Friday, September 21, 2012

Thoughts on Nkrumah

As a general rule I think Nkrumah did more good for Ghana than any other leader. He may have been the most successful African leader of the 20th century. Only a few other African leaders had the charisma and vision of Nkrumah. These men include Mandela, Sankara, and Lumumba. But, in terms of laying the foundations of economic development none of these men can really be compared to Nkrumah. Mandela came to power in a country already heavily industrialized by African standards. In contrast both Sankara and Lumumba died violently before they really had a chance to accomplish anything near the scale that Nkrumah did. Even more so than Lumumba, Nkrumah as leader of Ghana from 1957 to 1966 sought to successfully champion Pan-African ideas. One important long term result of Nkrumah's rule is that there is a much stronger sense of unity among Ghanaians than exists in many African countries. Ghana has not suffered from civil war like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria just to name those states in the West African region. In large part this has been a result of Nkrumah's successful construction of a Ghanaian national identity unifying all the ethnic groups in the country. This legacy alone is worth honoring.

4 comments:

datatutashkhia said...

I'm very skeptical of this sort of stuff, national identity. Typically, it's based on illusion, it signifies nothing, and it'll fall apart when tested by even a mild crisis, where real issues are involved.

The only situation where it seems healthy and natural is when the population of a geographical area ('nation') is somehow dominated by some outside group. But this is not the situation in Ghana, is it? In which case it probably just masks their class issues.

I mean, of course, obviously, it's better than tribal wars, but it's not enough, it's just the first step, and it better be based on something more meaningful than 'national identity'.

J. Otto Pohl said...

There were active separatist movements and terrorist attacks by anti-Nkrumah forces in Ghana during his administration. The worry that the Asante region would either split off from Ghana was quite real. There was also a worry about Asante chauvinists dominating the state in a manner similar to how titular nationalities dominate the post-Soviet states. CLR James deals with this issue in his book The African Revolution. Ghana was dominated by the British from 1874 to 1957 and it was during this time that Nkrumah began the process of creating a modern Ghanaian identity.

LFC said...

to datatutashkhia:

your comment is incoherent b.c "based on illusion" is not the same as "signifies nothing".

Nationalism and natl identity have been powerful forces in history, that's obvious. That you might
consider them "based on illusion" does not change that.


datatutashkhia said...

Also, religious dogmas have been powerful forces in history.

Nevertheless, they are based on illusion and signify nothing. Other than being 'opiate for the masses', as they say.

What's incoherent about it?