Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

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

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

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

Article excerpt

Abstract

The Peace Corps, established by the Kennedy Administration, became an important foreign policy instrument for US-Ghana relations during the nascent stages of Ghana's postindependence democracy. As the first country to be a beneficiary to the program, President Kwame Nkrumah was initially skeptical of this U.S. foreign policy, but eventually warmed up to the concept. In this paper, I will explore some underlying factors that contributed to the eventual transformation of the Peace Corps into an important element of bilateral collaboration and partnership for both the United States and Ghana during the Nkrumah administration. I will also discuss important formative flashpoints that led to the inauguration of the program starting from the speech given by John F. Kennedy at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor through the Cow Palace official proclamation in San Francisco and the ensuing diversity of trainings that the earlier volunteers participated in. All these chronological analyses are constructed within a broader geopolitical purview which emphasizes the realist power contentions that characterized the Cold War East-West political dichotomy. The question undergirding this paper, then, is: Was the Peace Corps a Cold War foreign policy instrument critical to the execution of United States' proxy wars with the Soviets or was it a foreign policy crafted solely for the altruistic purpose of carrying out humanitarian assistance in Third World nations or was it intended to serve both?

Introduction

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 nationstates 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. …

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