Ghana: politics of betrayal.
On 13 May 1972, at the elaborate state funeral held for Nkrumah in Conakry, Guinea, Amilcar Cabral, the charismatic leader of Guinea Bissau, seemed to sum it all up when he said in his powerful tribute to Nkrumah: "Nobody can tell us that Nkrumah died of a cancer of the throat or some other illness. No, Nkrumah was killed by the cancer of betrayal which we must uproot from Africa if we really want to bring about the final liquidation of imperialist domination from this continent ... As an African adage says, 'those who dare to spit at the sky only dirty their own faces' ... We, the liberation movements, will not forgive those who betrayed Nkrumah. The people of Ghana will not forgive. Africa will not forgive. Progressive mankind will not forgive. Let those who still have to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of Africa make haste to do so. It is not yet too late."
Incidentally, as part of the intrigue of betrayals, Cabral himself became a victim of a more sinister "cancer of betrayal" when he was assassinated in Conakry in January 1973, less than a year after his powerful speech.
In Nkrumah's exile years in Conakry, the "cancer of betrayal" metamorphosed into varied scenarios, including a 22 November 1970 attack by Portuguese warships full of mercenaries whose aim was to topple the Guinean government under President Sekou Toure and, possibly, seize Nkrumah, Toure and Cabral, the revolutionary trio.
As it were, Guinean forces repulsed the attack but, in the context of betrayal and disbelief, Nkrumah--who had been declared hale and hearty by Vietnamese, Russian and Chinese medical experts--died two years after the attack (from what is now believed to have been slow poisoning) and, a year after Nkrumah' death on 27 April 1972, Cabral was assassinated (in January 1973).
When Nkrumah arrived in Conakry on 2 March 1966, six days after his overthrow, he was made a co-president of Guinea by President Sekou Toure. As a benefactor of Guinea, to whom Nkrumah's government had given a loan of [pounds sterling]10m when the colonial master, France, in an immense seizure of pique, took away every movable object in the country because Guinea refused to become "second-class French citizens" and opted for independence, Nkrumah was seen by many Guineans as very deserving of the co-presidential honour bestowed on him at a large political rally in Conakry.
Additionally, Sekou Toure declared Nkrumah, his pan-Africanist brother, the co-secretary-general of the ruling PDG party. Nkrumah was also settled in Villa Syli, a comfortable government guest house near the sea, from where he worked on several books published in his exile years.
He had earlier lived temporarily in Belle Vue, another government guest house, but it was too small for him and the large presidential entourage which had accompanied him on his cancelled peace mission to Hanoi, Vietnam, during that country's protracted war with America.
From Conakry, Nkrumah made very strenuous but fruitless efforts to regain power in Ghana. The query has always been why he was unsuccessful? For example, the most serious effort to unseat the military junta that overthrew him--the National Liberation Council (NLC)--was the 17 April 1967 counter-coup by Lieutenants S. Arthur and M. Yeboah, in which General Emmanuel K. Kotoka, the NLC chairman, and some military officers were killed.
There were several other plots and counter-plots in Nkrumah's name, but as a result of varied levels of betrayals, none was successful. In the midst of all this, the Portuguese ships attacked on 22 November 1970 with the aim of seizing Sekou Toure, Nkrumah and Amilcar Cabral.
In an early morning assault, and relying on information from Guinea-based informants, the Portuguese attacks were directed at the Belle Vue (but Nkrumah was no longer living there) as well as the official presidential residence in Conakry, and another one housing Cabral. Guinean forces repulsed the attacks and several mercenaries were captured, including their alleged leader, one Captain Fernando.
In January 1971, the Guinean parliament was constituted into a People's Supreme Court for the trial of cabinet members, governors, military officers, political functionaries and some foreigners implicated in the attacks to overthrow Toure's government.
Meanwhile, Nkrumah became so seriously ill that he had to leave Guinea in August 1971 for Bucharest, Romania, for medical treatment. For security reasons, only two trusted Ghanaians and a Guinean official, Camara Sana, accompanied Nkrumah.
