Tuesday,19 June, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1349, (15 - 21 June 2017)
Tuesday,19 June, 2018
Issue 1349, (15 - 21 June 2017)

Ahram Weekly

No Nkrumah knockout

Gamal Nkrumah interviews Samia Nkrumah about Egyptian-African relationships and the political situation in Ghana and the African continent

Samia Nkrumah
Samia Nkrumah

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry invited my sister Samia Nkrumah to deliver a keynote address on Africa Day. And, I took the august opportunity to interview her.

Ms Nkrumah is devoted to the political ideology and philosophy of our late father Kwame Nkrumah, the founder of contemporary Ghana.

Nkrumah named Ghana after an ancient West African kingdom with extensive trade and economic ties to North Africa and the Arab world. The ancient Kingdom flourished in the middle ages and, like contemporary Ghana was noted for its fabulous gold wealth. Contemporary Ghana is among the world's greatest producers and exporters of gold. The Ghana Empire (AD 400 until AD 1200), was officially known as Awkar and was a fabulous and phenomenal kingdom, known to Europeans and Arabs alike. There were other kingdoms at the time such as Mali and Songhai that came soon after ancient Ghana's collapse at the hands of the Almoravids.

The Almoravid dynasty, Imṛabḍen in the imdigenous  Amazigh language of Northwest Africa and in Arabic Al-Murābiṭūn) was an Amazigh imperial dynasty of Morocco which established an empire in the 11th century that stretched over the western Maghreb (Northwest Africa) and Al-Andalus, or Arab and Moorish Spain.

The ancient Ghana was very familiar to the Moors (Amazigh) and Arabs. In the 11th century the Cordoban scholar Abu Ubayd Al-Bakri collected stories from a number of travelers to West Africa. Cordoba was the one of the most illustrious cities of Spain. The Ghana Empire grew rich from the trans-Saharan trade in gold, salt and slaves.


Traditions relate that the people of contemporary Ghana came from a land by a very large river. Could this land be the River Nile? The Ghana Empire was the ancestral land from which the ancestors to the ethnic Akan people of modern-day Ghana, the country's largest ethnic group, are thought to have migrated.

Ghana was first mentioned for the first time in written records by Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi in AD 830.Ghana or "Gana" being the title of its ruler) has the connotation in Arabic that "They came from a land afar". And, the Sudanese chronicles of the Moorish historians Mahmud Kati and Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sadi shed light on life in ancient Ghana. According to Kati's scholarly work, a veritable treasure trove and a most valuable collection of West African history entitled Tarikh Al-Fettash notes in a section probably composed by the author himself around AD 1580, citing the authority of the chief judge of Massina, or Ida Al-Massini, who lived somewhat earlier, twenty kings ruled Ghana before the advent of the Prophet Mohamed.

Ancient Ghana was also noted by the prominent role played by aristocratic women, especially the "Queen Mother" who was often more powerful than the King, or "Gana", himself. She was usually his biological mother, but was in some instances an older sister, born of the king's mother, or a maternal aunt. They wielded great power as do the modern "queen mothers" of contemporary ethnic Akans of Ghana.


It is against this historical background that I interviewed my sister, a former member of the Ghanaian parliament, and a seasoned Ghanaian politician. "Egypt and Africa south of the Sahara have an incredulous historical bond. People in Egypt and in Africa South of the Sahara are not fully aware of what unites Egypt and Africa South of the Sahara," Ms Nkrumah mused.

I assured her and she was very pleased to know that under the leadership of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Egypt is now once again taking Africa seriously. And, about time too. For, since the days of the late legendary Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Egypt neglected Africa South of the Sahara.

Presidents Anwar Sadat and Hosny Mubarak were not particularly interested in Africa and their eyes were focused on the West.

Mubarak, for instance, had never attended an African Union summit since the 27 June 1995 assassination attempt by militant Islamist terrorists. He simply dispatched his foreign minister Amr Moussa.

In sharp contrast Al-Sisi attends every single African summit and takes a keen interest in African affairs.

So what to make of Kwame Nkrumah's legacy? Does Nkrumah have a place in contemporary Ghana? "Kwame Nkrumah reminds us on many occasions in his speeches and writings that national independence was only the first step towards achieving full emancipation - political, economic, cultural and social. Nkrumah also told us that the unification of Africa is our best bet in overcoming exploitation and beating poverty, disease and social ills," Ms Nkrumah told Al-Ahram Weekly
Ms Nkrumah proceeded to define Kwame Nkrumah's ideology. "His message delivered 50 years ago urging African states to jointly plan our development and work together and to achieve progress is timely and perhaps more relevant today because having experimented with various models we have come to the realisation that our salvation rests within our borders.  Borrowed or imposed remedies have not succeeded in helping the majority of the people of Africa. There is a growing call for innovative African bred solutions based on our experiences and socio-economic context. There is no better time than now to re-assess Nkrumah's policies and adapt them," she expounded. to changing circumstances.There is a growing call for innovative African-bred solutions based on our experiences and socio-economic context. There is no better time than now to re-assess Nkrumah’s policies and adapt them to changing circumstances," she elaborated.

"The call for continental unity resonates today more than ever. For how come many of the proposals put forward by KN and his fellow colleague leaders like Gamal Abdel Nasser and Ahmed Sekou Toure were implemented by the European Union? Common currency, common market and so forth? Fifty years ago the dissenters said Nkrumah was way ahead of his time. If so, 50 years later, the time has come for us to revisit those ideas," Ms Nkrumah concluded.

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