OAU and Western penetration efforts

OAU and Western penetration efforts
  • PublishedMay 3, 2013

Divide and rule

The Western penetration efforts were so effective that they got Nigeria under President Tafawa Balewa and Tanzania under President Julius Nyerere acting as the head of the pincer movement to checkmate Nkrumah and the Casablanca Group. And even President Nyerere, a leader with pure Pan-African blood coursing through his veins, fell for the Western tactics. It took him 34 years after the formation of the OAU and 12 years after his retirement as president to admit, in a speech he gave at Ghana’s 40th independence anniversary in Accra in 1997, that “Nkrumah was right and we were wrong”. But the momentum had long passed. Because of the infighting deliberately fanned by Western countries among African leaders (such as pitting Nyerere against Nkrumah), the continent ended up with a weak OAU to its own detriment, instead of the strong union Nkrumah had worked for in vain. British government declassified documents since released by the National Archives at Kew, London, provide indications of how deep the Western efforts to frustrate the birth of a strong African union in the 1960s were.

One whole box-file at the British National Archives is dedicated to this subject alone. With “President Nkrumah’s African Policies” written in bold print at the back, the file contains pages and pages of interesting documents to excite African and other historians for a long time to come. One of the documents, dated 10 February 1964 and marked “Top Secret”, was written by D.W.S. Hunt of the Commonwealth Relations Office in London, addressed to the British ambassador in Addis Ababa, Dr J.W. Russell.

Hunt wrote: “… For my part I am most interested in the question of the influence of Ghana. I am afraid I still think that this is increasing, it may well turn out that the Tanganyika mutinies represent a further gain to the extent that President Nyerere has lost prestige and influence, for he is the Redeemer’s [Nkrumah’s] most dangerous rival.”

Two months before Hunt’s letter, Dr J.W. Russell had written, on 31 December 1963, from the British embassy in Addis Ababa telling the Right Hon. R.A.

Butler of the Foreign Office, London, that “Nkrumah’s ‘political kingdom’ seems irreconcilable with the independence, prosperity or unity of others. And scruples he has none. How then is this lethal rogue to be contained?”

Russell’s letter, marked “Top Secret” and “Confidential”, proceeded to tell Butler:

“I can see no merit in taking to ourselves this mammon of unrighteousness [meaning Nkrumah] or in trying to gain a spurious popularity by walking hand in bloody hand with the assassin of our friends. Would it not be more logical and in every way more profitable just to align ourselves according to our interests and our principles? “The proposition seems to me a simple one. Item: Nkrumah is our enemy, he is determined to complete our expulsion from an Africa which he aspires to dominate absolutely. Ergo: We must find blacks who can [help us], and although it would be counter-productive publicly to damn them with our old colonial kiss, yet surely it is not beyond our ingenuity to find effective ways of affording them discreet and legitimate support?

“I cannot for the life of me see why we should subscribe our conscience to help the Saltimbanco of Accra engross the rest of Africa.”

Ambassador Russell was not finished: “This begs the next question,” he continued, “how are we to do it? How to make ourselves felt in Africa? How to fortify our friends? Through what agencies? Here a quick look is called for at the collective forces presently active in this arena. Six of these come to mind.

“First, traditional and nearest home, the Commonwealth. But the concept of Commonwealth unity as a cohesive force in Africa is, I fear and I submit with all deference, little but a hydrograph in this day and age, something wistfully carried forward from the early decades of the century but now, like Keats’ name, writ in water. “At the Summit here last May [meaning, the founding summit of the OAU], I could see no faintest trace of Commonwealth solidarity or operational unit of purpose. We made in fact a sorry sow. True, we had the best, in Abubakar and Nyerere; but by God we had the worst too, in Nkrumah and Obote.

“Ethiopia is worth supporting, and the older generation may yet survive long enough in Africa to help maintain the Pax post-Britannica.”

Written By
New African

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