He was still in hospital in Bucharest when, on 13 January 1972, Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong overthrew Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia's government which had been elected into power in Ghana in 1969.
Nkrumah and his supporters wished that the coup leaders would extend an invitation for him to be brought back home, at least to die on Ghanaian soil. Instead, as reported in medical records, Nkrumah's cancer had spread in his body and he died very early in the morning of 27 April 1972. It was a sad day for Africa and pan-Africanism.
His remains were taken to Conakry on 30 April 1972 instead of Ghana. The funeral was held over two days (13-14 May). It was not until July 1972 that Acheampong's regime agreed to bring Nkrumah's remains to Ghana for re-burial at Nkroful, his hometown, in the Western Region, as Nkrumah had wished.
Acheampong acceded to conditions set by President Sekou Toure, among which was that Nkrumah would be given a state burial in Ghana. Therefore, on 7 July 1972, Nkrumah's remains were flown in a Guinean Air Force plane to Accra. The reburial took place two days later.
Many years later, during the government of President Jerry Rawlings, Nkrumah's remains were exhumed and finally buried in a new mausoleum in central Accra built on the spot where he had declared independence in 1957.
When Nkrumah settled down in Guinea, he busied himself with extensive reading, writing, studying French, and learning how to drive, all of which were, according to his supporters, part of the preparations towards regaining power in Ghana. Yet, all his efforts were aborted for various reasons, including sheer betrayal of his plans.
He continued to broadcast to Ghana, especially on independence anniversaries. He also wrote pamphlets, including Ghana: the Way Out (May 1968) in which he urged his fellow Ghanaians to eschew non-violent action and, now, resort to force to overthrow the NLC regime.
From London's Fleet Street, Douglas Rogers, editor of the Nkrumah-government owned Africa and the World monthly magazine was publishing very sophisticated analyses of the Ghanaian situation, interspersed with editorials for the overthrow of the NLC regime.
Panaf Books Limited, Nkrumah's publishing company, headed by June Milne as editor, was also housed at the 89 Fleet Street office of the magazine. Also, Ekow Eshun, the loyal London-based head of the overseas wing of Nkrumah's Convention People's. Party (CPP) was coordinating pro-Nkrumah activities from London to West African capitals.
Nkrumah also used diverse avenues in Nigeria and other West African nations to recruit journalists and other mobile professionals to help in his efforts to regain power. That was how some of us, as journalists, were recruited, but sadly many of us were betrayed by some leading CPP leaders who were working with us.
My older brother (Anthony Nelson Assensoh) was a district commissioner in Nkrumah' government; he treated the Ashanti Regional commissioner, R. O. Amoako-Atta, as an uncle. Under the influence of the two men, I assisted in the efforts to return Nkrumah to power, but we were badly betrayed.
In fact, between 1966 and 1972, the NLC (supported by its Western friends) actually worked hard to thwart Nkrumah's efforts to return to power. The junta severed diplomatic relations with Guinea for allowing Nkrumah sanctuary in Conakry. As I learnt, however, a friendly (pro-NLC) diplomatic mission in Conakry was used as an intelligence post to monitor Nkrumah's movements and his agents coming in and out of Guinea.
In the end, agents of Ghana's Special Branch (internal security unit attached to the Ghana Police Service) arrested me at the Aflao border between Ghana and Togo.
Ghanaian Foreign Service officers from the Research Bureau (the Foreign Ministry's intelligence unit) were posted to embassies in West Africa to monitor the activities of Nkrumah and his numerous agents.
He knew that the NLC was actively infiltrating his entourage, so he opened intelligence fronts in such capitals as Lagos (Nigeria), Monrovia (Liberia), Cotonou (Benin), Bamako (Mali) and Freetown (Sierra Leone). It was done as a deceptive tactic.
However, the NLC intelligence network, helped by Western intelligence agencies, was very strong. From 1969 to 1971, for example, the late Dr Hilla Limann (a top Research Bureau employee at the time) served as head of the chancellery at the Ghana embassy in Lome, Togo, with responsibility for intelligence and to checkmate pro-Nkrumah activities in Togo.
