Four facts about the death of celebrated Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah

Nii Ntreh April 27, 2021
Kwame Nkrumah's death was announced by Ghanaian state media during a military regime. Although he has been in exile for six years, there were many that looked back profoundly on his time.

It is has become increasingly difficult to imagine what has not been said about the life and lessons of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s independence leader the man the United States Department of State described as doing more to undermine US interests in Africa “than any other Black African”.

That admission was contained in a revelation by the Office of the Historian in the State Department in 2015. What were American interests in Africa in the 1960s? Many would argue that these interests have not changed even over decades as the US and Europe continue to force poorer countries to tow a line, accept dangerously unbalanced relationships and keep them from Chinese and Russian influences.

Nkrumahists and others in the spectrum of Pan-Africanism may argue that Nkrumah did not set about to undermine the West and America so much as he did to develop an African model of governance and development. He was after all the man who said Ghana would look neither East nor West but forward. If incidentally, the African social, political and economic project of self-determination harms Western interests, the onus may lie on the more powerful countries at the time to question their motives.

As things would be, Nkrumah’s overthrow from power and his eventual death was good news for those who believed he harmed their interests. There could be no other way to put it. All of this is not to say that Nkrumah was a man without faults, rather that the greatest threat to Western imperialism was a necessary requirement to Africa’s posturing as a continent of newly free people and nation-builders.

Much is known about his life but not so much about his death. As follows are four facts surrounding Nkrumah’s death:

Enemies at work

In spite of his overthrow, Nkrumah believed that western powers feared he would return to Ghana. Indeed, he believed he was going to return to Ghana and to power. As a result of this conviction, Nkrumah tried to protect himself from western harm, and when his cook died under mysterious circumstances, Nkrumah was sent into paranoia.

Fearing for his life, Nkrumah even refused to seek medical attention outside Guinea, where he had been offered refuge by President Ahmed Toure.

Resurging cancer

Nkrumah died on April 27, 1972, in a hospital in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer which worsened over the years. It is not clear when this diagnosis was made although some have speculated that it could have been in the last few years of his presidency.

Did not see home or his family after 1966

Ghana’s first president was overthrown in absentia, and that story itself was intriguing. It is reported that while he was mediating in conflicts in Asia, the joint military and police operation took place in Ghana. Nkrumah was informed that he had lost his position when he landed in Beijing, China.

He never again saw Ghana after 1966 and was only limited to writing critiques of the governments in his country and of his African vision, from Conakry, Senegal. Not only did he not see Ghana again but it is not clear if Nkrumah even ever saw Fathia, his wife, and his kids after 1966.

Double burial

Nkrumah’s body was flown home to Ghana during the regime of Col. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, a military leader who had identified Nkrumah as a role model. The ex-president was first buried in Nkroful, his birthplace in western Ghana. Later, a mausoleum was built in Accra in his honor and the body was re-interred.

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: September 25, 2023


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