Fifty years ago today the Gold Coast became Ghana and Africa changed forever. Kwame Nkrumah, a former school teacher who became the prophet of Pan-African liberation, transformed the continent the night he hoisted Ghana's new flag -- red, yellow and green with a large black star -- at independence celebrations in Accra's Old Polo Grounds.
"From now on, there is a new African in the world, and that new African is ready to fight his own battle and show that after all, the black man is capable of managing his own affairs," Mr. Nkrumah declared that night in 1957.
"We are going to see that we create our own African personality and identity," he vowed. "We again re-dedicate ourselves in the struggle to emancipate other countries in Africa; for our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent."[...]
Ghana, which produced up to 10% of the world's gold when it won its independence, used to have a gross domestic product per person that was equal to that of South Korea.
Now, South Korea has per capita GDP of US$24,200 while Ghana's is only about $2,600.
Tens of thousands of people in Accra today still don't have running water and the capital continues to be plagued by recurring power failures.
Within a year of coming to power, Mr. Nkrumah had passed laws allowing him to jail his political opponents for up to five years without a trial. By the time Ghana was seven, he had created a one-party state and declared himself President-for-Life.
Deposed in a coup in 1966,Mr. Nkrumah died in exile in 1972.
Ghana meanwhile stumbled through a series of coups and failed to have a peaceful, legal change of government until 2000.
While Africa has wallowed in conflict and deprivation for decades, Ghana has continually stumbled and failed to prosper.
The country, rich in resources of gold, timber, palm oil, coca, industrial diamonds and bauxite, enjoys twice the per capita income of the poorest countries of West Africa. Yet a third of the population lives on less that US$1- a-day and the economy is heavily dependent on international financial and technical assistance.
We wouldn’t want to spoil a good party and goodness knows these people deserve one, but wouldn’t two minutes of silence be more appropriate? Yet the beat goes on.