A piece of Ghana’s political history – a diary belonging to former President Kwame Nkrumah – will soon return home, more than 40 years after it left the country.
On 10 April US Judge R. Barclay Surrick ruled in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania court, that the diary, which is said to offer a fascinating portrait of Kwame Nkrumah’s political and personal life, and which is reported to have been among his possessions when he died in Romania in 1972, will be handed over to the Ghanaian ambassador in Washington DC, who will make provisions for its return to Ghana.
It is a judgement that pleases both the African expatriates in the US and the American businessman who had been battling over the diary. Nkrumah died 40 years ago, in the Romanian capital, Bucharest. So, how did the diary end up in a US court at the centre of a legal fight between an American businessman and a group of African expatriates?
The story goes that when Nkrumah died, a relative who had been attending to the former president in Romania, put his diary, and other items, away for safekeeping and somehow the diary made its way to the US in the 1980s and came into the possession of a group of American businessmen, among them Robert Shulman, a financial consultant.
Shulman, who visited Ghana many times in the late 70s and early 80s, says he had the Nkrumah diary in his possession for more than 20 years before a legal tug of war began between him and Vincent Mbirika, a Kenyan expatriate who lives in New York. The tug of war led to a legal battle which resulted in the intervention of a US court, and the decision by the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania to keep the diary in its possession until a decision about its future could be arrived at. On April 10, the court ruled the diary should, after more than 40 years outside Ghana, be sent back home.
Robert Shulman said he is happy it is being returned to Ghana.
Shulman said he is a friend to Ghana and showed several photographs of himself with leading business and political figures there, including former Ghana president Jerry Rawlings, to prove it.
“The diary was never stolen nor was I trying to make monetary gain from it, nor was there an Indiana Jones that returned this piece of history to Africa,” said Shulman outside the courtroom in Philadelphia. “The diary was in my possession for more than 20 years and if I wanted to sell it I would have sold it. This was not the intention.”
He said the diary is an African treasure and knows Ghanaians will be happy to see it and the other documents the US court has ordered returned. Shulman said he recalled an interesting entry in which Kwame Nkrumah wrote that he hoped to receive the support of other African leaders for an important political initiative.
“The main aim was to get these objects of great significance back to their rightful home [and] owner, the Republic of Ghana,” insisted Shulman.
As for Ghanaian Sadick Abubakar, who has been acting as a representative for the Nkrumah family in the United States, he, too, is happy the diary is going home.
“It is a good outcome,” said Abubakar, an engineering student at the University of Maryland outside Washington DC, and a director of the United African Congress, an organisation for African expatriates in the US. The diary will be sent from the Philadelphia court where it has been held to the Ghanaian embassy in Washington. Once there, it is understood the embassy will make arrangements for the repatriation of the item to Ghana.
Sadick Abubakar said once the diary arrives in Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah’s family members, among them Samia Nkrumah, who is a member of parliament for Jomoro and chairperson of the Convention People’s Party, will inspect it and make a statement about its return home.
“It is a good outcome in the end,” said Abubakar, pleased he had been a key figure in having a piece of Ghana’s history returned home to Africa. “It has been worth all the battle to see this diary which belongs to Ghana, and to Africa, go back home at long last.”