From our Files: Africans Cheer Ghana Freedom: Parliament Meets

Today marks the 55th anniversary of Ghana's Independence Day, as the former British colony became the first black African country to achieve independence from colonial rule. In March 1957, Monitor reporter John Hughes was writing on location in Ghana. He describes a jubilant and hopeful scene as the former Gold Coast became a new nation, named Ghana after an ancient African kingdom.

-Emily Powers, Monitor Library

Russell H. Lenz, Chief Cartographer
A hand-drawn map from the Monitor's archive of West Africa in 1957.
Ghana Information Services, Crown Copyright Reserved
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was the first Prime Minister of Ghana and negotiated its independence from Great Britain. He later became Ghana's first President before losing power in a coup in 1966.

Originally published Wednesday, March 6, 1957.

     For hours the crowds had seethed excitedly outside Parliament. Inside as the hands of the clock drew near midnight, Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah tied up the final business of the Gold Coast in a speech to his legislators.
    At the moment of midnight the clamor of hooters and sirens blended with a great roar from the mob. In a rush and a flurry Dr. Nkrumah was whisked bobbing on the shoulders of his supporters to a platform among his people. On his head was his white cap embroidered with the initials P.G. for "prison graduate," commemorating his sentence by the British for sedition.
    Then came that incredible moment when, with face glistening with tears and sweat under the photographers' floodlamps, weeping quietly with emotion, he called for the national anthem of the new nation whose freedom was at last fulfilled.

Parliament Meets

    In this manner in the early hours of March 6 was born the new independent state of Ghana, first African member of the British Commonwealth.
    This was not only Dr. Nkrumah's hour, though. It was also the hour of Great Britain to whose initiative in developing Ghana from primitive jungle Dr. Nkrumah paid tribute at this time.
    Thus another British colony had come to full independence. And just a few hours later Communist delegations for whom no such similar freedom from Soviet domination looms saw Prime Minister Nkrumah, now in complete charge of his own country, drive back to the Parliament building to attend the first meeting of the new Ghana national Parliament.
  [The Associated Press reports: President Eisenhower saluted the government and people of Ghana March 5 and the State Department officially announced United States recognition of the new African state.]
    Pledging himself anew to the British Commonwealth link, Dr. Nkrumah told his guests that Britain had recognized the realities of the situation in his country and accordingly, “instead of that feeling of bitterness which is often born of a colonial struggle we enter our independence in association with Britain and with, good relations unimpaired."
    One of the main questions stemming from Ghana’s independence is,' “Can its African peoples so new to Western civilization make it work?” Dr. Nkrumah showed himself well aware of the implications surrounding this issue when he said “our most important contribution to the movement for the independence of colonial people will be the force of our example."

Future Watched Closely

    “If we can make a success of our endeavors it will be demonstrated that a former tropical African colonial territory is as capable of conducting its own affairs as any country. But if we fail, showing ourselves disunited, inefficient, or corrupt, then we shall have gravely harmed all those millions in Africa who look to us.”
    Many problems face Ghana but this awareness that the world is watching its progress and Dr. Nkrumah’s tremendous pride in showing that his people can govern efficiently are perhaps the strongest factors diminishing any chance of failure.
    Addressing the last meeting of the Gold Coast legislative assembly before midnight, Dr. Nkrumah set out some of the policies which his government is to follow. Against a background of calypsos and music from the crowds dancing and waiting outside, he announced that he would himself assume the ministerial portfolios of defense and external affairs.
    Ghana, he said, would remain within the Commonwealth as long as the Commonwealth stood by democratic and peaceful solution of its common problems. His government would not be aligned with any particular group of powers or bloc, but on the other hand it did not intend to become neutralist but to preserve its independence to act as it seemed best at any particular time.

UN Membership Sought

    Ghana hoped to join the United Nations and would welcome foreign investment. In order to attract foreign capital, Ghana must reconsider the whole of its commercial and company law and fiscal policy generally to avoid penalizing foreign investors under the current taxation system.
    Hinting at the influence of Ghana’s independence on other African countries, Dr. Nkrumah declared his country would assist all African peoples in their pursuit of freedom and social progress.
    Today, new Ghana stamps bearing Dr. Nkrumah’s portrait are on sale in the post offices and shortly Ghana’s own money will replace the British West African currency now in use. Passports are being printed, embassies established overseas, and the many other changes which must come about with nationhood are being put into effect. When the holidays end March 7 the writhing congas of people which were going full steam till an early hour March 6 will have dispersed, the flags and bunting will start coming down, and Ghana must shoulder the workaday responsibilities it assumed with independence.

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