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Opinions of Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Columnist: Francis Kwarteng

Kwame Nkrumah: Heroes beget heroes

Mr. Sam Nujoma, the first president of Namibia, penned this beautiful essay in honor of Nkrumah, his matchless achievements, legacy and continuing impact on the world. This essay appeared in the New African Magazine (No. 448, Feb. 2006) under the title “Heroes Beget Heroes.”

Please read on:
“I congratulate New African magazine for dedicating so many pages of its precious publication to a great pan-African hero, the late Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana.

In particular, I am glad that you are focusing on the tragic event of 24 February 1966, the day on which the reactionary forces of imperialism unfortunately triumphed, albeit temporarily on the scale of history, over the forces of progress.

That fateful day brings back memories of pain arising from the loss of a prophet, but it also brings with it fond memories of the eventful and historic moments that preceded and followed the coup.

It is thus a singular honour for me and my country to be invited by your prestigious magazine to express a few words about the Indomitable Lion of Africa, Kwame Nkrumah. It is always a daunting task to say something about a person that has moved mountains and traversed the valleys of the shadows of death in order to selflessly achieve freedom and independence for the people of Africa.

I have thus decided not to attempt to analyse his ideology?that is fully documented in his illustrious literature. Instead, for purposes of this special edition I have decided to remember him as a human being, with reference to specific anecdotes based on my personal recollections, in order to cast him as a life-force that has shaped the views and lives of millions of Africans on the African continent and those in the diaspora.

On 21 September 1909, at Nkroful, in the then Gold Coast, now the Republic of Ghana, a bright boy was born. His parents probably did not know on that day that the name of this smart boy was written in the stars to become a progressive president, an accomplished academic, an incisive thinker, analyst and writer, and a legendary Pan-African revolutionary. He is the epitome of Pan-Africanism. He was and remains a great inspiration to me, and to many other progressive Africans the world over.

I first came to know about Nkrumah in the 1950s when we, as young political activists in the then South West Africa, avidly started reading the high-quality magazine, Ghana Today, which enlightened us politically. We would all gather at our usual clandestine meeting place to read it and pass it around. One of the most memorable issues contained a picture of Kwame Nkrumah dancing with the Duchess of Kent who was representing Britain at the celebrations of Ghana's independence on 6 March 1957. In the context of the segregationist political situation at that time, seeing a black man dancing with a white woman?of royal blood for that matter!?was indeed an inspiring moment!

Ghana's fight for freedom inspired and influenced us all, and the greatest contribution to our political awareness at that time came from the achievements of Ghana after its independence. It was from Ghana that we got the idea that we must do more than just petition the United Nations to bring about our own independence, and thus on 19 April 1959, we formed our own liberation movement, the Ovamboland People's Organisation (OPO), which was transformed into South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) one year later in 1960.

At the time of Ghana's independence, I was a young man of 29 years, and this historic independence celebration had a tremendous enduring impact on my life. It provided a ray of hope for the future of our own liberation, and from that day on I decided that come rain or shine, hell or high water, joy or pain, life or death, we will liberate our motherland Namibia as it was done in Ghana!

After the brutal killing of our people on 10 December 1959, during the Windhoek Old Location Massacre, I decided to flee the country of my birth. My journey into exile took me through several African countries, most of them still battling the yoke of colonialism, and I finally arrived in a free and independent Ghana in April 1960. This was like a breath of fresh air, and I found myself in the centre of the campaign for African independence and unity.

There was a Positive Action Conference in progress, organised by President Kwame Nkrumah, and I met African leaders from different liberation movements in Africa, including Nkrumah himself, Patrice Lumumba and Josef Kasavubu of the then Belgian Congo, and the legendary Frantz Fanon who was representing the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN). I gave an eyewitness account of the Windhoek Old Location Massacre.

To this day, I remember vividly Nkrumah's words at the Positive Action Conference, the central message of his speech being that "the continent was awakened: the giant that had been asleep was aroused." I held personal talks with Nkrumah on several occasions, and he always urged me to "Keep on! The Ghana government is behind you."
A tribute to Kwame Nkrumah will be incomplete without reference to his role in the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963. Nkrumah was not just an ideologue, but also a practical revolutionary. So why do I call him a prophet? Well, judge for yourselves, after reading what he said on the eve of the formation of the OAU in Addis Ababa in 1963 (see page 30), and you would, nay should, agree with me that most of what he said and did more than 40 years ago are like a prophecy for Africa's liberation.

I need to mention that perhaps the most important practical contribution Ghana made to Namibia in particular, was the fact that in 1966, Ghana's permanent representative to the UN proposed Resolution 2145, which effectively terminated the South African mandate and placed South West Africa under the direct responsibility of the UN. This Resolution, sponsored by Ghana, was critical as it paved the way for the subsequent major political developments that ultimately culminated in the independence of Namibia on 21 March 1990.

However, the imperialist forces never slumber as they work tirelessly around the clock to sniff out and liquidate all the revolutionaries. It was, therefore, a sad day in the annals of the liberation of Africa that an imperialist-inspired-and-supported coup in 1966 disrupted the march of the African people towards genuine freedom and independence. Coincidentally, it was the same year in which the SWAPO freedom fighters launched the first military offensive against the colonial forces of South Africa at Omugulu-gwOmbashe on 26 August 1966.

After his death in Bucharest, Romania, on 27 April 1972, Nkrumah was buried in the town of his birth, Nkroful, Ghana, on 9 July 1972. Twenty years later, in 1992, I attended a ceremony of reburial in the new Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park in Accra. At the invitation of the then Ghanaian president, Flt-Lt Jerry Rawlings, I was afforded the distinct and singular honour of addressing the solemn proceedings at the ceremony, in recognition of a Great Man.

The coup was a severe setback for Africa, but there is a saying in one of our local languages in Namibia that "Heroes beget heroes." Thus, a true hero creates more heroes in the belly of his revolutionary zeal and commitment, and thus I am confident that Nkrumah's heroism has created other heroes who have taken the struggle to a higher level until the continent of Africa was totally liberated from colonialism, imperialism and apartheid with the birth of a new democratic and non-racial South Africa in 1994.

The lessons from the coup are many and varied, but it is important to note that the imperialist enemy, in its various chimera-like forms and shapes, is watching very closely what we are doing. If and when our ideas and actions, even if these represent the will of the people, are perceived to be in conflict with those of the enemy, then the enemy shall go all out to destroy the prophets of the people. Unfortunately, in that process, our own people will be used as the tools to do the enemy's dirty work, and the enemy will declare shamelessly that "He was killed by his own people!"

Let us, therefore, remain vigilant. Let us re-dedicate ourselves to the cause of true African freedom. The struggle for genuine economic independence must continue. We must, therefore, mobilise all the African people to work shoulder to shoulder to ensure the realisation of the total socio-economic integration of the African continent.

Long live the spirit of Kwame Nkrumah! Long live the African Union!”

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