The inauguration of President Barack Obama as the first-ever black president of the United States comes close to fulfilling the highest dreams of most black people of my generation. Many like me grew up in colonies ruled by white men who lived far away. I didn't see my first whiteman, at close quarters, until I was 13 years of age. Yet everything that mattered in my life was decided by the unseen "white men".
It was white men who decided how much money my father would have in his pocket, because as a cocoa farmer, it was the price he received for his cocoa that determined his standard of living and those of us, his dependents. It was white men who decreed the price of the motor vehicles the richer folk among us could buy (and thereby, indirectly, the price of transportation for us all). White men also decided whether, and if so when, the road to our town should be tarred. They paid the postal agent of our town, who connected us to other towns and even countries.
But then, around 1947, in our country, the Gold Coast (now Ghana), "the big six" political leaders--Dr J. B. Danquah, Edward Akufo-Addo, Ebenezer Ako Adjei, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey, Kwame Nkrumah and William Ofori Attah cried: "Enough!" And through their political movement, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), they organised the people to carry out boycotts and demonstrations, sometimes resulting in looting and riots, which told the British eloquently: "Give us self-government or else!" Our politicians couldn't remain united for long, however, and it was left to Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the "least experienced" of them all (in terms of home-based politics) to form his Convention People's Party and win independence for Ghana. It was he who declared, on 6 March 1957: "Ghana, our beloved country, is free for ever!" When Dr Nkrumah added that "our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent," many Ghanaians, while cheering wildly, never thought there was a realistic chance of that dream coming true - not in their lifetimes, at any rate. I, for instance, then at the beginning of my journalistic career and often day-dreaming about becoming a foreign correspondent, wondered whether my feet would ever touch the soil of the white-dominated African countries, about whose struggle against imperialism I so often read - Algeria, Kenya, the two Rhodesias and Nyasaland, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Angola. Top of the list was South Africa, where the horrors of racist rule were described by such books as Naught for Your Comfort by Trevor Huddleston, and The Rise of the South African Reich by Brian Bunting, as being particularly heinous.
But in my lifetime, all these countries have become free. Some have been ruled well, others, not so well. But that is not the point. As Kwame Nkrumah pointed out, all peoples have the right to "manage or mismanage" their own affairs. Indeed, colonialist Britain, France and Portugal, were particularly ill-suited to defining other countries incapable of managing their own affairs, for, in the 20th century alone (forget about their early histories), the European countries had so mismanaged their own affairs that they had caused two world wars in which, respectively, an estimated 16 million people (World War One) and 72 million people (World War Two) had lost their lives. These horrendous deaths had all occurred in the space of a mere two decades (1914-1918 and 1939-1945), but between the 1960s and the 1980s, it looked as if the lessons learnt from the terrible previous wars could not save the world from a third world war - or a thermo-nuclear holocaust.
However, as I grew into maturity, history began to bring justice to those oppressed by European imperialism and racism, inch by inch. To me, personally, the good news began in 1962, when I was able to visit Kenya and interview Jomo Kenyatta, who had just spent seven years (1952-59) as the world's most famous prisoner of colonialism. …