asia and Africa as in Ireland." It has always been our contention in Ghana that the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the independence of the rest of Africa.

I would like to begin this speech, therefore, by saluting those Irish leaders of the last century who realised that the struggle of Ireland for independence was not the struggle of one country alone, but part of a world movement for freedom.

On the eve of the independence of the Congo, it is fitting that I should also illustrate this point with a quotation from a letter written by Roger Casement at the time that he was engaged in seeking out and publishing the facts of colonial oppression in Africa:

“There is so much to do here in Ireland that sometimes my heart faints when I think of the Congo and all its claims upon me, but I cannot even, for the sake of my own dear country, forget the poor people out here. And that is the way, I am sure, the claim of the Congo people must appeal to every sincere and genuine Irish native: the more we love our land and wish to help our people the more keenly we feel we cannot turn a deaf ear to suffering and injustice in any part of the world. "

It is because, I feel that the Irish people have never turned a deaf ear to suffering and injustice in any part of the world that I am addressing you this afternoon.

There are other reasons, however, why the Irish people are able to understand and, I believe, to render great help in dealing with the problems which face the United Nations in relation to the continent of Africa.

It is no coincidence that your President and I both attended the same university. If I may use an expression common in Ghana, we are both "Prison Graduates." The difference between us is that he left college some forty years ago whilst scarcely ten years have passed since my own graduation.

Education of this type has not been confined in Ireland and in Ghana to Presidents or to Presidents-elect. It has been experienced by political leaders of all parties in both countries and it particularly fits us to make a plea for toleration and understanding which are perhaps the two qualities most required in dealing with the grave problems which face the world today and which originate in the African continent.

The social struggle in Ireland which in the end resulted in Irish independence, was essentially a struggle between a ruling minority and an under-privileged and economically exploited majority.

In its essence, the problem of Africa today reproduces the problem of Ireland of yesterday.

In Algeria, in Past Africa and in the Union of South Africa, the tensions, oppression and open warfare which marks the struggle, arise from the determination of a minority to maintain their ascendancy in a world where the social and economic basis of that ascendancy has disappeared.

The motives of the ruling minorities are, of course, complex and varied. But they have in them one common factor — a fear amounting to hysteria, as to what might happen to them if they conceded to the principle and, I believe, the only principle which can bring peace and prosperity to Africa — the principle of one man, one vote.

The experience of Ireland and also, I think that of Ghana, shows how unreal such a fear is of course, the longer oppression continues, the more dangerous and explosive becomes the situation. Ultimately, if the majority are oppressed, and degraded, in the way they are today in Algeria, in the Union of South Africa and in many other parts of the African continent, Government becomes impossible. All organs of Government break down and economic chaos supervenes, threatening not only the territory concerned, but possibly even the financial stability of the colonial power responsible for the oppression.

What the ruling minorities should be afraid of is not that power will fall into the hands of the majority, but that by their own attempt to maintain a social order which can no longer exist, they will themselves be their own executioners.

The supreme task of the United Nations is to organise a peaceful transfer of power before it is too late to save the ruling minorities of Africa from the consequences of their own political blindness and folly. If the situation which exists in Africa today is allowed to develop, the inevitable defeat and destruction of the minorities will not only be accompanied by untold hardships and misery to all concerned, but will constitute a severe threat to world peace. What, in my opinion, is now required is "positive action" by the United Nations.

Before suggesting the type of positive action which I feel the United Nations should take, I propose to analyse briefly the nature of the problem of the African continent as I see it. When we talk of the independence of African states, it is necessary to be quite clear about what we mean by independence.

It has long been realised by those who have studied dispassionately the world situation, that there are two kinds of independence: real independence and nominal independence. It is no solution to the problem of colonialism to substitute for a frankly colonial regime; a state which while nominally, independent is still chained to the colonial power.

The factor most likely to force one state to become the client state of mother is that, the state in question is so small and poor that it is not economically viable. It cannot pay for its own defence and therefore, it must enter into a defence pact with some other state which will provide that defence. Once a defence pact is concluded, then the small state which has made that pact has lost to a great degree control over its foreign policy.

Small and economically non-viable states are largely the result of maintaining the frontiers established under colonialism. Indeed, one of the aftermaths of colonialism is that, the whole of the African continent is at present divided by frontiers which have little ethnic or economic justification.

