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21.01.2012 Feature Article

Richard Mahoney: On Danquah And Nkrumah – Postscript

Richard Mahoney: On Danquah And Nkrumah – Postscript
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We also learn in Chapter 9, technically the penultimate chapter of Mahoney's JFK: Ordeal in Africa (Oxford UP, 1983), that President Nkrumah had originally intended to have Mr. Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, his former Foreign Minister, who had been implicated in the Kulungugu assassination attempt on his life, tried as a “local bastard” or one of the local agents of the CIA because, evidently, Mr. Ako-Adjei had been discovered to have had some links with at least two U.S. embassy officials, namely, Dr. Carl C. Nydell and Mr. William B. Davis. Nkrumah would vehemently demand the immediate removal of these men, whom the Ghanaian leader had “accused of anti-regime activity” without success (231). Once again, it was the specter of the humongous dollar sum that hung between the Show Boy's dream and the Akosombo Dam project that did the trick. And while there is apparently no incontrovertible evidence linking Mr. Ako-Adjei to any key CIA operatives, Mahoney's reference to the Kennedy administration's assay at “damage control” may well point to the fact of the CIA having been involved in the Kulungugu Affair.

In the paragraph immediately following the two detailing Mr. Ako-Adjei's alleged connection to the Kulungugu assassination attempt, this is what Mahoney has to report: “By this time, according to Carl Kaysen, the President was convinced that 'damage control' was our only real option in trying to coexist with nonaligned charismatics such as Nasser, Sukarno, and Nkrumah. Public pressure by the U.S. would only produce more coups de theater. The lesson of the Volta Project was that the certain cost of withdrawing had always been higher than the risk of going ahead. With misgivings, the President authorized Volta disbursements to proceed and asked the State Department to provide him henceforth with a monthly review of the situation in Ghana” (231-232).

In other words, for Mahoney, while the viability of the Volta River Project was well beyond question, in business parlance, Nkrumah's ideological and temperamental volatility constantly provoked the United States into having grave doubts about the wisdom of supporting the industrial development agenda of a thoroughgoing dictator and a megalomaniac. But what we learn here that is even more important is the fact that like Mr. Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, Mr. Ako-Adjei was clearly and evidently dead-set against Nkrumah's communist proclivities. Unlike Gbedemah, however, Ako-Adjei does not appear to have been desperately willing to appropriate any violent or forcible means in defense of his ideological convictions. As to whether Messrs. Gbedemah and Ako-Adjei collaborated with known operatives of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is beside the point. What is significant is whether their evidently unwavering and passionate proclivity towards Western capitalist democracy was either more progressive or less so than the Marxist-Leninist stance and agenda doggedly pursued by President Nkrumah. For as Dr. Danquah once had the occasion to emphasize, Kwame Nkrumah was not, in anyway whatsoever, synonymous with the State and Republic of Ghana. On that occasion, the Doyen of Modern Ghanaian Politics had alluded to France's King Louis XVI's imperious equation of himself with the French nation: “L'état Cést Moi!” And as subsequent polling returns steadily indicated, by the eve of his overthrow, most eligible Ghanaian voters had long gotten tired and fed up with their neo-imperial “Osagyefo.”

If in 1958, during his first official visit to the United States as Ghana's premier, Nkrumah had woefully failed to speak out against the patently inhuman policy of racial segregation, confronted with the problem in a television talking-heads program, by early 1963, the Ghanaian leader had fully become convinced that African-Americans did not have the interests of continental Africans at heart, the active and historic participation of the distinguished likes of Rev.-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Ghana's independence celebrations notwithstanding. On this score, this is what the author of JFK: Ordeal in Africa has to report: “Nkrumah's suspicions appeared in more vituperative form in the party press. The Ghanaian Times charged that American Negroes were providing the raw material for 'subversion and neocolonial interference in Africa.' The Spark[,] which had acquired the habit of reprinting editorials from the Soviet press in unattributed for, came to the point more bluntly, claiming that President Kennedy had taken office with the plan to recruit Negroes 'for ugly purposes in Africa'” (232).

Nkrumah's vitriolic tirades would not be allowed to slide by without riposte. The younger brother of the American president and his Attorney-General, Robert Kennedy, would caustically accuse Nkrumah of running a roguish political machine that strikingly operated like the white racist regime of South Africa. An infuriated President Nkrumah would shoot back mordantly: “In whatever ways we may be lagging behind [as a poor and newly-liberated country], I think that on the question of racial toleration[,] we have established a standard[,] during our short period of independence[,] which can be regarded as a shining example for the rest of the world” (Mahoney 232).

Needless to say, a rabidly anti-racist Nkrumah, at least as evidenced from the quite remarkable corpus of his writings, knew exactly what he was talking about: after all, was he not married to a white (Arabo-) Egyptian woman, nearly half his age, who neither spoke English, Ghana's official language of instruction, professional and business protocol, nor the Nzema language of her husband; and whose Arabic native tongue and academic French language her husband neither spoke? Indeed, no practical example of racial tolerance could be either more picturesque or edifying.

All humor aside, Nkrumah appears to have had quite a remarkable impact on the Black Civil Rights Movement of Kennedy's America, essentially because in both direct and oblique ways, he had made his revulsion at the spectacle of racial segregation in America clear in his heated exchanges with key members of the Kennedy administration. He would, literally, jump for joy when Kennedy issued his executive edict ordering the immediate desegregation of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, in June 1963 (Mahoney 234).

Strangely, though, those of his critics who have accused President Nkrumah of envisaging something akin to a role model, or even a hero, in Germany's Chancellor Adolf Hitler may have a modicum of sustainable forensic evidence on their side. On this score, this is what the author of JFK: Ordeal in Africa, who is also a former secretary-of-state for Arizona, has to report: “The [American] produced an unusual assessment [of the Volta River Project] drawn from a series of conversations with Flight Captain Hanna Reitsch, a former test pilot for the Third Reich and intimate of Adolf Hitler, whom Nkrumah had invited to Ghana to train his air force. Miss Reitsch was housed in one of Nkrumah's mansions and, according to Ambassador [William P.] Mahoney, gave 'every appearance of having a deep, platonic attachment to Nkrumah” (233).

Once again, Mahoney puts paid to the faux-epic claim of those fanatics who accuse the Johnson White House of having instigated Nkrumah's ill-fated Hanoi-Beijing trip in the Ghanaian leader's rather outsized and quixotic bid to resolving the Vietnam War: “For all the political fury in Ghana, work on the Volta Dam proceeded smoothly. In January 1966[,] the dam was dedicated – a year ahead of schedule. At the dedication ceremony[,] Nkrumah was gracious to those assembled, but it was clear that his mind was elsewhere. He told [Ambassador] Mahoney that he wanted to fly to Beijing and Hanoi to put a stop to the Vietnam War. He needed American endorsement of the peace effort. Washington responded that it was not interested in his mediation. The Americans now knew through their covert sources that it was simply a matter of time before the conspirators – chiefly, General J. A. Ankrah, Colonel E. K. Kotoka, and Police Commissioner J. W. K. Harlley – made a move against Nkrumah. ¶ Nkrumah's advisors urged him to postpone the trip to Asia. The rumors of a plot had the ring of authenticity, they said. Nkrumah told his trusted aide, Michael Dei-Anang, that he had never allowed 'small things' to stop him. If he had, where would Ghana be today? He spent the remaining days before his trip in his study reading histories of Vietnam and preparing for his talks with Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh. On February 18, 1966, he composed his final will. The following day, he left Ghana for the last time. He was deposed on February 24, 1966” (JFK: Ordeal in Africa 235-6).

If the Kennedy administration could be aptly said to have been far less forthcoming in its generally progressive foreign-policy agenda on Africa than it practically could have been, then in the well-informed opinion of Mahoney, perhaps the most regressive and immitigably unrepresentative U.S. administration of the period, vis-à-vis America's constitutionally and globally stated aspiration of “freedom and the pursuit of happiness” for all humanity, was the government of Mr. Richard Milhous Nixon. Regarding the latter's policy towards the white-racist Apartheid regime in South Africa, the author notes: “Several years – and some 100,000 casualties – later, the Nixon administration reached a different conclusion with regard to the role of the United States in Southern Africa. Under National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, the National Security Council staff developed a statement of policy known as 'The Tar-Baby Option.' It concluded that 'the whites are here to stay and the only way [that] constructive change can come about is through them. There is no hope for the blacks to gain the political rights they seek through violence. ¶ President Nixon stated his preference more plainly. At a White House reception on April 10, 1969 marking the twentieth anniversary of the founding of NATO, he took Portuguese Foreign Minister Franco Nogueira aside. 'Just remember,' Nixon said, 'I'll never do to you what Kennedy did'” (JFK: Ordeal in Africa 243).

Of course, what Kennedy did, essentially, was to accord legitimacy to the African nationalist forces seeking self-determination from European colonial imperialism. On the whole, Mahoney's most forthright American-policy treatise on Africa fairly balances the scales in squarely and objectively envisaging Nkrumah and his Third-World counterparts as largely helpless pawns in the epic game of superpower politics with little, albeit relatively remarkable, room to maneuver. Often, though, the blistering naivety of leaders like Nkrumah and Guinea's Sékou Touré stemmed from their understandably overwhelming intoxication with Africa's new-found freedom, which these two radical revolutionaries erroneously presumed to be equally heartily shared by the imperialist forces of Cold-War dialectics. In the process, these pioneering African leaders ended up bitterly disappointed and disillusioned by the treacherous contours of the new paradigm shift which Nkrumah, for example, earlier on properly and, perhaps, even prophetically recognized for the preemptive and stage-managed neocolonialist phase of African liberation that it indubitably was, and increasingly became.

Once again, this is what Mahoney has to report: “Kennedy arrived in the White House with his own portfolio on Africa. He brought with him a longstanding, personally held conviction on the colonialism issue. He had also attracted a popular following on the continent. The “”eager crowds shouting 'Kennedy, Kennedy'” that Frank Church saw in Africa in December 1960, the 'complete kinship' Kwame Nkrumah promised him on inaugural day were all there before he had even begun. These high expectations clearly gave President Kennedy leverage with Africa's new leaders, but they also created hopes among Africans that Kennedy was often either unable or unwilling to fulfill. When the Russians sought refueling rights in Ghana and Guinea during the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy was able to persuade Nkrumah and Sékou Touré to reject the Soviet request. But when Nkrumah sent a personal appeal to Kennedy to intercede to save Lumumba, Kennedy did nothing and both Nkrumah and Sékou Touré were deeply disappointed. The same frustration was evident in Holden Roberto's embittered letter to Kennedy in December 1962[,] accusing [the American president] of abandoning the Angolan nationalists in their hour of need”” (244-5).

Interestingly, Mahoney notes, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was assassinated shortly before Kennedy took the oath of office as President of the United States (246). The details of the entire orchestration of Lumumba's assassination, the author points out earlier on, had the gaping fingerprints of President Dwight David Eisenhower.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (, 2005). E-mail: [email protected]

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2012

The author has 5383 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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