Forty years ago this month (24 February 1966 to be precise), a coup d'etat in Ghana disrupted the country's (and by extension, Africa's) forward march. It was a day of veritable infamy, and, arguably, one of the darkest spots in the annals of the continent. 24 February 2006 marks exactly 40 years of that dishonourable event, and we at New African would want to concentrate the minds of the people of Africa--both at home and in the diaspora--on the lessons of that coup via this special report you are about to read.
We have assembled contributions from some eminent Africans and Africanists, including former presidents Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, the late Julius Nyerere of Tanzania (from his 1997 speech delivered in Accra at Ghana's 40th independence anniversary), June Milne, Nkrumah's former research and editorial assistant and later literary executrix, K. Addai-Sebo, the Ghanaian founder of Black History Month UK, Carina Ray (our Tales from the Archives columnist), Antonio de Figueiredo (our Lest we forget columnist) and last but not the least, an abridged version of Nkrumah's greatest speech ever delivered, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the founding conference of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in May 1965. Last month, the British chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, writing in The Guardian about the need for the G8 to "deliver the resources to prove that Making Poverty History was not a passing fashion", made a telling comment: "A century ago," he said, "people talked of 'what we could do to Africa'. Last century, it was 'what can we do for Africa'. Now in 2006, we must ask what the developing world, empowered, can do for itself."
Forty years ago, Africa, newly empowered by the wave of independence then sweeping the continent, was doing something for itself. That campaign was led by Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, a man who, in 2000, was voted by the BBC's African listeners as "The African of the century", and in 2004 by New African's worldwide readers as the "Second Greatest African" that ever lived.
Sadly, on 24 February 1966, the work of this African hero, the work that had inspired a continental drive for political liberation and economic empowerment, was cut short in a military coup organised (according to declassified documents released in recent years by the Americans and the British) by the CIA (with support from London) and delivered by local collaborators in Ghana. It was a serious setback...