Ghana's Golden Jubilee:
Celebrating the Dawn of African Independence

by Emmanuel Awuah

Ghana’s Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah addressing delegates at the All African People’s Conference in Accra, December 1958. At the conference more than 300 leaders from across the continent met to organize and demand the immediate end of colonialism and imperialism in Africa. In the decade that followed more than 30 African countries regained independence.
Photo: African Activist Archive, Michigan State University

March 6, 2007 marks the golden jubilee of Ghana's freedom from British colonial rule. While jubilees have been celebrated since time immemorial, the golden jubilee celebration of Ghana's independence is particularly significant for the Pan-African world and for all who love freedom.

At the time of its independence 50 years ago, Ghana was the first country south of the Sahara to break away from over two centuries of British colonial rule. Until then, Ghana and other African countries were under the tight grip of European colonization. Resistance to colonial rule in Ghana took several forms, but what stands out is the long-standing Ashanti military campaign against British invasion and extension of its territorial powers. Although the Ashanti people ultimately suffered defeat at the hands of the British in 1900, the latter nevertheless succumbed in a couple of battles, which led to a memorable statement by one of the Ashanti Kings: "the whiteman brought his cannon to the bush, but the bush was stronger than the cannon."

Ghana's independence provided impetus for the total liberation of the African continent. At one minute past midnight, March 6, 1957, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first Prime Minister, delivered a famous speech in which he said, "My fellow Ghanaians, at long last, Ghana your beloved country, is free forever." He continued, "the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa." Well, the rest is history! Namibia's attainment of independence in 1990 marked the end of direct political control of Africa by any foreign country or power, thereby fulfilling the dream of the pioneers of Pan-Africanism.

Ghana's role as a pace-setter for the decolonization of Africa was solidified by Kwame Nkrumah's willingness to train and equip other African leaders to take up the task of leading their respective countries to freedom. Young African leaders whom Kwame Nkrumah had met in his sojourn in Europe and the United States came to stay in Ghana under Nkrumah's tutelage and mentoring, including Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia.

Ghana's independence also bolstered confidence in black leadership in the United States in their struggle for freedom, equality and civil rights. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. represented the United States at Ghana's Independence celebration in 1957 and witnessed the hoisting of the Ghana flag in place of the Union Jack (of Britain). He commented that this picturesque image of a black African country's triumph (re)affirmed his belief that with perseverance black people in the United States could also secure their rights as citizens.

Nkrumah's success in decolonizing Ghana from the grip of imperialism could not have been achieved without the influence of other Pan-Africanists; both those he met in his sojourn and those whose works shaped his thinking about Pan-Africanism. The Pan-African philosophy stresses the fact that Africa is one; Africa's people on the continent and in the diaspora must unite and help Africa to free itself from colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism, racism and economic exploitation.

The Pan-African philosophy is geared for unification, liberation, cultural and economic independence of Africa and African people everywhere. This philosophical stance influenced the works of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Patrice Lumumba and many others. Kwame Nkrumah's Ghana became the very embodiment of what the pioneers had dreamed, a concrete physical space, managed and controlled by black people, and used as a platform to promote African unity, United States of Africa, African High Command and decolonization of other African countries and people.

Ghana's journey as a free country for the past 50 years has been characterized by progress, growing pains, bumps and bruises. While Ghanaians may be blamed for being their worst enemies, for the most part, the odds were stacked against this new-born country right from the beginning. Overcoming the residual effects of colonialism and learning to direct the energies of a diverse group of people towards national development in a modern era was no mean task. However, there are definite signs that Ghanaians have learned from their mistakes, wrong starts and difficulties.

The significance of Ghana's independence and pioneering role still looms large. The state of the union in Ghana is a healthy one: peace through reconciliation, strong macro-economic foundation, and democratic ethos have once again brought Ghana to the world's attention. The Black Star is poised to lead other African countries in the search for possibilities and progress, and maximizing her full potential in a global community.

However, Ghana is still plagued with several challenges: its people largely consume what they do not produce, and produce what they do not consume. Although it is endowed with rich and precious mineral resources such as gold, diamond, bauxite, and manganese, it is at the mercy of its lenders in London, Paris, New York, Washington, D.C, Tokyo, and Beijing. Whether in the next 50 years Ghana will overcome such dislocations in its economy and reduce its dependence on neo-colonial global institutions will be a test of coming of age in the 21st century.

Finally, the celebration of Ghana's golden jubilee anniversary is not only for Ghanaians, but for everyone who loves freedom, liberty, equality and justice. Therefore, I invite you to celebrate these lofty and noble ideas and ideals with Ghanaians in Central
Upcoming Programs and Events
For a list of programs and events commemorating the golden jubilee of Ghana's independence, please see announcement or go to

New York on such a momentous occasion.

Long live Ghana! Long live Ghana-U.S. friendship!


Emmanuel is the president of Ghana Society of Central New York and Director of Multicultural and International Services at Onondaga Community College.