Magazine article New African

Nkrumah Surely Must Be Turning in His Grave: The BBC's "Black Power" Documentary, Transcribed and with Added Comment. (Ghana Special Report)

Magazine article New African

Nkrumah Surely Must Be Turning in His Grave: The BBC's "Black Power" Documentary, Transcribed and with Added Comment. (Ghana Special Report)

Article excerpt

BBC narrator [1992]:

Thirty-five years ago, one man set out to turn this country into a modern utopia. He was Kwame Nkrumah, the first leader of a newly black African country. His aim was to transform Ghana into a society shaped and driven by the power of science.

At the heart of Nkrumah's plan was a giant dam that would produce huge quantities of cheap electricity, enough power to build a modern industrial state in the heart of Africa within a generation.

But what Nkrumah did not foresee was, with the dam would come other more dangerous forms of power which he could not control -- economic forces that would tear apart his vision of using science and technology to create a model for the new Africa.

Kwame Kwarteng, prime minister's office, 1956-57:

BBC narrator:

Nkrumah was, a visionary not a dreamer. In his mind's eye, he could see a United States of Africa like the United States of America, he could see Africa coming together to form a viable unit to become a world power in the shortest possible time.

Ever since the 1920s, the British had planned to build a dam across the Volta River, a hydra-electric plant to produce aluminium from the Gold Coast's vast reserves of the mineral, bauxite. In the early 1950s, the British were desperate to achieve a source of aluminium. Nkrumah enjoined the British to resuscitate the scheme.

The British authorities saw the power from the dam simply as a means to boost the Empire's supply of aluminium. To Nkrumah, it was more. He saw it as a key to fulfilling his country's destiny.

Kojo Botsio, education minister, 1951-57:

The power was originally conceived by the British just for the manufacture of alumnae in this country, but when Kwame [Nkrumah] came, he gave a new accent, a new importance to the power project -- ie, the power was to be used for a comprehensive economic development of the country.

BBC narrator:

When he lived in America in the 1930s, Nkrumah had been inspired by the enormous dams that he had seen built as part of [President] Roosevelt's new deals. They had transformed the poorest areas of the United States.

Kwame Kwarteng:

At one stage, he [Nkrumah] said he wanted the project to light up every hamlet in this country, and at the same time as a by-product, to have an irrigation project which will transform the whole of the Accra Plains into a granary.

BBC narrator:

In 1956, Britain invaded Egypt to prevent President Nasser from nationalising the Suez Canal. Within 10 days, the UN and the Americans forced them to retreat. Suez symbolised the decline of Britain's colonial power. Vast projects like the Volta Dam began to look increasingly insecure in the face of confident new African leaders. And Britain was running out of money. That same year, Nkrumah's government was told the Volta Scheme was shelved.

James Moxon, a Briton who worked as Nkrumah's presidential spokesman for the Volta River Project:

He [Nkrumah] was almost in despair, he was depressed. All those involved in it were shattered when we discovered that the Project was on the shelf. But Nkrumah was not a man to allow depression to take over.

Archival clip from 6 March 1957, showing Nkrumah declaring independence, and saying:

"Today there is a new African in the world. And that new African is ready to fight his own battles and show that after all the black man is capable of managing his own affairs. We are going to demonstrate to the world, to the other nations, young as we are, that we are prepared to lay our own foundations."

BBC narrator:

It was a glorious moment for Ghana and for Nkrumah. But in private, he knew that many of the promises that had swept Isis party to power might prove dangerously hollow if the dam was not built. It was the key to his vision of leading Africa into a shinning tomorrow. …

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