What can we learn from Kwame Nkrumah?
Inspired by the example of non-violent independence struggle of Mahatma Gandhi in India, Kwame Nkrumah launched his Positive Action campaign in Ghana in 1955.
Nkrumah argued that there were two methods of achieving independence:
“Through armed revolution and violent overthrow of the existing regime, or through constitutional and legitimate non-violent methods. In order words, either by might or moral pressure”.
The weapons of Positive Action he described, were:
- Legitimate political agitation
- Newspaper and educational campaigns
- Strikes, boycotts and non-cooperation
Through his campaign for independence, Nkrumah united the divided compartments of the colonial society; the detribalized urban poor, the middle class (organized in labor unions), and the rural population. He convinced them to first focus on gaining political power from the British, so they could afterwards transform the social, political, cultural, economic and ideological situation. His famous slogan became:
“Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all else shall be added unto you”.
Yet while Nkrumah succeeded in gaining national independence through non-violent methods, he became increasingly oppressive himself once in power. Instead of transforming the social, cultural and economic situation, protests became forbidden and the new elite under the leadership of Nkrumah started to ‘eat’ themselves.
While he betrayed his promises and the social contract with the people, just like Yoweri Museveni and hundreds of Ugandan MP’s, he was right about one thing: by gaining political power, all else was indeed added unto him personally.
Lesson of Kwame Nkrumah
Always watch out for politicians that convince you that first political power needs to be captured before changes can be made. In the current vicious circle in Africa, it will always be those that capture power that will get all its glory and luxury, while the rest will remain without progress and prosperity. To break this vicious circle and transform it to a virtuous circle of peace and prosperity, a non-violent turning point is needed.
Erik van der Zanden
Picture by Paasiviki