Manual The Quills of the Porcupine: Asante Nationalism in an Emergent Ghana

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Publication Statistics Publication History Send us a comment. About VIAF. Fathering, mothering and making sense of 'ntamoba': reflections on the economy of child-rearing in colonial Asante. Their successors, in the s—s, brought new interpretive tools to the study of decolonization, including dependency theory, in order to make sense of the contemporary realities of political instability and economic underdevelopment.

Keywords: decolonization , independence , nationalism , nations , national liberation , Second World War , Cold War. Hexter Professor in the Humanities and chairs the History Department.

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Sharpeville radicalized Nkrumah himself. In early , his faith in the 'Ghana-ian' model of decolonization was already beginning to sour. In Nkrumah's mind, as the so-called 'Year of Africa' began to take shape, political compromise and negotiation were proving too uncertain a path to the political independence the Ghanaian leader desired. This was particularly evident in his view of Francophone Africa, where Nkrumah believed that a set of puppet governments controlled from Paris were subverting the nationalist ambitions of the countries' 'true' anti-colonial parties. As a result, questions of neo-colonialism, foreign subversion, sabotage and political infiltration dominated the Nkrumahist scene in the first years of the new decade.

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In response to this uncertain future, the Nkrumah administration intensified its policing of political dissidents and began its exploration into the possibilities and promise of the one-party state. The shifts in Ghanaian domestic and foreign policy did not go unnoticed by South African expatriates in Accra, or in their offices across the continent.

Among the ANC elite, few felt comfortable with the changes taking place in their West African host country. Furthermore, many chided, if not outright ridiculed, the cult of personality that was developing around Nkrumah. Despite periodic frustrations with the Ghanaian establishment, the PAC retained its commitment to the Ghanaian anti-colonial scene.

Unfortunately for the South African 'Africanists' though, the freighter never arrived at its destination on the Transkei coast as, according to former PAC activist Bernard Leeman, it was widely believed to have been sold for profit by a corrupt PAC official prior to its arrival. The foundation of the Ghanaian-PAC relationship was a shared worldview.

Throughout the continent, Nkrumah preached the edict of 'Africa for Africans'. Both South African parties surely agreed with this principle, yet the PAC articulated its demands in a way that resonated more forcefully with the Nkrumahist administration. Having little experience with the phenomenon of 'the settler', the question of who was 'African' was clear from the perspective of Accra; the 'African' in South Africa was black; even the South African Coloured community's position remained ambiguous in the Ghanaian imagination.

More to the point though, Afrikaner, English and other Europeans' claims to an 'African-ness' were suspect at best for the Ghanaians and, in terms of the country's 'decolonization', had to remain understated. The ANC may not have disagreed, yet the more nuanced, multi-racial approach it took to the South African situation fell on deaf ears in a radicalizing Ghana as the Nkrumah regime failed to appreciate the social and racial dimensions of what a liberated South Africa would look like.


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The PAC, in contrast, offered a clearer view of a future South Africa, at least from the perspective of Accra, as it combined an unabashed pan-African racial philosophy with a willingness to speak to questions of neo-colonialism and even tolerate the at times unpleasant steps required to fight against it at home and abroad. Even as the PAC - like its ANC rivals - shifted its political gaze towards the extra-metropolitan hotspots of the southeast, the PAC maintained and continued to cultivate its relationship with the Accra government up until the coup overthrowing the Nkrumah regime.

Ghana, South African and Southern Rhodesia. From the perspective of Accra, the post-Sharpeville world required a new, more forceful approach to not only the South African problem, but that of all of southern Africa. Inside South Africa, the apartheid government responded to the incident in Sharpeville with a radical crackdown on African political activities in the country. Those who remained often became embroiled in leadership disputes and personal conflicts that threatened the continued viability of the anti-apartheid movement, particularly within the PAC.

As Scott Thomas argues, by March the remaining ANC leadership had realized that, with the PAC's persistent attempts 'to vilify[] and belittl[e]' the movement, the alliance proved un-sustainable. According to Thomas, it was generally felt that the PAC simply needed the time and space to assert its own identity on the political stage. On the continental level, worries over apartheid's possible spread grew. In South West Africa, for instance, a search for more efficient methods by which to control the mandate's African population paved the way for a new set of ethnically and racially engineered land reform projects in the early and mids.

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The so-called 'March of 7,' from Highfield to Salisbury had elicited a vitriolic reaction from the Southern Rhodesian government, leading to the passage of the Law and Order Maintenance Act later that year. Not only did the Act promise to bring multi-year imprisonments to those engaged in nearly all forms of political protest, the Act also gave the Attorney-General the right to appeal for harsher punishments if he saw fit.

Additionally, under the Act's provisions, the Minister of Justice gained the authority to indiscriminately ban publications, while the police could now disrupt public gatherings without cause and arrest their attendees. A year later, with the formation and election of the secessionist Rhodesian Front RF , white Rhodesians again sought to reset the terms of the debate as they now shifted their emphasis from the protection of the minority-led government to the pursuit of white-led self-rule.

