Ghana: Politics of Betrayal

Article excerpt

In his exiled years in Guinea after his overthrow in February 1966, President Kwame Nkrumah made strenuous efforts to return to power. But, as Dr A. B. Assensoh, who worked with Nkrumah in Conakry reveals, some stalwarts of Nkrumah's party (the CPP) were in the pay of the military junta which had overthrown him, and thus helped to thwart his efforts to regain power. As Ghana celebrates 50 years of independence, the time is here for those who played the "politics of betrayal" to take a good, hard look at themselves.

**********

On 13 May 1972, at the elaborate state funeral held for Nkrumah in Conakry, Guinea, Amilcar Cabral, the charismatic leader of Guinea Bissau, seemed to sum it all up when he said in his powerful tribute to Nkrumah: "Nobody can tell us that Nkrumah died of a cancer of the throat or some other illness. No, Nkrumah was killed by the cancer of betrayal which we must uproot from Africa if we really want to bring about the final liquidation of imperialist domination from this continent ... As an African adage says, 'those who dare to spit at the sky only dirty their own faces' ... We, the liberation movements, will not forgive those who betrayed Nkrumah. The people of Ghana will not forgive. Africa will not forgive. Progressive mankind will not forgive. Let those who still have to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of Africa make haste to do so. It is not yet too late."

Incidentally, as part of the intrigue of betrayals, Cabral himself became a victim of a more sinister "cancer of betrayal" when he was assassinated in Conakry in January 1973, less than a year after his powerful speech.

In Nkrumah's exile years in Conakry, the "cancer of betrayal" metamorphosed into varied scenarios, including a 22 November 1970 attack by Portuguese warships full of mercenaries whose aim was to topple the Guinean government under President Sekou Toure and, possibly, seize Nkrumah, Toure and Cabral, the revolutionary trio.

As it were, Guinean forces repulsed the attack but, in the context of betrayal and disbelief, Nkrumah--who had been declared hale and hearty by Vietnamese, Russian and Chinese medical experts--died two years after the attack (from what is now believed to have been slow poisoning) and, a year after Nkrumah' death on 27 April 1972, Cabral was assassinated (in January 1973).

When Nkrumah arrived in Conakry on 2 March 1966, six days after his overthrow, he was made a co-president of Guinea by President Sekou Toure. As a benefactor of Guinea, to whom Nkrumah's government had given a loan of [pounds sterling]10m when the colonial master, France, in an immense seizure of pique, took away every movable object in the country because Guinea refused to become "second-class French citizens" and opted for independence, Nkrumah was seen by many Guineans as very deserving of the co-presidential honour bestowed on him at a large political rally in Conakry.

Additionally, Sekou Toure declared Nkrumah, his pan-Africanist brother, the co-secretary-general of the ruling PDG party. Nkrumah was also settled in Villa Syli, a comfortable government guest house near the sea, from where he worked on several books published in his exile years.

He had earlier lived temporarily in Belle Vue, another government guest house, but it was too small for him and the large presidential entourage which had accompanied him on his cancelled peace mission to Hanoi, Vietnam, during that country's protracted war with America.

From Conakry, Nkrumah made very strenuous but fruitless efforts to regain power in Ghana. The query has always been why he was unsuccessful? For example, the most serious effort to unseat the military junta that overthrew him--the National Liberation Council (NLC)--was the 17 April 1967 counter-coup by Lieutenants S. Arthur and M. Yeboah, in which General Emmanuel K. Kotoka, the NLC chairman, and some military officers were killed.

There were several other plots and counter-plots in Nkrumah's name, but as a result of varied levels of betrayals, none was successful. …