From Gold Coast To Ghana
A country at a crossroads 58 years after independence
Written by Ade Sawyerr
OUT AND PROUD: Ghanaians take to the streets of the capital Accra to celebrate 50 years of independence
THE PORTUGUESE, Swedes, Danes, Dutch, German and British at one time or the other had some influence on the Gold Coast, either as trading or industrial partners.
They had built forts and probably indulged in the slave trade, but it was not until the Bond of 1844 was signed by some seven coastal chiefs that the British had some authority over the administration of the colony of the Gold Coast, as Ghana was then called.
The Conference of Berlin in 1884-1885, when European countries met to formally partition and divide up the countries of Africa, endorsed European rule on the continent except for a few countries such as Abyssinia, now Ethiopia.
For Ghana, the agitation for emancipation started much earlier than when independence was gained in 1957.
The Aborigines Rights Protection Society formed in 1897 specifically to protest against the transfer of land to the British continued with the campaign against indirect rule that resulted in ordinary citizens being elected to participate in the Legislative Assembly with the chiefs and British officials.
The National Congress of British West Africa formed in 1920 brought the campaign for self-rule to the agenda in Sierra Leone, Gambia, Ghana and Nigeria but it was not until 1947 with the formation of the United Gold Coast Convention that the fight took on a national significance.
It was Kwame Nkrumah who broke from the UGCC in the earlier years to realise that dream of independence with the Convention Peoples Party in 1957.
Nkrumah had been influenced by several Pan-Africanists such as Marcus Mosiah Garvey, George Padmore, W E B Dubois and had participated in the 1945 5th Pan Africanist Conference held in Manchester, England, that was attended by other leading lights of the black emancipation movement.
It was in honour of Garvey’s Black Star Line that the black star was placed at the centre of Ghana’s flag.
His vision was that “our independence is meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of Africa”.
His challenge was “that new Africa is ready to fight his own battles and show that after all the black man is capable of managing his own affairs”.
But either that his vision was too lofty to achieve or 58 years is too short a time to judge because there is still work to be done.
Nevertheless, Ghana has come very far considering its inheritance at independence was a colonial economy.
The social systems were underdeveloped, few hospitals and health care posts existed, no processing plants built for the cocoa, gold, and timber that were taken and therefore no added value or employment possibilities could be generated for the unemployed mass of the people.
There were about 100 educational institutions in the 100 years of colonial rule when what was needed was the more than 1,000 established in the 10 years after independence.
Drastic measures were required and the only option was to dismantle the colonial economy with import substitution and rapid industrialisation using science and technology as a base to produce goods for the masses and provide jobs for the people.
But the 1960s were not easy times for any emerging country. Most newly independent countries were caught in the middle of a Cold War, an ideological war between unbridled free market capitalism from the West against the socialism promoted by the East.
Although Nkrumah emerged as one of the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement, proclaiming boldly that “we face neither East nor West we face forward”, he was invariably caught in the war and fell victim to the American, tried and now perfected, foreign policy tool of regime-change through a CIA inspired coup d’etat in 1966 and with that the end of the independent development dream.
It is as if Ghana has not been able to recapture the moments when it stood tall in Africa and was an inspiration to the rest of Africa and the black world.
The military interventions did no good. These leaders have been the most corrupt and although they always claim that they are in government to correct the problems of multiparty politics, they stayed too long and lacked a vision for our development and growth. They did more harm than good to the economy and our social development.
In the first 35 years of independence military rule took up 22 years. It is only since 1992 that multiparty democracy has flourished and with that came renewed attempts to recreate the Ghanaian dream and to refocus on what Ghana needs to do to set the agenda for the black world again