When the colonial powers divided up Africa among themselves, they paid no attention to traditional groupings of peoples or to their past historical associations.

Social and economic development in Africa is not possible, unless these artificial frontiers can be eliminated, and the partitions which artificially divide people of the same ethnic groups are brought to an end. There are three alternatives open to the African territories now attaining nationhood. They can choose to stand alone, in which case they risk early certain disintegration: they can be persuaded to agree to their being used to bolster up the imperialistic tendencies of their former colonial powers. When this happens, it is not difficult to see the grave harm which is done to the movement for the unity of the African states. The third alternative and the wisest course for us in Africa, is to pursue resolutely our policy for the achievement of unity among ourselves, in order that in an African community, we can work for our political, economic and cultural development. To many people, the unity of African states which we regard as the primary basis of our African policy, appears visionary and unattainable. We do not hold this view. The unity of African states can be a reality, and it will be achieved earlier than many of us may suppose.

I am to say that the people of Ghana have accepted a republican form of constitution which specifically provides for the surrender, in whole or in part, of their sovereignty in order to promote this unity of African states.


With regard to the Algerian question, it is my opinion that the basic issues of these are no different from the basic issues arising in other parts of Africa. Fundamentally, the Algerian question exists because a minority of the population claim the right to dictate the policy to be pursued by the majority.

The matter is complicated because, the minority in question are closely bound up with France. lt is this connection which results in the problem having international repercussions but in essence, the arguments of the settlers in Algeria are identical with those of the so-called European population of South Africa. The conception that Algeria must be French or else chaos will ensue is exactly the same as the argument that South Africa must be white or else - civilisation is at an end.

In both Algeria and in South Africa, facts have proved that this supposition has no foundation in reality. The provisional Government of Algeria to which the Government of Ghana extends de facto recognition is able to maintain a well equipped army in the field.

In South Africa, fortunately, open warfare of the kind which is taking place in Algeria has not yet broken out. But there is no reason to suppose that if the situation in South Africa is permitted to deteriorate further, a similar situation to that existing in Algeria might not develop. Despite repressive laws of every type, it has been possible for the Africans of South Africa to develop passive resistance on an organised and massive scale. In my opinion, this fact alone shows that, given the opportunity, the Africans of South Africa possess all the qualities necessary to enable them to establish a stable government in their country based on the principle of one man-one vote.

Fundamentally however, both in Algeria and South Africa, the ability of a minority to maintain itself in defiance of the wishes of the majority depends , upon the external support which the minority in question receives in the case of Algeria, this support comes in the first instance from metropolitan France. But France would not be able to maintain the Algerian war, if she was not assisted, indirectly at any rate, by those powers, who are in military alliance with her.

In presenting the Africa case, it is difficult to explain how those powers who are allied for one purpose of maintaining freedom and liberty in Europe use their pooled resources for the purpose of repression in Africa.

So far as South Africa is concerned, the support which the minority groupings obtain does not come, as in the case of Algeria, from one European country. It comes fundamentally from the whole Western system of investment which still considers it proper to invest money in a regime whose prime object it is to maintain a cruel and inhuman system of racial superiority. So long as the so-called "free world" supports financially, the tyranny which is taking place in South Africa, they must not complain, if their motives are somewhat suspected in Africa.

Undoubtedly, in its earlier -days, the Commonwealth consisted of a patron state — the United Kingdom, the client states who were the other members of the Commonwealth. It was the existence of this situation which made it so difficult for countries which had attained their independence to remain within the Commonwealth. Fortunately, this situation no longer applies. Each member of the Commonwealth is a fully and completely independent sovereign state and it is for this reason that Ghana still remains within the Commonwealth.

Unfortunately, however, this complete independence of Commonwealth members is often misunderstood and is used as an example to justify the creation of other associations which, in fact, reproduce the classic picture of a patron state with its attendant client states. This relationship can be achieved by attaching to the grant of independence conditions which, in fact, hand over the real conduct of foreign affairs and also of economic development to the patron state.

When we speak of Ghana’s policy of positive neutrality for the African continent, we mean by this, the elimination of the patron client relationship.

The Prevention of the Balkanization of Africa

The internal events in South Africa can, in my view, no longer be considered to be domestic matter. You will recall that the resolution of the Security Council recognised that the situation "arising out- of the large scale killings of unarmed and peaceful demonstrators against racial discrimination and segregation in the union of South Africa" was "brought about by the racial policies of the Government of the Union of South Africa and the continued disregard by that Government of the resolutions of the general assembly."

