Bring Us The Head of Kwame Nkrumah

Broken Kwame Nkrumah Statue

During our visit to Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park in Accra on Wednesday (7/27) we also encountered this headless statue of the first President of the Republic of Ghana, a stark reminder of the violent coup that led to his overthrow and exile in February 1966. The coup was engineered by dissident elements within his military and police with the assistance of the CIA and the involvement of other western governments including the UK and France.

The economic problems and other internal issues that led to Nkrumah’s overthrow were fueled by his transformation of Ghana’s fledgling democracy into a single-party state with himself as President-for-Life. This action followed a series of other legislative acts that restricted various freedoms of the Ghanaian people.

The CIA’s involvement in his coup had been rumored for years until incontrovertible evidence was found in several sources including declassified State Department documents (see below). The US and its Western allies placed him squarely in their crosshairs due to his calls for Pan African unity; his alliances with Nasser in Egypt, Mao in China, and Sekou Toure in Guinea; and the fact he was building a modern military for his country. Of equal concern to those foreign governments was Nkrumah’s military support of the rebels seeking to overthrow the “white” regime led by Ian Smith that ruled the southern African nation of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). These events unfolded during the height of the Cold War when the US sought to eliminate leaders across the globe whose policies it viewed as threats to American power and interests.

Nkrumah was making official state visits to North Vietnam and China when the coup began. Unable to return to Ghana, he lived in exile in Guinea where he was made honorary co-president by President Sekou Toure. He spent his final years troubled by illness and the fear of assassination at the hands of his enemies. He died of skin cancer in 1972 in Bucharest, Romania where he had gone to receive medical treatment. Despite his serious mistakes and failures as a leader, his role as a founding member of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and his philosophy and agenda  for establishing a united Africa remain significant mileposts in the struggles against colonialism, imperialism, and racism.

The statue that appears in the photo above once stood in front of the Old Parliament House in Accra. It was vandalized during the coup in 1966 at which time the head disappeared. In 2009, forty-three years after it had vanished, the government called upon the people of Ghana to provide information as to its whereabouts. A woman who had rescued and protected it for over four decades came forth and presented it. It now sits on a pedestal next to the statue.

Nkrumah Head

CIA involvement in the coup has been been verified by several sources in recent years including the two sets of memos provided below, which also outline the broader features and goals of US policies in Africa in the 1960s. The following quote documents the neo-colonial US political philosophy of using foreign aid as a blunt weapon of foreign policy

1. AID … should be used as a political weapon with more aid going to our friends than to our critics and a minimal aid presence in all African political units;

State Department 1

State Department 2

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Nkrumah & Du Bois

My wife Gwen and I arrived in Accra, Ghana Tuesday night (7/26) for the beginning of a two-week stay during which we will travel along the coast and to Tamale in the north. Wednesday morning we visited the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, and the home and mausoleum of W.E.B. Du Bois. Standing with the ghosts of such monumental men made me pause and reflect on the cowardly sell-outs back home who masquerade as leaders. Lacking in intellect and courage, equally bereft of compassion and decency, they have mainly achieved their positions of power through treachery, perfidy, and blindly serving the interests of the wealthy elite while lining their own pockets in the process. Yet upon further reflection it is hard to decide which is worse: the corrupt politicians and pulpit pimps who exploit and mislead the masses, or the sheeple who trod blindly behind in their wake ready and willing to be shorn and slaughtered.

While my mental jury is still out weighing its decision, I will take a Sankofian look to the past to reconnect with the spirits of those fierce warriors for human rights and social justice who struggled relentlessly for the cause of liberation and Pan African unity. From their sterling examples of leadership and dedication, I hope to gather the strength and wisdom I need to prepare and sustain me for battles yet to come.

To their spirits I say: Ashé … To the people of the African Diaspora and our allies I say: A luta coninua …

Kwame Nkrumah Memorial

DuBois Mausoleum Entrance

Du Bois Grave

How the South Won the War

I know the South lost the Civil War — the war fought on bloody battlefields that cost this nation 645,000 lives. But the South won the propaganda war. It did so by making a blatant appeal to America’s basest instincts: antiblack racism. Racism enabled the South to rise again and then claim victory over the public square and public consciousness. And this great feat was accomplished without firing a shot (except of course at civil rights activists who could be slaughtered with impunity).

From the establishment of the American Apartheid system known as Jim Crow (which was erected in the wake of the passage of the 13th Amendment), to “Birth of a Nation” (a celluloid orgy of racist fantasies and antiblack stereotypes that also bears the distinction of being the first film shown in the White House), to the emergence of the neo-confederate Republican Tea Party (the current political platform for racists, fascists, and their neo-minstrel enablers), the South and its minions have marched this nation proudly backward into the future bearing a Bible in one hand and a flaming cross in the other, and using the fiction of white superiority/black inferiority as their clarion call to arms. The so-called “New South” therefore is merely the Old South dressed up in church robes instead of white sheets. And its borders now encompass the entire United States, from south to north, east to west.

One need only to look to popular culture and the mass media for evidence of the success of the “Southern Strategy.” The so-called “Southern Rebel” (notice the Orwellian control of the language and the romanticizing of figures who should be called “traitors”) has become a celebrated and heroic figure. Countless films, novels, and television shows have been devoted to portraying the Sons of the Confederacy as victims of “Northern aggression” rather than as perpetrators of a brutally efficient system of racial slavery and exploitation. Thus those who dehumanized others are remade as the iconic folk heroes of “American” humanity, perseverance, and courage.

Now let me pause here to note that my view does not exempt or exonerate the North in any way from its role in creating and maintaining the American slaveocracy. On the contrary, the complicity of the North in reifying “race” and deploying it as a social system of control and exploitation helped to facilitate the Southern takeover and domination of the public square. With “white” privilege at stake, Northerners did not have to be warned by the Southern Borg Collective that “resistance is futile, you will be assimilated. Instead they quickly closed ranks and joined the effort to maintain the status quo from which they had benefited since the first enslaved Africans arrived in the 17th century. And so the tide rolls on sweeping all opposition from its path. Not even a “black” man in the White House has dented the onslaught. In fact his presence has proved a potent rallying cry to bring bigots out of the closet and into the mainstream once again. Even Obama’s defiance of his African American critics to continue the tradition started by Woodrow Wilson of sending a wreath to the Confederate Monument at Arlington Cemetery in observance of Memorial Day did nothing to mitigate or blunt their avowed hatred of him.

All the above is offered simply as preamble to the illuminating article by James C. Cobbs linked below. Cobbs, from a decidedly less polemical perspective than mine, looks at the canonization of Confederate General Robert E. Lee as a salient example of how the Southern view of the nation and its history has become the dominant view.

HUMANITIES Magazine: July/August 2011