The moments that came just after the coup had unfolded took him by surprise. He did not expect to leave power in that way.
Kwame Nkrumah is one of Africa's greatest visionaries and Pan-Africanists who gave hope to the continent, who empowered the people of Africa to assert their worth by demanding independence from the European colonialists. He was fearless, determined, and bent on achieving universal independence for Africa. As he stayed in power, he grew despotic, exhibiting various traits of authoritarian rule, while the economy of Ghana was on a free-fall. He acquired enemies in the process who were keen on wresting power from him.
From being a darling, the detest and resentment towards Kwame Nkrumah led to him being deposed via a military coup. Ghana's coup at that time was symptomatic of the flaws in the newfound independence and 'democracy' for Africa. The opportunity that Nkrumah presented, unknowingly to his enemies was fully exploited and he suffered because of that.
The moments that came just after the coup had unfolded took him by surprise. He did not expect to leave power in that way. Nkrumah went on a visit to China in 1966, with China's status as Africa's friend being a trigger for drastic action especially from America's Central Intelligence Authority (CIA). China's premier at that time was Zhou Enlai, and he was eager to meet the pioneer of black independence, Kwame Nkrumah.
On February 24 1966, as Nkrumah was arriving in China, Ghana had decided to get rid of him. The coup plotters waited for Nkrumah to leave before he was overthrown. Zhou Enlai knew the coup had already happened, and pondered on how to deliver such unfortunate news to Nkrumah. It was a difficult diplomatic problem to handle.
When Nkrumah got into China, he received a warm welcome from Zhou, and he was accompanied to the state Guesthouse. As they all settled in the reception room, Zhou Enlai calmly delivered the news of the coup to Nkrumah, handing him the message from the foreign news agency.
Nkrumah had a hard time accepting and handling the news, and he failed to believe it initially. He simply could not come to terms with reality. When he read the telegraph, the hand trembled, but he was very calm. And on this, he then mentioned the name of General Kotoka, without any knowledge that it was Akwesi Amankwaa Afrifa who masterminded the coup.
He was struck with great incredulity because he also thought that perhaps it was Western propaganda with an aim to overthrow him. When the news of the coup was now firmly confirmed, the huge delegation of 90 people that followed Nkrumah fell apart, since no one was now willing to work with a government in exile. Hectic, really.
It was all over for Nkrumah, the man who had delivered Ghana from the claws of brutal colonialism. The Ghana embassy in China also expressed its position to Western journalists and announced its allegiance to the new Ghanaian military government. It was all baffling for Nkrumah, but it was the reality prevailing. He was now an ex-president of Ghana.
Nkrumah had no knowledge that the coup had the strong, grim backing from America's CIA, so at first he sent the accompanying foreign ministers to attend the meeting of the Organization of African Unity in the Ethiopian capital and told the world that he is still the legitimate leader of Ghana. Upon knowing the CIA's role in this, he finally relented and decided to leave Ghana's political affairs, committing to focusing on his future instead, which was pretty much uncertain at the point.
Sekou Toure, Guinea's leader, was willing to accommodate Nkrumah. So Nkrumah left Beijing for Guinea, and from that he never returned to Ghana till the time of his death in 1972, while receiving a treatment for an illness in Romania.
Header image credit: Modern Ghana
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