Review: “Nkrumaism and African Nationalism: Ghana’s Pan-African Foreign Policy in the Age of Decolonization” – Matteo Grilli

In “Nkrumaism and African Nationalism: Ghana’s Pan-African Foreign Policy in the Age of Decolonization”, Matteo Grilli brilliantly re-examines the legacy and influence of Kwame Nkrumah in Africa.

After Nkrumah was deposed in 1966 in a coup supported by the West, the military regime attempted to discredit Ghana’s foreign policy and Nkrumah’s Pan-African vision as a “failure”. Scholars such as W. Scott Thompson support this interpretation. Grilli criticizes this one-dimensional interpretation of Nkrumah’s legacy, and instead examines Nkrumah’s legacy and Ghana’s foreign policy in all its complexities. While Nkrumah was unsuccessful in establishing a continental state, and no liberation movement completely adopted the principles of Nkrumaism, Grilli argues that to describe Nkrumaism as a “failure” misses the massive influence Nkrumah had on liberation movements throughout Africa. From ideological and military training to financial and military aid to those on the frontlines, Nkrumaism helped shape countless nationalist and liberation movements. Indeed, at the time of the Western-backed military coup, there were 136 African nationalists being hosted in Ghana and several major liberation movements, including African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), Basutoland Congress Party (BCP), Ngwane National Liberatory Congress, Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe, People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), Pan-African Congress (PAC), African National Congress (ANC), Popular Idea of Equatorial Guinea (IPGE), Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), etc., had offices in Accra. Moreover, many of the most prominent anti-colonial African nationalists have cited Nkrumah as an important influence, such as Lumumba, Mugabe, Cabral, Touré, Obote, Kaunda, Gaddafi, etc.

Secondly, Grilli examines how Nkrumah’s Pan-African vision influenced domestic politics within Ghana, more specifically the “feuds” between Ghana’s “orthodox”, British-trained Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ghana’s “unorthodox” Pan-African institutions, such as the Bureau of African Affairs. These “feuds”, Grilli argues, were one of the major weaknesses of Ghana’s foreign policy, and handicapped Nkrumah’s ability to project his Pan-African vision.

A really great book overall 🙂

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