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24.02.2006 Press Review

Editorial: Let’s Respect Our Heroes

By Statesman
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Today marks the 40th anniversary of an event that shouldn't have happened in our nation's history – the first military takeover of our Republic. At this time when a sizeable minority of our democracy has chosen to voluntarily boycott Parliament indefinitely to hit the streets, with some of their leaders threatening mayhem and a national arson, perhaps it is time to reflect deeply on the need to protect and consolidate the avenues and institutions of participation that liberal democracy has afforded us again since January 1993. But, we are also aware of the works of the vandals of history. Kwesi Pratt, especially, has been one of several people who are determined to besmirch the name of a man who devoted his life to Ghana.

The claim, among the few, is that declassified files from the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States have disclosed that Dr Danquah was on its books as an agent. That he was receiving funds and passing on information to America. We shall respond with a simple question: KGB files (and even South Africa's Truth and National Reconciliation files) show that Nelson Mandela and his ANC were receiving financial and technical support from the KGB. Does that make Mr Mandela or Thabo Mbeki a Soviet spy?

First-hand testimony by former combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and factual evidence presented about the inner nature of the ANC and its eminence grise, the South African Communist Party – which was led by the late Joe Slovo, a Lithuanian-born KGB colonel and the 'Chief of Staff' of the KGB-trained MK, show a strong relationship between the ANC leadership and the KGB.

Unfortunately, Umkhonto we Sizwe was accused as an extension in Africa of the KGB and its role in the civil war in Angola misconstrued to serve primarily as a surrogate to Soviet foreign policy interests.

During his treason trial, Oliver Tambo, the former president of the ANC, was accused of working with Chinese security agents.

We cannot look at the alliances formed in the liberation years without understanding the internal-enemy-danger-psychosis of the period. Dr Danquah never flinched in his principled stance for free market and liberal democracy – the very ideas America preaches. So, should it therefore be strange if he sought support from America in 'liberating' Ghana from Nkrumah's 'Soviet-like' dictatorship?

When the MK forces supported Josua Nkomo's or Mugabe's ZANU, they knew it suited the Soviets and the Cubans who gave them logistic support. But that was in the context of the Cold War. Nkrumah, of course, was suspiciously and unfairly viewed by the Americans and Britons as a Soviet 'stooge.'

As far as President Lyndon Johnson's America was concerned, Ghana became the centre of subversion in West Africa and, taking into consideration the context of the Cold War, emerging facts indicate that Washington's Western allies quickly approved the toppling of the country's dictator.

Kwame Nkrumah's departure from Accra on February 21, 1966, one year to the very day that Malcolm X was assassinated, was to be the last time he was to set eyes on his fatherland. Nkrumah was seen as a threat because he chose to establish relations with Russia and China. He allowed the Chinese to open their first embassy on the African continent.

It is not a secret that the coup was ably assisted and directed by the CIA. The truth was revealed in the US Senate testimonies of 1978. Nkrumah was legitimately using Ghana to resource the liberation struggles of other African countries. But, his calculation of the era in which he was operating was costly.

To better appreciate the ideological milieu those pioneers of Africa's liberation had to contend with, one need not look beyond our first President's own experience in power.

Kwame Nkrumah – who left the Gold Coast in 1935 to study in America, was known to have contacts with English and American Marxist circles, as well as members of the British communist party. Governor Arden Clarke, chose to cooperate with a man regarded at the time by some as the most dangerous African nationalist and often suspected of being a disguised Communist, at least a demagogue. It was a policy of containment preferred by the British in West Africa if not in East Africa where they had a settler class to protect.

The creation of the Guinea-Ghana Union (later to include Mali) is interesting in the face of declassified Soviet files.

Indeed it was around this time that Nkrumah travelled to the USSR, returning to Ghana to accelerate his programme of socialism and building a planned economy. Nkrumah's flirtation with the Soviets was only tampered by his need for cash to develop Ghana. Eager to build a £300 million hydroelectric dam on the Volta river, the USSR could do nothing but turn Nkrumah's request for funds down. The funds for the project frozen by Eisenhower was released by Kennedy, in spite of the reluctance of part of his administration and especially the CIA, which did not appreciate Nkrumah's tightening relations with socialist countries.

Lumumba's assassination on the very day Kennedy took office at the White House on January 17, 1961 – convinced the new President to support the Volta project, and also help prevent the Soviets from having an opportunity to build other dams like the one in Aswan – the dam on the Nile, which was a result of the alliance between Nasser and Moscow. President Johnson who took over after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 had absolutely no tolerance for the pro-socialist Nkrumah. This was the time Nkrumah's totalitarian rule was heightening. The CIA's hostile activities towards Nkrumah got more active, despite, (as he was later to confess in a book), attempts by the American Ambassador Richard Mahoney (1961-65) to contain them. This was not helped by the decision by London to break off relations with Ghana in December 1965, further isolating Ghana internationally. Ironically, a month after Nkrumah finally inaugurated the Akosombo dam, he was overthrown, while heading for Hanoi for a mediation mission between the US and Vietnam. Those who innocently or mischievously attempt to brand Dr Danquah as little more than an American spy may do well to research into snippets of declassified information coming from Russia. Russian scholar Sergei Mazov has unearthed secrets from US and Soviet official archives that detail the Cold War rivalry in Africa, including a Soviet proposal in 1961 to use Ghana to mimic the Peace Corps, President John F Kennedy's signature programme to help developing nations achieve prosperity while fending off Soviet subversion. The Peace Corps were seen as CIA spies. So was Nkrumah aware when he agreed for Russia to do same here?

Mazov's paper, “Soviet Policy in West Africa (1956-1964) as an Episode of the Cold War" tells what he uncovered when he spent 10 years researching the US-Russian rivalry over West Africa in the Soviet Union's Communist Party Central Committee archives and amongst the limited KGB records that have been opened to the public. It would be refreshing reading for the likes of Mr Pratt. All being said, only a vandal of history would reduce Nkrumah to being a spy or stooge for the Soviet Union. Nkrumah and his arch enemy, J B Danquah were by the zeitgeist natural players of the Cold War, advancing their respective causes through the support of friends of convenience. Except, of course, J B remained steadfast to his philosophy.

A man who sacrificed so much for patriotism deserves a far better epitaph than what the vandals of history can ever be expected to grant him.