Gold Coast to Ghana
First for sub-Saharan Africa
In the event it was African nationalists who took charge of events, starting in West Africa. People like K.B. Asante, former teacher and diplomat, who were educated and ambitious, also put their weight behind the independence movement.
The Gold Coast in the 1950s was a country with the highest level of education in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. The Gold Coast supplied many of the civil servants working in Nigeria. Gold Coast nationalists had campaigned for home rule before the Second World War. But it was Kwame Nkrumah who harnessed his leadership to the mood of the people.
Already in 1947 Nkrumah was a full-time politician, installed as General Secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention. He was imprisoned by the British for inciting people to revolt against the British but returned in 1948 and formed the more radical Convention People's Party, or CPP.
In 1951 he was imprisoned for inciting strikes. Later in the year, elections were held for a larger and newer Legislative Council, with Africans in the majority. The CPP won. Nkrumah was released. He negotiated a new constitution with the British and in 1954 he became Prime Minister. Independence was now on the cards and there was a sense of excitement abroad. Three years later he led his country to independence.
The touch-paper had been lit for the rest of Africa. In 1959 an independent Ghana hosted the Accra All African People's Conference. Hastings Banda and Kenneth Kaunda, among others, were there, ready to be inspired with the vision of a new political future for their countries: Nysaland (to become Malawi) and Northern Rhodesia (to become Zambia) respectively.
The path to independence in the Southern African states proved more problematic. The black majority was up against a white settler population who wanted independence. This minority was, in the main, hostile to majority rule.
At the same time the Portuguese refused to negotiate with the nationalist movements of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Sao Tome.
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