....to JusticeGhana Group

 Welcome to JusticeGhana

JusticeGhana is a Non-Governmental [and-not-for- profit] Organization (NGO) with a strong belief in Justice, Security and Progress....” More Details

Human Rights, Individual Freedoms and Democracy in Ghana- The Preventive Detention Act and After - Nkrumah’s Commitment to Dictatorship

Kwame Nkrumah’s Preconceived Commitment to Dictatorship

It may bear repetition that Kwame Nkrumah did not enact or apply the Preventive Detention Act in response to any domestic threats or for fear of attacks on his life or his person. If he feared anything, it was that he dreaded the prospect that the citizens of a free Ghana might one day exercise their franchise to vote him out of power. He anticipated this even when Ghana was still struggling to attain nationhood. The pseudo-communists and fellow travellers who surrounded him were men who had no penchant for the ballot box or admiration for electoral politics.

As has been noted above, when he founded THE CIRCLE, Kwame Nkrumah ensured that he was to remain the unelected Head of that organisation for life. In pursuit of that, every person who joined THE CIRCLE was obligated to swear personal allegiance to Kwame Nkrumah. When he founded the Convention People’s Party in 1949, while professing to liberate Ghana to usher the nation into freedom, he made himself the Life Chairman of the Party. That meant that his position as Party Leader could never be contested.

It was obviously the plan of Kwame Nkrumah that upon attainment of Independence by Ghana, when the restraining hands of the colonial government would have been discarded, he would be absolute ruler of our country forever. In fact, he intended to rule for life; but as he cultivated the cult of personality which proclaimed that “Nkrumah never dies,” the expressions “for life” and “forever” could have been regarded by him as having only semantic distinctions without a difference of substance. He exhibited enough dictatorial tendencies in the pre-Independence era. Such tendencies accounted for the apprehensions of the opposition leaders, including Baffuor Osei Akoto, the Asantehene’s Chief Linguist, in asking for constitutional guarantees for personal liberty and human rights in the Independence Constitution. Unfortunately, the British Colonial Government could not appreciate the enormity of the danger looming over the people of the Gold Coast as they approached their Independence. Consequently the Imperial Power bequeathed to Ghana a brief document of a Constitution which was totally bereft of any protection for human rights and personal liberties.

Based on the evidence and the exhibited proclivities of the man Kwame Nkrumah, as well as his own pronouncements, it cannot be disputed that Nkrumah’s plan was to impose dictatorship on Ghana right from the date of nationhood. Any attempt to explain away Nkrumah’s dictatorship by blaming the opposition for physical attacks on Nkrumah are nothing but exhibition of hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty, often wrapped in naked lies. The facts to the contrary are glaring.

What was probably not fully appreciated at the time was Kwame Nkrumah’s own statement on the type of government he envisaged for Ghana. His words are clear and do not admit of any obfuscation. No amount of casuistry can distort Nkrumah’s own declaration of manifest preference for a dictatorial regime. Following are the words of Kwame Nkrumah on the eve of Ghana’s Independence, before he proclaimed himself the “Osagyefo.” He wrote in the Preface to his autobiography:

“But even a system based on social justice and a democratic constitution may need backing up, during the period following independence, by emergency measures of a totalitarian kind.”

At the eve of Independence, when power had not been fully transferred to Ghana as a sovereign nation, Nkrumah published his autobiography in which he did say unequivocally that he would rely on “measures of a totalitarian kind” to rule Ghana. This was in March 1957. It is intellectually dishonest, to say the least, that the Kulungugu bomb attack on Nkrumah in August, 1962, was the reason why the Preventive Detention Act was enacted in1958. That is a ridiculous statement and a shameless manipulation of the facts of history. Before the Kulungugu bomb attack in 1962, the notorious Preventive Detention Act was in force and many citizens had been victims of that pernicious legislation. Before 1962, Dr. Danquah had been detained and then released under the Act for the first time. Baffuor Osei Akoto and others were in detention before 1962. Mr. S.G. Antor of the Togoland Congress, an affiliate of the opposition United Party, was languishing in prison without trial, long before 1962.The passage of the notorious Preventive Detention Act in 1958, barely a year after Independence, was part of the declared master plan of Kwame Nkrumah to turn Ghana into a totalitarian state. He did not need any prompting or pretext to adopt such an evil system which he very well knew would spell doom for our young nation.

Now let us look briefly at Nkrumah’s own choice of words. He proclaimed that, following independence, there would be the need for measures of a totalitarian kind. He did not mince his words and we must understand them as he used them. He wanted a totalitarian regime for Ghana in the period following Independence.

Nkrumah knew the difference between a democratic regime and a totalitarian one. That is why he asserted his clear view that even if Ghana had a democratic constitution, there would still be the need for totalitarian measures. Certainly totalitarian measures are incompatible with democratic rule. Nkrumah, at least for once, was stating that even if there was a democratic constitution, he would subvert that constitution to impose totalitarian rule. The process was easier for Nkrumah because the Independence Constitution of 1957 could hardly be said to be democratic. It contained no Articles to protect fundamental human rights like the liberty of the person, freedom of speech or of association, freedom of the press or right of access to the courts. Instead the 1957 Constitution merely gave Kwame Nkrumah a carte blanche by a meaningless provision that the Parliament of Ghana was endowed with power to make laws for “order and good government.” Whatever that nebulous phrase meant, in Nkrumah’s terminology, which was animated by the desire for totalitarianism, the passage of an Act, such as the Preventive Detention Act, which empowered him to indefinitely imprison his fellow human beings without trial, was an Act in furtherance of “order and good government.”

