The 60th anniversary of Ghana’s Republican status also happens to coincide with the 60th anniversary celebrations of the independence of seventeen African countries.
60 years on, the dream of the founders of various nations across the continent, and independence fighters, for a new African and a united Africa to resist the oppressor’s rule, looks to have been too herculean a task to surmount. It also happens that in recent times, the brotherly solidarity and cooperation that was characteristic of the independence struggle has waned.
After a long battle for independence, 1960 was characterised as the “Year of Africa”, as 17 countries on the continent gained independence from colonial masters. It was thought to be the beginning of a series of events that would transform the continent over the next few decades.
With the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia coming three years later in 1963, the spirit of Pan-Afrikanism, championed by Ghanaian President Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Tanzania leader Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was thought to be the fresh start into a better future for the newly independent African countries.
A republic is a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch. Thus, Ghana got total control of her affairs after July 1, 1960, with Nkrumah being ‘elevated’ from Prime Minister to President.
Nkrumah in lightning the perpetual flame on Republic Day in 1960 said, “This flame which we are about to light will not only enshrine the spirit of the Republic of Ghana, but will also provide a symbol for the African freedom fighters of today and tomorrow. We shall draw inspiration from this perpetual flame for the struggle of African emancipation.”
60 years after the “Year of Africa” and almost the same time since the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Pan-Afrikanism, national sovereignty and the total independence of Africa from all forms of foreign rule seems to be at a declining state.
The ambition of the founders of the OAU, which was to create a continent that in the words of Kwame Nkrumah, “can show the world that the African when given the opportunity can manage his own affairs” has seen some benefits, but many more insurmountable challenges.
With Ghana attaining independence in 1957, the country became a pace setter and one to look up to for inspiration towards the struggle for independence. It was even nicknamed “the Gateway to Africa.” With Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah successfully leading the charge as Prime Minister, a trip to Ghana became a pilgrimage for freedom fighters, pan-Africanist and others in the struggle against colonialism and oppression worldwide.
Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, Malcom X and W.E.B. Du Bois came to Ghana. Maya Angelou came to Ghana. And Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Mboya among others also came to Ghana as Nkrumah hosted in Accra the first Pan-African congress on African soil, the All African Peoples Congress, in 1958. Ghana attained the status of a big brother.
Six decades later, Ghana’s role as the big brother has waned. It is still a shining example in diaspora relations, welcoming back home brothers and sisters from the diaspora. With programs such as the annual PANAFEST and the recently held “Year of Return” among others, the country still offers the go to destination for people from the diaspora to reconnect with their roots. The nation also offers the chance to become citizens of the nation.
In other areas such as the rule of law and democracy, Ghana has become an example for many countries in the exercise of democratic principles. Since the inception of the 1992 constitution, the country has successfully held seven elections and three transfers of power from one party to another. This is a feat which is still finding its feet on the African continent.
Furthermore, the country’s military has shown to be a shining example of advocating for peaceful societies across the continent. The country’s role in peacekeeping on the continent has received a lot of commendation, with the role of its soldiers during the Rwandan genocide a stand out show of solidarity.
Ghana has also shown compassion in helping distressed Africans during in times of conflicts. From trying to reach a peace deal with neighbours Nigeria during the Biafra War, to welcoming and hosting the most refugees from the Liberia civil war, Ghana has shown a quest to helping in the maintenance of peace across the continent.
In his Republic Day speech, Nkrumah said, “Day after day and year after year this flame will reflect the burning desire of the African people to be free – totally free and independent – fettered by no shackles of any nature whatsoever and will signify their ability to manage and direct their own affairs in the best interest of themselves.” This is a charge we had and the goal we worked forward towards achieving.
However, six decades later, the independence of Africa seems to have halted at the political stage. The African has found it difficult to attain economic, cultural and social independence. The economies of many African countries are largely foreign dominated, with the country still importing most of what it eats and eats most of what it imports.
The farming population in these countries is still not very different from what it was sixty years ago, and technologically, we still lag behind the rest of the world. Inequality is widening on the continent and recent reports equates migrants from Africa to Europe and North America nearing the same numbers as those traded during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
This phenomenon is cuts across various countries on the continent. If Europe and North America dominated the economies of African countries in the early days of African independence, China has worked hard to share the spoils equally and even become a leading trading partner for most of the countries. Most of the natural resources in the lands of various African countries have become a reason for conflict rather than a source for wealth creation. The economic structure of many countries still remains in the colonial patterns of pre-independence.
The next sixty years of the country and continent should be spent decolonising most of the colonial aspects of our society. This should be led by a change in the education and economic policies of various African countries. At the bottom of a failed state is the belief in a false doctrine and a poor educational system.
As Kenyan agriculturalist and Noble prize winner Wangari Maathai once said, “Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instil in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost.” For any country to be truly independent, you must control what you eat, for the saying goes, “who feeds you, controls you.”
To conclude, the ambitions and desires of our founding fathers should be a perpetual reminder of our goals. We have successfully overcome three republics, and look to have settled on the fourth republic for good. We must continuously work at consolidating the gains made, and altering regulations and institutions to conform to the changing times. There is a nation to build, and we must have at the back of our minds that we are also setting an example for others to follow.
Happy 60th Republic Day Ghana.
Happy 60th anniversary to the “Year of Africa”
A. Nii Ayitey Komey is a Pan-Afrikanist and MPhil student at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana.