12 September 2012

Ghana: The Missing Dialogue


For many years after the military coup d'état that overthrew Dr. Nkrumah in 1966, and the unsuccessful insurgence by the young Army Officer Attah, and his colleagues in 1968, Ghanaian students had sat in the club houses of their dormitories (mostly overseas), and discussed matters of military takeovers in Africa, at the time an innovation in the then "awakening continent", but arousing interest beyond what words could narrate.

The number of such events too accelerated at such a pace you were always behind if you wanted to keep track. The portion of the globe, designated "the third world" (whose coinage?) at the time, was "not discernible", politically looked at. The third world did not refer at any rate to only Africa, but included Latin America, the Middle East, and the Far East.

It looked as though "some portion" of the world was saying, "we have been down-trodden for too long. It is our turn now! But for what?" In the case of the coup in Ghana in 1966, it was the work of the military in co-operation with the police force, but it was old and young officers in unison. Its parallel in Nigeria, almost identical, but preceding the same event in Ghana, was carried out by young military officers, trained at the Military Academy in Sandhurst, South East of Great Britain. We (then students) sat in front of lecture halls or café's in Europe and elsewhere, and watched on television screens, for example, events in Uganda, as in the very early seventies Idi Dada Amin snatched political power.

At the time, the repercussions in Uganda, about which several books have since been written and filmed, could neither be foreseen nor counted on. In Korea, Thailand and Laos, similar events had taken place. In Europe and America, these Third World countries were "a matter for ridicule", or "we told you so!" Reasons why the takeovers had to be so rampant sounded infantile at times. Not to forget was the reality that "following World War II, the colonial masters, one after the other, had found reasons to let go the strangleholds they had held on Africa, especially, for centuries, most of them during the infamous "Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade." The most worrying inferno took place in a huge enclave in "Central Africa", taken as a colony by Belgian King Leopold II, early in the 19th Century. The world knew it then as the "Belgian Congo." There was ivory, not to forget human beings to be taken as slaves, but for sale by the captors. This enclave, alone, bigger in area than the whole of Western Europe, made it possible, for the Belgian King to build the City of Brussels as a showcase. Victims in the mid-twentieth Century were Patrice Lumumba (the first Prime Minister, after the sham pronouncement of independence by the then King of Belgium). Kwame Nkrumah, guiding (and to some extent, guarding) his "younger brother" Patrice Lumumba, was miserably outplayed by the world powers. Lumumba, and his associate, Antoine Gizenga, his Foreign Minister, were murdered by a native rival, supported by the superpowers, who, initially called Kasavubu, who had his name changed to "Sese Sekou Mobutu", who subsequently reigned in his country until he was overthrown by the late Laurent Kabilla, only some fifteen years ago, and Kabila, in turn, assassinated by insurgents around him. Kabila's son now rules the same country, but renamed "Democratic Republic of Congo", or DRC.

The United Nations Secretary General at the time, the Diplomat from Denmark, Dag Hammarskjöld, was killed in a mysterious aircraft disaster over the Congo, alongside many United Nations staff. The world registered this laughable, but damnable, event as the "Congo Crisis." The year was 1960. Nobody knew exactly what the superpowers wanted with the plethora of "natural- resources-rich" third world countries". The Belgian Congo, for example, was rich too in uranium, and this was the mineral from which the superpowers (The Soviet Union, and United States of America), needed badly to produce nuclear bombs. Each of the two nations wanted to rule the world, and the rest of the world could guess who would, eventually.

Something must have been running through the minds of the young military officers, who in their countries, for example, in West Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, must have had their heads turning around. These brilliant young men had passed various examinations, with which they could enter universities to read Law or Accountancy. But, the military offered alternatives. It was their mates who had entered medical schools (in Ghana, a brand new medical institution, supported by the ebullient "show-boy", Dr. Kwame Nkrumah). One could go out there and read Law and/or accountancy. The "shiny well-fitting khaki uniform, in all types of styles", plus an Opel Cadet vehicle "West German-make", and a bungalow, where cooks and garden boys stood in readiness to make the young officers feel like kings, must have just been very much irresistible. The pay was not bad either. During the training, they must have learned "enough of group-leadership, and the group could be a nation, mind you! So, the military history, which they started to read at the Academy in Teshie, but continued overseas, had brought them to such expressions as "Crossing the Rubicon." Many, if not all, would have read from Nicolo Machiavelli, "The Prince." Hitler too had attempted a military take-over in Germany, not quite forty years earlier. Sese Sekou Mobutu is said to have read Hitler's book, "Mein Kampf" from cover to cover. Examples of takeovers had been learned about from Pakistan and Syria in recent times. No doubt, civilian, as well as military leaders must have had in them equivalent elements of patriotism. It was the package in which to best offer it, which must have been a problem. But not quite! When you had a loaded revolver, you could "sell anything to anybody". Or time was to tell what the reality would be. In essence, the developed nations, among who had been former "colonial masters", would dispense development aid in the form of some scholarships for education, technical assistance, and cash, in a manner similar to the "Marshall Plan" to rebuild Germany, and the rest of Europe, following World War II. In this regard, there appeared a scene of competition between what were clearly two groups palpable, even by the least sensitive leaders (or would be leaders). There was the "Communist Block", led by the Soviet Union, and the Capitalist Block, for which the economic giant, the USA, was the "boss." And so it happened that the two giants could not help, but wield influence in the developing countries (called third World, please, just be reminded), or if politeness was not so necessary, "call them, under-developed nations". Indirectly, power-structures in the "new nations" were shaped as to whether one nation was predominantly supported by the USA, or by the Soviet Union, THE OTHER SUPERPOWER!

...to be continued

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