- Western Involvement in Nkrumah’s Downfall by Godfrey Mwakikagile
In Western Involvement in Nkrumah’s Downfall, Godfrey Mwakikagile confirms that Western governments were involved in the overthrow of President Kwame Nkrumah’s administration in Ghana on February 24, 1966. Nkrumah, the first indigenous leader of Ghana, had drawn the ire of Western governments because of his prosocialist attitude. It was a time when many countries in sub-Saharan Africa were gaining political independence from colonial subjugation. In this book, which has several subheadings but not chapters, Mwakikagile shows that the United States played an important role in Nkrumah’s overthrow. It is the aim of the book to “provide a balanced account of what happened during the turbulent period” (p. 13).
Mwakikagile demonstrates that both internal and external factors brought the Nkrumah administration down; however, external factors were much more powerful. Internally, urban dwellers were hugely discontent because they were feeling the pinch of the economic hardship that was engulfing Ghana by 1966, and they felt that press freedom was nonexistent in Ghana.
Ghanaians had voted to accept a one-party democracy in a referendum in 1964, but Nkrumah was seen as a dictator who capriciously manipulated public affairs for selfish ends. The introduction of the Preventive Detention Act (PDA) to intimidate, arrest, and detain his political opponents was not welcomed by the Ghanaian masses, especially after Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah (1895–1965), his fierce political opponent, dubbed the doyen of Ghana politics, died in prison under the PDA; in fact, Nigeria’s President Nnamdi Azikiwe, who had urged Nkrumah to travel to the United States to study at his own alma mater (Lincoln University), publicly condemned Nkrumah when Danquah died.
Mwakikagile shows that the leaders of Ghana’s armed forces and the police were unhappy with many issues in Ghana. For instance, the elite military personnel of the President’s Own Guards had preferential treatment over the other officers, and the army lost forty-three soldiers in the Congo crisis, when Nkrumah sent an expedition to save the elected government of his friend, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, and avert an imminent civil war. The senior officers of the army blamed Nkrumah for an unnecessary and unjustified intervention in a foreign crisis. After the overthrow of Nkrumah’s government, the eight members of the ruling National Liberation Council were drawn from the top echelons of the police and army. [End Page 77]
Western countries, led by the United States, set out to “dominate and exploit African countries, and to neutralize leaders whom they considered to be hostile to American geopolitical and economic interests[,] which included keeping white minority regimes in power in the countries of southern Africa” (p. 19). Transparently, the cold war rivalry between the East and West played a role in the overthrow of several regimes in Africa. Nkrumah’s pan-African militancy and ideological alliances with socialist countries did not help his situation. Consequently, the United States was at the forefront of plans for his overthrow.
Successive American governments and their leaders have denied America’s direct involvement in Nkrumah’s overthrow, but declassified documents from the State Department have implicated the CIA. John Stockwell, a former CIA operative, wrote in his book, In Search of Enemies, that the CIA had not actively planned the overthrow of Nkrumah’s regime, but that it had encouraged the plotters, led by Colonel Emmanuel Kotoka. Mwakikagile indicates that the US embassy in Ghana and the State Department were secretly in touch with the plotters, and that Howard T. Bane, the CIA’s station chief in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, received a promotion after the coup, suspected to be compensation for a job well done.
Mwakikagile says that several of Nkrumah’s lieutenants who fell out of favor with him, including former Finance Minister K. A. Gbedemah, were puppets used by the American agents. Allegedly, an opposition ruling party leader was on the CIA payroll. US ambassador Franklin Williams, Nkrumah’s Lincoln University contemporary, denied involvement in the coup, despite Nkrumah’s accusation that he had been a...