Ironically, in 1979, Limann was elected president of Ghana on the ticket of the People's National Party (PNP), an offshoot of Nkrumah's then banned CPP. How a man who worked against Nkrumah and the CPP could inherit his mantle and become president in the name of the CPP political tradition, is the question Nkrumah's followers in Ghana have failed to answer.
It was through the staunch NLC intelligence activities in Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Guinea run by people like Dr Limann that undermined Nkrumahs plans to return to power and continue the good work he had started.
At one point, Ekow Eshun was sent on a secret mission to Cotonou, Benin. Sadly, some top CPP leaders in Ghana who were working as double agents for the NLC leaked details of Eshun's trip to the military junta in Accra. Eshun duly flew to Cotonou and, like Boye Moses before him, was picked up by NLC agents who took him to Ghana and humiliated him publicly to serve as a lesson to other Nkrumah agents.
Some of us, serving Nkrumah's interests, were also picked up, thanks to the intensified Research Bureau activities in West Africa coordinated by Dr Limann and others.
That is why I often "smile" at the notion that, being very close to the late Alhaji Imoru Egala, simply meant that Limann, educated at the London School of Economics and La Sorbonne in Paris, was a staunch CPP personality. He was not!
It is true that Limann became the PNP presidential candidate through the influence of Nkrumah's former cabinet minister, Alhaji Imoru Egala, but those who knew Dr Limann's NLC connections insist that the Egala-Limann ethnic solidarity did not, in any way, make the former diplomat a true Nkrumah follower.
The NLC knew that once Nkrumah was alive and in exile in nearby Guinea, the military government could not be as safe as they wanted. The most logical thing, therefore, was to infiltrate Nkrumah's inner circle of former cabinet members and top CPP men and women.
Towards that end, the financial and property records of the ex-CPP men and women were examined. It showed that most of them lived in government-owned bungalows (or houses) at Kanda Estate in Accra.
Even as these CPP stalwarts were thrown into jail, their wives and families continued to live in the bungalows. The NLC threatened to evict them, and to save their families, many of the CPP leaders on whom Nkrumah counted for a return to power, became turncoats and assisted the NLC to thwart Nkrumah's efforts.
There was even the sad situation involving some CPP leaders who planned to establish a hotel in Accra to house Nkrumahs agents who infiltrated into Ghana. They asked Nkrumah for funds for the purpose, and thousands of dollars were reportedly sent through the diplomatic bag of the Malian embassy in Accra.
But when the Malian government, then headed by President Modibo Keita was overthrown in a coup d'etat, the NLC sent General Kwasi Amankwaah Afrifa (who later became the head of the NLC), to Mali to warn the new military junta there about its embassy's pro-Nkrumah activities in Accra.
In fact, several pro-Nkrumah agents were rounded up and either "neutralised" or murdered inside Ghana. It was unsafe to visit the new hotel that was opened in Accra with funds from Nkrumah. Allegedly, the hotel was called "The Date", which signalled "the date Kwame returns to Ghana, there would be jubilation".
When the records of the NLC intelligence services are declassified, researchers would know which CPP leaders worked for the NLC, including the men allegedly paid to have intelligence-related adulterous relationships with the wives of their detained colleagues (or "comrades", as they referred to them).
At one point, the NLC intelligence agencies and Research Bureau diplomats were monitoring every bit of information coming from Guinea. A diplomat once bragged: "Even when Nkrumah coughs in Guinea, we know it and why so."
Therefore, when Amilcar Cabral underscored the "cancer of betrayal" that had killed Nkrumah in 1972, it was neither a gainsaying nor an exaggeration. His words, indeed, shook many anti-Nkrumah elements as well as his treacherous political associates and fortune hunters who undermined his plans to regain power.
In hindsight, the former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, heaped blame on the perpetrators of the 1966 coup when in a New African article (published in February 2006), he wrote, inter alia: "I don't think we [Africans] will ever recover from the 1966 coup"!
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|Date:||Mar 1, 2007|
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