It is not a secret that for some time the West colluded with the military in Ghana to topple Kwame Nkrumah, who was the first leader of independent Ghana. And part of those plans entailed discrediting Kwame Nkrumah in the eyes of the public, rousing as much public discontent against him as possible. That meant deploying the weapon of propaganda.
If he could be tarnished in the eyes of both the Ghanaians and the international community, then no one would feel pity for him if a coup were to take place. After all, Ghana's economy had taken a downturn and Nkrumah had increasingly become authoritarian in frantic efforts to retain power and effect progress at the rate that he desired. So why not stage a coup? The plan was to provide a fertile ground to make Nkrumah the bad guy as much as possible.
Kwame Nkrumah's anti-American stance had made his relationship with the United States a whole lot strained. The West was never a fan of Nkrumah's rhetoric. He leaned towards the Soviet Union and the threat of communism had to be contained, and thwarted. This meant one thing - removing Nkrumah from power. And the opportune time for a coup to happen was in February 1966 when Nkrumah was on his way to a peace-making mission in Vietnam. He had been persuaded by the United States and the United Kingdom to go for peace talks in Vietnam even though they knew Nkrumah's efforts would be futile. He just had to be out of the country.
But in 1965, efforts to have him out of the picture had already gained traction. The Daily Express, a UK publication, published photographs of people shackled in chains purported to be political prisoners in Ghana. These photographs were published on 17 March 1965. The intention was clear - do as much damage to Nkrumah's public image as possible.
These photographs had a caption that read, "Shackled together like slaves of a bygone era—Ghana politicians and Opposition Party officials in a Ghanaian prison." Ernest Gogry, the paper's correspondent in Lome (Togo's capital), had one message. "These men shackled together in a Ghana prison camp are members of Ghana's loyal Opposition. Among them are politicians and officials of the Opposition United Party and leading citizens who have been critical of the regime of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana”.
The Daily Express did not have any kind words, but had words that were meant to elicit anguish only as in its editorial it said, "The other African members of the Commonwealth should rise in anger against Nkrumah. They can count on the support of all in this country who believe in justice and decency."
All of this was a clever machination by the Western media meant to incite other international leaders to be against Kwame Nkrumah. These photographs were not genuine. It was later exposed by AFP at that time that the images that had been published had originated from Togo. These were images that had been used to show the oppression in Togo under President Sylvanus Olimpio. The photographs were taken in January 1963 in Togo after the Olimpio's government had been overthrown. The coup victors had released prisoners and paraded them in chains and took photographs as a form of propaganda against the Olimpio regime. They had to show the evils committed by Olimpio.
When the Daily Express had learnt this much earlier, they refused to retract the images. It took time for them to see that what they did was blatantly wrong. The Daily Express had been hell bent on using these images because of the assurance they got from Ghanaian opposition politicians.
The editor of the Daily Express said, "On March 26 the Daily Express quoted the Press officer of the United Party of Ghana, who named two members of the detainees in the picture and identified them as members of his party known to him and still in a Ghanaian prison. He added that the photograph had been taken within 24 hours of the arrest of the prisoners”.
It all goes back to one thing - painting Kwame Nkrumah in a bad light. The United Party kept insisting the images were authentic when that was not the case. It was a well crafted ploy to discredit Kwame Nkrumah in the eyes of the Ghanaians and the international community at large.
Header image credit - Face2face Africa