The President Who Was Bombed Again and Again: Nkrumah Is in Fashion Again, and Everyone Now Wants to Be Associated with Him. but It Was Not So While He Ruled. Seven Times, His Opponents Tried to Kill Him Via Bomb Explosions. George Sydney Abugri, in Accra, Takes Us Down Memory Lane
Abugri, George Sydney, New African
IT WAS ALL LATHER AND BOISTEROUS chatter in the school laundry as we washed our clothes on one of the most memorable days in Ghana's political history, with the news coming on the radio: President Kwame Nkrumah had been overthrown in a military coup!
There were a few stupefied expressions all right, otherwise the jubilation was somewhat spontaneous: Many students raced across the campus, jumping over hedges, doing somersaults, and screaming anti-Nkrumah slogans.
It did not occur to me at the time that most of us did not understand the full implications of what had just happened and that we were only reacting with understandable naivety to the sudden fall of a man who had been so demonised by his opponents, that many had actually come to believe Nkrumah was really Lucifer in kente and jumper, a Ghanaian traditional attire.
Looking back, it is now obvious that it had to come to that as a matter of course: There had been too many attempts to kill Nkrumah for something not to eventually give. The arbitrariness of English language grammar and expressions is legendary but even the English will be amused by the idea of bombing a man. It would make sense to talk about bombing a city, an installation or a building, but a man!
Yet Nkrumah had the singular distinction of being a fairly regular target of bomb attacks by opposition elements. There were at least seven attempts to assassinate him during his presidency. When he was not being bombed, he was being shot at. He was bombed in the vicinity of his office, at home, and while addressing political rallies.
What appears to have been the first bomb attack occurred on 10 November 1958. President Nkrumah had a severe cold and was resting--no, working--at home. He had his secretary and several aides around. Suddenly a powerful explosion rocked the house--from floor to rafters. It was the work of unidentified political opponents! There were minor injuries, thankfully no-one was killed. Thereafter, the assassination attempts picked up steam.
On New Year's Day 1964, working in collaboration with the political opposition, senior officers of the Police Force in charge of Nkrumah's security at Flagstaff House where the president had his office, placed a policeman called Seth Ametewe on guard duty at the house, and assigned him to kill Nkrumah.
Constable Ametewe took up position near the car park at Flagstaff House and waited for the president. As Nkrumah walked from his office towards the car park at lunchtime, Ametewe fired at him several times with a rifle, missing his target each time as Nkrumah hastened away.
Nkrumah himself recounted the incident in chilling detail in some of his books and memoirs: "It was 1.00 pm in the garden of Flagstaff House. I was leaving the office to go for lunch when four shots were fired at me by one of the policemen on guard duty. He was no marksman, though his fifth shot succeeded in killing Salifu Dagarti, a loyal security officer who had run after the would-be assassin, as soon as he spotted him among the trees.
"The policeman then rushed at me trying to hit me with the rifle butt. I wrestled with him and managed to wrestle him to the ground and hold him there on his back until help came, but not before he had bitten me on the neck."
The Kulugungu bomb
I (this writer) am a native of Bawku in Ghana's Upper East Region, and by a twist of fate and circumstance, I was not in too distant proximity with the scene of what was the deadliest bomb attack on Nkrumah at Kulugungu near Bawku in August 1962. I was among a welcome party of flag-waving pupils who had lined up to welcome Nkrumah as he passed through the town on his way to meet with the then president of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Maurice Yameogo, at the border town of Tenkoudougou. …