Nkrumah liked to portray himself as an intellectual. In any case, he professed to have read some political science and some philosophy. He had also read some law, although he failed his law examinations. Therefore, we can presume that he knew the difference between an authoritarian state and a totalitarian state. That is why his choice of words in the admonition to Ghanaians in his autobiography is significant.

An authoritarian state is one in which basic freedoms of dissent are severely curtailed. Those in authority, or clothed with power under the organs of government, utilisse arbitrary powers to ensure obedience of the citizenry to the state. In whatever form, the distinguishing feature of an authoritarian state is that state power is used, or abused, usually accompanied by the invocation of force, to ensure obedience to the authority of the state. Usually these are right-wing governments which intimidate the citizens, often by raising the specter of the fear of communism, in order to perpetuate themselves in power. They profess democracy but with restrictive and repressive laws which do not allow for basic human rights and fundamental freedoms. Political authority is, therefore, concentrated in a small group of people. It is not desirable to live in an authoritarian state. However, it is worse in a totalitarian state of the type that had an appeal for Kwame Nkrumah.

In contrast, a totalitarian state is one where there are no laws but the authority of those who would be holding power would constitute the law. In this system, there is no limit to the exercise of power by the ruler. Since it is antidemocratic, the ruler may have unlawfully seized power. In many cases, as in Nkrumah’s Ghana, the rulers ascend to power through regular or democratic elections, but subsequently subvert the organs of state or the democratic processes to impose their will. The ruler’s will is typically imposed by the proscription of other political parties and groups, in order to create the atmosphere and conditions for domination by one group. The Pocket Oxford Dictionary defines totalitarianism as a One-Party form of government requiring complete subservience to the State. Totalitarian regimes are usually sustained in power by all-encompassing propaganda campaigns. They utilise state-controlled media, regulate and control speech, have widespread resort to terror, charismatic “mystique” and personality cult. It would appear that the concept of totalitarianism was developed in a real sense by the Italian fascists led in about 1923 by Benito Mussolini, one of the political philosophers who won Nkrumah’s admiration.

Some believe that Mussolini coined the term totalitario in the Italian, to encapsulate the new fascist state system of Italy. This definition must sound familiar to Ghanaians. From the Preventive Detention Act which was indiscriminately used as a legal instrument of state terrorism, Nkrumah completed the cycle by formally declaring Ghana a one-party state in 1964. Thus the avowed policy of Nkrumah’s rule was to effectuate what he had said in his Autobiography at the eve of Ghana’s Independence. It was to subject Ghana to a totalitarian rule. It was a plan hatched from the beginning, before actual Independence, and implemented according to and in fulfillment of a grand design. We need not blame anybody for subsequent events but Nkrumah himself. It was not because of violence by the opposition parties or any attack on Kwame Nkrumah. The fact is that Nkrumah failed to learn the lessons of history that dictators often end in grief. In his case, it is hypocritical to blame the American Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) or other foreign powers for his fall.

Ghanaians were fed up with his repression. In his sober moments Nkrumah himself must have seen the hollowness of his sloganeering and repression as leading only to the inevitability of his removal from office by a coup d’etat. Having closed all avenues for democratic change, he must have known that change would come out of the barrel of the gun. He must have been a fool if he did not see the inexorability of his eventual removal from power through extra-legal means. Those who care should read what the newspapers published and contained in the days and weeks soon after Nkrumah’s overthrow in February, 1966, to assess the feelings of Ghanaians when that anticipated event occurred. The C.I.A. could not have gone to places like Hohoe to organise men and women, including ordinary farmers and market women, who demonstrated spontaneous joy and relief upon the fall of Nkrumah’s totalitarian regime.

Of course, Nkrumah’s totalitarian plans for Ghana were echoed by one of his trusted but vocal ministers less than a year after Independence. Soon after the return of Kwame Nkrumah from the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in London, one of his trusted ministers, Mr. Krobo Edusei, who had accompanied him to that Conference, spoke. He told the press that Kwame Nkrumah had met the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Pandit Nehru, who had offered him advice as Prime Minister of an older Commonwealth nation. According to Mr. Krobo Edusei, Mr. Nehru had advised Nkrumah to get tough with the opposition parties by tackling and muzzling them with repressive legislative measures to curb the rising influence of the opposition political parties. Later Mr. Krobo Edusei was heard putting a spin on his own words, and the C.P.P. propaganda machinery joined in the fray. Nevertheless, the substance of the prospects of a future repression were not denied nor dispelled. The events which followed showed that Mr. Krobo Edusei spoke at least part of the truth. Even if Nehru did not give such a bad advice, Kwame Nkrumah had, to the knowledge of Mr. Krobo Edusei, planned repression in Ghana. Soon after the return from the London conference, a series of repressive laws was enacted. This started from the Deportation Act, 1957 , which was used to deport even persons claiming to be Ghanaians and thus immune from deportation, just because they were suspected of loyalty to the opposition parties.



 1000 Characters left

Antispam Refresh image Case sensitive

JusticeGhana Group *All Rights Reserved © 2007-2013*Privacy Policy