West Africa is not a tourist hot spot, I know, but there is something about the region which is unique and thoroughly worthwhile. As an introduction to the region you could choose probably one of three countries – Senegal, Cameroon or Ghana. Ghana is a relatively easy country to get into the swing of. It provides a bit of adventure, some cool vibes, a bit of history – Ghana was one of the first West African nations to become independent and elect a President.
Kwame Nkrumah not only led the push for independence in the late 1950s, but was President from 1960 to 1966. He passed away in 1972. He was a figurehead for independence in the region and is honoured by a statue, park and small museum in the Ghanaian capital of Accra. He was also Prime Minister before that. You can also visit his house in Accra.
As has been the cases in a number of African nations, independence came with political unrest. Nkrumah responded by banning tribal-based parties. In fact, one thing that he fought was tribalism in his home country. He also fought for education, and was a proponent of pan-Africanism. He promoted it in Ghana, and began several infrastructure projects including libraries and other initiatives to help people study history and culture. In short, he turned focus on African ideals, approaches and rejected a colonised history. He also created a union of African States, all in the West African region, and he fought for Africa and Africans on the world stage.
But as is often the case, he was deposed. He lived the rest of his life as honorary co-President of Guinea (Conarky) up until his death in 1972. A firm socialist, he went to Bucharest to fight prostate cancer late, but succumbed to it in April of that year.
No doubt Ghana and many African nations got caught up in a push and pull game as part of the Cold War, especially in the 1950s – early 1970s. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one such country, with the socialist Lumumba kicked out in favour of Mobutu who was backed by the States. But it was people such as Lumumba and Nkrumah who chiefly strove to create an Africa and African nations that were independent and embraced the continent they inhabit.
Today, as I said, you can see a monument or two in Ghana to Nkrumah. No doubt with the good, there was also bad in the things he did and they ways he maintained power.
Accra is a growing, vibrant city these days, and a testament to a vision of someone who was surely a visionary, and an inspiration and leader to so many not just in Ghana or West Africa, but Africa itself. A visit to Ghana and its capital surely must be combined with learning about this important and vital person.
So, if you do head to Ghana, take some time to visit his house and museum, and learn a little more than just the small tidbits I’ve offered up today. Thanks for reading, and May the Journey Never End!