According to Ian Smith, 'A political awareness had suddenly gripped Rhodesians [in late ], as there was a general feeling that the hour had come, and that if they did not arouse themselves they were going to lose their country altogether'. Ghanaian interest in the Rhodesian Question dated back to at least , when Joshua Nkomo presented the Rhodesian cause to the AAPC and served on the conference's steering committee. In the BAA, for instance, Ndabaningi Sithole emerged as a prominent writer for Voice of Africa, where he commented on issues ranging from questions over the limited viability of a continued, strict reliance on non-violence in the Rhodesian struggle to discussions of the potential benefits of the one-party apparatus in Africa - a pet project of Nkrumah's in the early s.

In the Rhodesian instance, though, the Ghanaian action was likely less ideological than personal in that prominent ZANU leaders, including Sithole and S. Politically active herself, Hayfron, who left Ghana for Rhodesia prior to her marriage, only returned to her home country in so as to avoid arrest after attempting to organize women against the settler regime.

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As with other exile and expatriate communities in Ghana, the Rhodesian nationalists coloured Nkrumah's and his administration's understanding of the evolving crisis in the territory. Echoing other African leaders and governments, Nkrumahist officials regularly painted the crisis as an internationalization of apartheid politics. In the international arena, Alex Quaison-Sackey often led the way.

Speaking in , for instance, Quaison-Sackey - the leading Ghanaian diplomat to the United Nations -utilized his position in New York to construct a narrative surrounding Rhodesia that connected what he portrayed as British and settler duplicity in the colony to the ever-changing nature of capitalist imperialism on the continent. According to Quaison-Sackey, through the 'farce' of the Constitution, both the governments of Whitehall and Salisbury had proven that they desired little more than to 'turn the territory into another South Africa'.

The goal of the Ghanaians was to pressure the British into re-establishing direct control over the territory - a policy not seen since - and committing the colony to an accelerated path to majority rule. British officials, for their part, were torn about how to proceed.

The Ghanaian criticism frustrated them, partly because it increased Nkrumah's international prestige at a time when many in Britain and the United States increasingly sought to isolate him due to his presumed and real sympathies with their Cold War rivals: the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent China.

Additionally, settler politics disrupted British ambitions for the territory. Under Smith, the RF would only amplify its demands for immediate independence, while, as Sue Onslow has shown, also secretly build up South African support for its bid for self-government. At precisely 1. The action was not entirely unexpected. Observers in Africa and Great Britain had been anticipating some form of proclamation for months. Among other sanctions, he also announced the termination of all aid to the new 'state' and its removal from the sterling zone.

Furthermore, Wilson immediately dispatched his Foreign Minister to New York who insisted that the United Nations take up the issue on the following day.


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  • As might be expected, the continental reaction to the Rhodesian UDI was one of outrage. In Accra, the Organization of African Unity OAU had just concluded its meeting of heads of state, which had included virulent denunciations of both the British and settler governments when the Rhodesian announcement was made.

    For those in the Nkrumah administration, the UDI only confirmed their beliefs. Thus, as they searched for a response to the Rhodesian action, Nkrumah, among others in the radical contingent of the OAU, demanded nothing less than military intervention. For in its statement on the UDI, the Ghanaians welcomed the involvement of the Security Council in the Rhodesian crisis, yet chided the British for limiting the Council's actions to economic sanctions and for its past indifference in regards to the situation in its territorial possession.

    Two weeks later in the Ghanaian National Assembly, Nkrumah continued his assault on British and Security Council sanctions, portraying them as 'unrealistic' and as an economic burden on the independent African states that neighboured Rhodesia.


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    As a result and in anticipation of potential military action against the Rhodesian settlers, the Ghanaian armed forces were ordered to cancel all military leave beginning on 26 November and soldiers were told to prepare 'for any military eventuality'. Over the next two and a half weeks, Ghana's relations with Britain soured rapidly.

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    By the first week of December, key Ghanaian embassies in central and eastern Africa were reporting to Accra about growing numbers of 'nationalists Scott Thompson perhaps patronizingly describes as a 'gust of emotion', the OAU's Council of Ministers passed a resolution demanding that, if Britain did not quell the rebellion in Rhodesia by 15 December, the governments of the independent states of Africa would cut diplomatic ties with London.

    Nkrumah, along with Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, were the only African heads of state to honour the OAU's resolution and break diplomatic relations with Britain. At the time, it appeared to be a tragic end to a transcontinental relationship that dated back to the mid-nineteenth century. More importantly, in Ghana, it signalled the culmination of an anti-western worldview that had its origins in the aftermath of Sharpeville as well as in the concomitant escalation of the French-Algerian War and the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.

    By the time of the Rhodesian UDI in late , Nkrumah was no longer willing to put his faith in an international community controlled by what he deemed to be neo-colonial interests. The usefulness of this community, Nkrumah argued, had run its course and he and the Ghanaian people would now be forced to set their sights elsewhere - towards a locale and international model yet to be determined.

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    The search for this international alternative, however, was short lived. By the end of February , Nkrumah and his government would be overthrown in an American-supported military coup led by soldiers who, at least in part, were protesting their potential deployment to Rhodesia. The new military government was quick to re-establish diplomatic relations with Britain and repair its ties with the United States.

    Meredith Terretta has recently described Accra under Nkrumahist rule as a key site for 'extra-metropolitan' cosmopolitanism in the late s and early s.