The Security Council further recognised in their resolution "that the situation in the Union of South Africa is one that has led to international friction and if continued, might endanger international peace and securities."

The resolution of the Security Council further called upon "the Government of the Union of South Africa to initiate measures aimed at bringing about racial harmony based on equality in order to ensure that the present situation does not continue or recur."

The Security Council then called upon "the Government of the Union of South Africa to abandon its policy of apartheid and racial discrimination? Finally, the resolution requested the Secretary General of the United Nations "in consultation with the Government of the Union of South Africa, to make such arrangements as would adequately help in upholding the purposes and principles of the charter and to report to the Security Council whenever necessary and appropriate."

The last thing which I would wish to do is to say anything which might make the task of the Secretary General more difficult. On the other hand, my own recent experience in attempting to persuade the South African Government to moderate its policies makes me not over optimistic of the possibility of success of the Secretary General’s mission. At this stage l would say only this — if the Secretary General is unable to agree with the Government of the Union of South Africa on such arrangements as would adequately help in upholding the purposes and principles of the charter, then the Government of Ghana for one would find it embarrassing to remain in the Commonwealth with a republic whose policy was not based upon the purpose and principles of the United Nations.

The Government of Ghana has always been opposed to any move to remove South Africa from the Commonwealth because, this would mean penalising the majority of inhabitants of South Africa for the misdeeds of its Government. It is entirely consistent with this view, that the Government of Ghana should be opposed to any change of status of South Africa which was not approved by the people of South Africa as a whole.

It seems that unfortunately, the Government of South Africa has misunderstood the attitude of the Government of Ghana. The Government of Ghana accepts the change of the United Nations and believes that it can become a working reality. In the event of the South African Government inviting Ghana to agree to a change in regime which was not based on the wishes of the majority of the people and which, moreover, involved the recognition of a regime which in the words of the Security Council resolution "was not in conformity with South Africa’s obligations and responsibilities under the charter of the United Nations" then the Government of Ghana would be reluctantly compelled to withhold its assent to any such change in regime.

This is an issue of considerable complexity and it is therefore perhaps desirable that I should make our position in regard to it absolutely clear. Whether a country decides to be a monarchy or a republic is in my view, an internal matter and in normal circumstances, it does not seem to me to matter whether the change is made as we did in Ghana by way of referendum, or, as it has been done in other countries, by way of a decision of the Government itself or of Parliament. We recognise that different circumstances apply in different countries and merely because, we had a referendum in Ghana before deciding to become a republic is not necessarily a reason why we should consider that any other country should be bound to follow our example.

The case of the Union of South Africa, however, appears to us to be in a class by itself. lt is planned that those who form the vast majority of the people in the country should be denied all the time, any say whatever in the system by which they should be governed. It would be impossible for us to agree to any change of status which is avowedly based upon such a principle.

If in addition to this, the new regime which we are asked to recognise is based upon principles declared by the Security Council not to be in conformity with the obligations and responsibilities of the charter of the United Nations, then we would be failing in our obligation to the United Nations, if we did anything which might suggest that we approved or condoned the regime in question. Coupled with this, the recognition of the Republic of South Africa would involve the recognition by Ghana of the present regime in the mandated territory of South West Africa which is in itself an affront to every principle for which the United Nations stand.

In my view, the United Nations as an organisation can only survive if it is prepared in the last resort to assert its authority. So far as Ghana is concerned, the most important single issue before the United Nations at this moment is that concerning the mandated territory of South-West Africa.

The outcome of this issue will demonstrate conclusively, the sincerity of the nations of the world in regard to their professed acceptance of the principles of the United Nations.

The facts of this question can be stated quite briefly. Before the 1914-18 war, South-West Africa was a colony of imperial Germany. On the grounds that Germany had oppressed the African inhabitants of the territory, the victorious powers at the conclusion of the war took the territory away from Germany and made it a mandate of the League of Nations. This mandate was entrusted to the Union of South Africa to be administered, in the words of the covenant of the League of Nations, upon the principle that the well being and development of its people formed a sacred trust of civilisation?

