Ghana--The name Kwame Nkrumah is no stranger to the history books of Africa. Widely recognized as one of the most influential forces behind the Independence movement that washed over sub-Saharan in the middle of the twentieth century, Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, had a vision of a veritable united Africa where countries shared a common political, social and ideological vision. In recognition to his enormous impact on African political history, Kwame Nkrumah was named, “The African of the Millennium, d” by the BBC for the network’s World Service listeners’ poll in 2000.
Born in Nkroful, a small village in Ghana (then known as the Gold Coast), Nkrumah came from a very modest background. The only child of his mother, Nkrumah worked hard in school in an academic journey that took him to Lincoln University and the University of Pennsylvania in the United States of America. He later went to London to study at the London School of Economics, but as fate would have it, he met a friend, George Padmore, who convinced him to return home to the Gold Coast to contribute to the struggle for Independence. Ghana was declared Independent on 6th March, 1957, thus becoming the first country in sub-Saharan to achieve this.
This year, 2009, marks the centenary year of the birth of Kwame Nkrumah. To honor its first President's legacy, the government of Ghana declared Nkrumah’s birthday, September 21, a holiday—Founder’s Day. As the name implies, this holiday recognizes the efforts of Nkrumah in spearheading Ghana’s struggle for Independence from the British colonialists. The holiday began with an early morning address by Ghana President, John Atta Mills, who called on Ghanaians to “grab the opportunity and rekindle [their] sense of national pride and self-worth.”
Several other activities including symposia, lectures, and pilgrimages were held as part of the celebration. The festivities culminated in a grand durbar held at the eponymous Kwame Nkrumah memorial park in Accra. The durbar was an absolute cultural festival that brought out the rich Ghanaian culture in the form of drumming, dancing, singing, and chieftaincy display. In attendance was the President of Ghana as well as ministers of state, members of parliament, diplomats, and members of various religious organizations. The high profile guests at the regalia were encouraged to add their signature to a Unity flag, which had traveled through all the ten regions of Ghana.
One can only hope that throughout this celebration of Nkrumah, Ghanaians, Africans, and their leaders do not forget the legendary leader’s vision of a united Africa, where each state acts as his brother’s keeper. Only through this brotherhood can Africa overcome the diseases, poverty, and hunger that have plagued the continent for several decades.