Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The United States Peace Corps as a Facet of United States-Ghana Relations

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The United States Peace Corps as a Facet of United States-Ghana Relations

Article excerpt


The diplomatic relations that existed between the United States (US) and Ghana in the late 1950s and 60s centered mostly on the three issues: The Peace Corps, the Volta River Project and the personality of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the communist--branded president of Ghana. It is evident mostly that, this US-Ghana relation also had ideological connotations because it was at the height of the Cold War and tensions were really "high" between countries that aligned themselves with one or the other of the Cold War rivals--the United States or the Soviet Union. As is well known, the US and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) emerged as the most powerful nations in the world after the Second World War. With many of Africa's nation-states asserting their political independence after the War, the rivalry of these two super powers was heightened, with each struggling to gain a foothold on Africa. Two revolutions challenging the west were: Asian-African nationalism and the evolving Communist expansion into "fertile grounds" like Ghana, where the communists preached against activities of the West (including racial oppression of blacks) and urged to be embraced. In this paper, I propose to investigate the relations between the US and Ghana, keeping in mind the issues of the East-West dichotomous rivalry as well as the role of the Peace Corps. I will also seek to ascertain if ideology was the only reason for the formation of the Peace Corps or was it just a mere foreign department organization. I intend to study not only the role of politics by the various governments of The United States and Ghana, but also ascertain the views of historians, and determine how Nkrumah saw or depicted the volunteers and what the volunteers themselves thought of the program. For instance, did they see themselves as vehicles of ideological tools;; were they playing the role of humanitarians in another country or did they join the Peace Corps as a way of escaping from the brewing Vietnam confrontation or even from the United States, given that it was the tumultuous 60s?

The Peace Corps was founded in 1961, a year after it was officially declared, as one of the idealistic manpower resources that the US set up to supply aid to developing countries. For the John F. Kennedy administration, it was a dual opportunity--to send American youth to developing countries not only to spread American ideals, but also to help with development. Established with Executive Order 10924, the Peace Corps concept was announced to students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and was subsequently made official at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, in November 1960 with three major objectives:

i. It can contribute to the development of critical countries and regions.

ii. It can promote international cooperation and goodwill toward this country.

iii. It can also contribute to the education of America and to more intelligent American participation in the world. (1)

The Peace Corps as Ideological or Moral Tool

Kennedy, in my opinion, saw the Peace Corps as an ideological tool to inform the developing world about American ideals of liberty, equality, and democracy before the Soviets had a chance to take over because both countries were fighting for ideological favors in Africa.. This is evident in the various speeches that Kennedy gave. In his inaugural address in January 1961, he reiterated his desire to "outsmart" the Soviets.

   To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe
   struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best
   efforts, to help them help themselves, for whatever period is
   required, not because the Communists may be doing it, not because
   we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society
   cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are
   rich. (2)

Could it be that President Kennedy had a moral justification for the Peace Corps? …

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