Under the actual terms of the mandate which are laid down in a specific set of articles, the Union of South Africa agreed to promote to the utmost the material and moral well-being and social progress of the inhabitants. The Union further agreed that no forced labour would be permitted except for essential public works and services and then only for adequate remuneration.

Other terms of the mandate were that no military or naval bases would be established and that the Union of South Africa should ensure in the territory freedom of conscience and a free exercise of all forms of worship, and should allow missionaries to reside in the territory for the purpose of their calling.

The United Nations at their 14th session accepted the report of the United Nations Committee on South-West Africa. This report, is, in my view, one of the ablest and most powerful documents yet produced by the United Nations and I think that considerable credit in regard to it must go to the Irish representative on the committee, Mr. Eamon Kennedy, who was the rapporteur of the committee.

This committee found that the policy of apartheid was being applied in South West Africa in a way which, in the committee’s own words was "a flagrant violation of the sacred trust which permeates the mandate and the charter of the United Nations and the universal declaration of human rights." The committee found, and gave examples of gross violation of every provision of the mandate to which I have referred.

Despite a decision by the international court that the Union had a duty to submit to the supervision of the United Nations in regard to the mandate, the Union has refused to render any report to the United Nations whatsoever.

The United Nations has every year for thirteen years called on the Union of South Africa to place South-West Africa under the international trusteeship system. The Union has refused to do this and has defied the authority of the United Nations.

It is clear to the Government of Ghana that since thirteen resolutions of the United Nations have had on effect on the Union of South Africa, the passage of a fourteenth resolution in similar terms would not be likely to have any greater effect than the previous thirteen. It appears to me, therefore, that it is the duty of Ghana to propose to the United Nations a new policy in regard to South-West Africa.

I have spoken freely and frankly about what I believe to be the inherent dangers of the African situation. I have done so because I believe any further delay in dealing with these problems may result in an outburst of violence caused on the one hand by, panic and hysteria of the ruling minorities and on the other hand, by a sense of desperation by those who are oppressed and who can see no prospect of assistance from outside.

If the nations of the world can offer to the oppressed peoples of Africa, some positive hope of action, then it is of course possible to counsel moderation and restraint. One can only counsel moderation and restraint or ask for that tolerance and forgiveness which will be necessary in an Africa of the future, if one is at the same time advocating a positive policy which will bring to an end the oppression and injustice which is at present occurring.

Nothing impresses me more than the discipline and restraint shown by the peoples of Africa in their protest against the oppression under which they are suffering. How can we ask them to continue to exercise this restraint and discipline if we ourselves, for reasons of diplomatic etiquette and politeness, are afraid even to indicate in public, how we think it may be possible to bring to an end an intolerable situation?

The lessons of history are quite clear. We have only to look at the history of Ireland itself for evidence of the fact that a minority which unjustly oppresses and dominates a majority has no hope of survival in the modern world.

An important question to ask ourselves is: how is the change to be effected? Can it be done with tolerance and understanding and, above all, with forgiveness? Or must it be done through riot, violence, civil war and economic and social collapse? The United Nations and the uncommitted countries of the world can, if they speak up and act at this moment, save the continent of Africa from that bloodshed and upheaval which must inevitably follow, if the present situation is allowed to continue.

Now, may l turn for a moment to the wider aspects of world politics. We in Africa have a vested interest in peace. There must be an enduring peace to enable us to consolidate our hard-won freedom and to reconstruct, socially and economically, the possessions of our heritage devastated by colonialism.

It is, indeed, a regrettable and horrifying reflection on our age that the fate of the whole of mankind should be left in the hands of the leaders of four nations. The situation, in my view, is alarming and frightful. This is the most crucial period in world history when the collective and concerted voice of the smaller nations must be heard. It is wrong that the rest of the world should sit idly by and allow the fate of mankind to be decided by the political manoeuvring between four powers, however important individually they may be.

The other nations of the world who, together, form the majority of the world’s population, must now take steps to ensure that the four powers shall not toy with the fate of mankind just because they possess nuclear weapons. Looking at the world political scene from the continent of Africa, the conduct of the four powers appears to be dictated by political expediency of the moment and is in no way related to the welfare of mankind as a whole. Let the other nations, indeed the majority of the world’s people, take positive steps to bring to the notice of the four powers their grave responsibility to the rest of the world. History will never forgive any nation which, for its own ends, has gambled with the life of mankind.

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