Kwame Nkrumah,the first prime minister of independent Ghana,was the original proponent of the United States of Africa dream,a name in history textbooks synonymous with the heady days when the continent was unshackling itself from colonial rule. He was deposed by a coup in 1966,while on his way to Hanoi to mediate between the US and Vietnam; and his family moved to Cairo for the next two decades. His daughter SAMIA NKRUMAH,now 49,is back in Ghana to get the Nkrumahists together,to draw upon the original African dream and fulfill her potential as MP ( she was elected three months ago). Samia represents her fathers Convention Peoples Party,a pale shadow of what it was. Samia studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She has worked as a journalist,with Al Ahram newspaper while there,and even as a clerk in the Bank of India for two months. She was in India briefly on an official visit,to recall her fathers association with Gandhian philosophy and India. Brief excerpts from an interview with SEEMA CHISHTI.
•Ghana has been touted as a success story by the IMF. Your thoughts?
After the coup,Ghana became very donor-dependent. We went through financial upheaval and our economic vision was interrupted. Kwame Nkrumahs attempts to give us economic independence were reversed. He had set in motion policies which created at least 300 enterprises,and we would have taken off had that gone through uninterrupted. In 1981,we took the Structural Adjustment Fund,in the absence of any alternative no one at the time wanted to think of bold and indigenous solutions.In west Africa,we have 16 countries,which is the maximum density of states anywhere in the world! If only we could push through continental unity,we would be a viable economic unit. We have a saying in our country,that we have heard several advisors,but never heeded the advice of our elders our elders wanted the continent to fortify itself and think of it as a single unit.
•How practical is that today?
More practical than ever. What Kwame Nkrumah posed as a possibility in the sixties is now being pushed by a continent like Europe as the only way forward. They have common markets and even a common currency. Europe at the time was a much less cohesive project,but look,its united today as never before. If they can do it,so can we. The Libyan head of state,Gaddafi has taken Nkrumahs message seriously,and the former World Bank president,James Wolfenson said recently that Africa must unite. If that is coming from the high seat of neoliberalism,surely,its a sign.
•Africa has some very terrifying stories today,like what is happening in Sudan,Rwanda-Burundi,Zimbabwe and even in Nigeria. How can Africa emerge as a united continent with all of this?
(laughs) We need a pan-African media agency like Al Jazeera is for the Arab world,to give a different perspective on us than what you get. Doesnt even Europe have problems like Bosnia or Albania? Let us not forget that Europe has had the bloodiest wars that the world has ever seen. Of course we realise we have these horror stories,but we have several success stories too. My country,Ghana itself has seen its fourth free and fair general election,and the second election in its history when power was transferred between parties peacefully after election results. Or look at Kenyas agricultural cooperative unions and how their local tea and coffee production has helped them buck the ill-effects of the global slowdown.
•Oil has been discovered in Ghana,both,on and offshore? How will that be used in a way that the benefits reach all of Ghana?
That has been a very exciting finding. Ghanas offshore oil should be making a difference by the second half of 2010,but the big discovery is the onshore oil. The IMF estimates we could be putting out 120,000 barrels of oil per day sometime soon. But we have to be very careful as this is something that can simply not make a difference to the lives of people,as it is an extractive industry. Our parliament is in the process of debating laws for how the oil must be tapped,and an information law which makes the process transparent. You cannot imagine how much gold we had,but it left the lives of people completely untouched. We have to ensure that oil does make a positive difference to the lives of people and empowers them,and it is not stolen. The Nigerian experience has taught us to be more reflective while framing rules with companies.
•The leadership question haunts your continent as it does several other developing countries.
I am happy that the ideas that my father proposed,a dream then,have at least made it to the table of the Organisation of African Unity in 2007 that itself is a leap. I was living away,but it is not just me,several young people are coming back to Africa,not just to lead but to engage in the politics of listening,I am learning so much from people,they dont need me to preach. Not just me,but I am one of three young contemporaries in different political parties who have an open mind,who are returnees and believe in new methods to lead our countries to a better future. The Cold War claimed so many of our progressive leaders. When any leader looked West and then East,he was immediately suspect and was deposed. No country has suffered more from the Cold War than Africa we lost decades. But that has also created solidarity between African nations and we must build upon it.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines