History 247-20th Century Africa



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History 247-20th Century Africa

  • “… Nationalism was a way to become less poor, to send their children to school, benefit from better roads, prices, public services. They [the majority of the people] looked to nationalism for social gains, while the educated few mostly had their eyes on political gains.”
  • [From B. Davidson, Modern Africa, p.130]

From Gold Coast to Ghana: First Steps

  • The United Gold Coast Convention: - typical of the educated professional ‘elitist’ political party
  • - choice of Kwame Nkrumah as secretary in keeping with that social root.
  • - Nkrumah was educated in the US, lived in London before returning to Gold Coast.
  • His beliefs and policies had moved beyond those of UGCC
  • established Convention Youth Organization
  • supported actions like local boycotts, strikes
  • believed in independence – NOW!

From Gold Coast to Ghana… (cont.)

  • February 28, 1948:
  • - local boycott of European goods in Accra ended successfully, merchants ‘convinced ‘ to lower prices
  • - several hundred ex-servicemen marched on Governor’s office in Christianbourg Castle seeking long-promised settlement on payment of pensions, jobs
  • - neither UGCC nor Nkrumah involved
  • - events moved in such a way that it became one of those historical “watersheds”, affecting not only the Gold Coast but all of Africa.

“End of Empire”: signficance?

  • -legacy of colonialism in creating ‘moderate’ elite closer to British than to ill/semi-literate, working class/rural Africans
  • now: political shift - more radical (eg CYO)
  • also more aware of social groups -- workers, women, unions
  • willing to address their needs
  • - 1949 Nkrumah created Convention People’s Party (rooted in youth group)
  • CPP Poster & Flag

“End of Empire”: signficance?

  • CPP under Nkrumah: - awareness of ‘modern politics’
  • - role of charisma, organizing, advertising, slogans…”Veranda Boys”
  • links to wider decolonizing world (eg. India)
  • new constitution 1951: elections CPP won 2/3 seats
  • Nkrumah in jail but invited to form government

Kwame Nkrumah on “Nationalism’

  • “In accepting the British government’s offer of 1951 to make him leader of a … government pledged to an eventual African independence …Nkrumah told his voters:
  • ‘there is a great risk in accepting office under this new constitution which still makes us half-slaves and half-free.’ There would be a great need for ‘vigilance and moral courage’ to withstand the consequent temptations of ‘temporary personal advantage.’This was because ‘bribery and corruption, both moral and factual have eaten into the whole fabric of our society and these must be stamped out if we are to achieve any progress’. “
  • [from Davidson, The Black Man’s Burden, pp.162-3. For More, see ‘webboard discussion’ readings.]
  • “They called us all verandah boys They thought we were just a bunch of toys But we won the vote at the midnight hour Came out of jail and took over power”
  • (George Browne, “Freedom for Ghana”, 1952)

“End of Empire”: signficance?

  • CPP under Nkrumah: - 1952 position ‘Prime Minister’, elected by assembly, created
  • - 1954: elected assembly full control of internal affairs – governor retained control military and foreign affairs
  • - Assembly itself to be elected directly, rather than through Tribal councils

From Gold Coast to Ghana: the 1950s

  • But:
  • - struggle for independence not only about struggle against British
  • also struggle to agree on what ‘nationalism’ meant
  • who was to benefit?

From Gold Coast to Ghana: the 1950s

  • The struggle for Independence was as much an internal, civil war as an external one.
  • - battle against conflicting views of ‘traditional’ versus ‘modern’ authority
  • - battle against conflicting needs of different regions and ethnic groups in those regions
  • - battle against practices, behaviour generated by colonialism but destructive to independence

From Gold Coast to Ghana: the 1950s

  • After elections 1954, CPP followed policy of increasing centralization, generated resistance
  • National Liberation Movement formed:
  • - based in Asante
  • - wanted federalist structure
  • - more autonomy for different regions
  • Northern Peoples Party: - based in north
  • - largely Muslim, poor
  • Parties worked together to undermine CPP

From Gold Coast to Ghana: the 1950s

  • New elections held 1956 – testing CPP’s demand for ‘Independence Now’: - CPP only 57% vote
  • - all of the south
  • -enough votes in Asante, North, Trans-Volta (East) to hold 2/3 majority
  • British promised to grant independence if passed by 2/3 new assembly
  • March 6, 1957 Gold Coast became ‘Ghana’, first sub-Saharan colony to gain independence
  • Kwame Nkrumah first President new nation
  • Prime- Minister (left) of Gold Coast, 1956
  • President (right) of Ghana, 1957
  • H. Spodek, The World’s History 2nd ed. (2001), 751]
  • Kwame Nkrumah
  • Combined ‘old’ and ‘new’: two medicine men pour sacred oil -- ‘libations’ – and call on the gods to bless the work of the Second Parliament. (President Nkrumah on the right)
  • [ from McKay, Hill & Buckler, A history of World Societies, Vol.II, 1996, 1159]
  • Opening of Parliament: Ghana
  • Celebrating Independence: market women played a critical role in the CPP’s victory.
  • Note the cloth worn by the woman, right foreground.
  • Independence in the Marketplace
  • [from B. Davidson, Africa: History of a Continent, 1966, 301]
  • Video Excerpt: Basil Davidson’s “AFRICA” ‘The Rise of Nationalism

Nigeria: following in the wake…

  • Political activity in Nigeria began during the war and directly reflected the Colonial Policy of ruling the country through arbitrarily determined regions:
  • - south east: National Council for Nigeria and Cameroons (Azikiwe – later National Council of Nigerian Citizens)
  • - south west Nigerian Action Group (Awolowo)
  • - north Northern Elements Progressive Union (Amin Kano); - 1951 became Northern People’s Congress (Sir Ahamadu Bello)
  • “Emergence of Tribal Nationalism”
  • Obafemi Awolowo Nnamdi Azikiwe .
  • “Emergence of Tribal Nationalism”
  • Amin Kano Ahamadu Bello

Nigeria… (cont.)

  • Richards Commission (1946):
  • - all Nigerian Legislative council: advisory only, with two Nigerian representatives
  • - three regional councils (south east, south west and north)
  • Intended as ‘moderate’ reform, responding to slowly changing ideas of colonialism in London, it was widely criticized in Nigeria -- even by the elite it was supposed to please.

Nigeria … (cont.)

  • Emergence of Tribal Nationalism:
  • regions in turn galvanized majority ethnic groups into dominant ones.
  • - constitution revamped again in 1951 (Macpherson Constitution), greater devolution of power under Federal Government
  • - regions increasingly strongly identified with ethnic groups: Ibo/Igbo (south east); Yoruba (south west); Hausa-Fulani (north)
  • - potential established for religious divides as well: ‘Christian south’ versus ‘Muslim North’
  • - scrapped in 1954
  • “Decolonisation” as articulated in the Postal System
  • [ http://www.emeagwali.com/photos/nigerian/photo-essay-on-nigeria.html]
  • Nigerian Postage Stamps
  • Colonialism had many daily reminders even as movement was made towards independence.
  • These notes/coins are also evocative of Azikiwe’s early insistence on the need for financial independence: African controlled banks to support African initiatives.
  • [http://www.greatepicbooks.com/epics/novmber98.html ]
  • Nnamdi Azikiwe
  • As a young student (above) and an inspirational leader (right) of southern Nigeria.

Nigeria: a case of ‘federalism’

  • As Nkrumah and his ‘Veranda Boys’ were consolidating power in southern Gold Coast, yet another constitution was imposed in Nigeria. The 1954 document placed even more emphasis on the role of the ‘Federal’ government but the regional ethnic rivalries and tensions were by then well entrenched.
  • [see additional readings for all three constitutions – 1946, 1951, 1954]

Nigeria: a case of ‘federalism’

  • - 1957 south east and west were granted ‘self-government
  • - 1959 the north joined
  • 1960 Nigeria gained full independence
  • Azikiwe “Zik” first Governor General - 1963, became republic, Azikiwe first president
  • Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (northern) first Prime Minister
  • Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (first prime minister) with last British Gov-General, Sir James Robertson


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