The Consul at Accra (Cole) to the Department of State

No. 217


  • Consulate’s telegram No. 136, March 28.1


  • Interview with Governor of the Gold Coast.

Supplementing my telegram No. 136 of March 28, there is set forth below a summary of an interview which I had with Sir Charles Arden-Clarke [Page 268] on March 26 about current political developments in the Gold Coast. On March 28 Sir Charles departed for England on leave. He expects to return to Accra on May 29.

The Recent Constitutional Amendments: Sir Charles observed that the Order in Council effective March 21, 1952, which amended the Gold Coast Constitution represented a change “more of form than of substance.” However, it was also a further move in the direction of dominion status in accordance with the settled policy of the United Kingdom Government that the Gold Coast should become “a Dominion within the Commonwealth.” Sir Charles emphasized this point by saying of the Order in Council, “There is nothing phoney about it!” He could not, he added, hazard a guess as to when dominion status might finally be achieved.

The only basic change brought about by the Order in Council was the provision that the Assembly should elect the Prime Minister. The former Leader of Government Business was, of course, elected by the Executive Council. The Governor thought that the next constitutional change would allow the Prime Minister to choose his Cabinet without the need for the election of its members by the Assembly as at present. The Assembly would not at this time have foregone their right to elect the Ministers.

In Sir Charles’ opinion the granting of the title of Prime Minister to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was a logical move. Since he had in effect been fulfilling the duties of such a post during the life of the present constitution, there was no substantial reason for denying him the title. In addition, Nkrumah had been agreeable to work with the constitution and endeavor to make it a success, although large numbers of the Convention Peoples Party membership had insisted that it was unsatisfactory, “bogus”, etc. The title was thus in a sense a well-earned reward for Nkrumah’s faithful services. Moreover, since Nkrumah was obliged to make promises from time to time to his followers relative to the continued advance toward self-government, the constitutional change would lend color to his assertions along those lines, thereby strengthening his position with his Party.

The Opposition: In the Governor’s view an opposition party could only gain a following by insisting on more self-government that [than] the CPP could obtain. The Governor did not consider the opposition group of Dr. J. B. Danquah as having any substance. The United Gold Coast Convention possesses no following at present, and he doubted that Danquah would ever gain the support of an appreciable number of adherents. He does not have a high opinion of Danquah, whom he regards as extremely self-seeking and unscrupulous.

The Governor told me that “I might assure Washington there was no reason to fear the establishment of a dictatorship in the Gold Coast,” regardless of the absence of an opposition party. “The Africans, [Page 269] “he said, “will not be dictated to—they are far too undisciplined to accept such an arrangement.” In Sir Charles’ opinion no individual of sufficient force of personality to become a dictator has thus far appeared on the local scene.

Character of Nkrumah: The Governor regarded Nkrumah as progressing from the status of agitator to that of statesman, “as they all do.” He cited Nehru as an instance of a similar progression. Nkrumah, he thought, is sincerely trying to measure up to the responsibilities which are devolving upon him.

Sir Charles considered that the Ministers and members of the Assembly, most of whom were quite inexperienced respecting governmental matters, had learned a great deal in the past year, and had even shown noticeable improvement since January of this year when the situation within the CPP had seemed especially confused. Their advances in parliamentary decorum and ability were substantial. He pointed out, however, that the local political scene had in the past shown wide fluctuations between periods of order and of near chaos. That pattern might be expected to repeat itself despite the tidy appearance of things at the moment.

The Local Civil Service: Sir Charles said that the establishment of a local civil service, which has been decided upon, is of course a step toward dominion status. Obviously, one couldn’t have a self-governing state with a public service controlled from outside. The local civil service would at first be under the Governor, working through a commission. The Governor’s authority would disappear in time as full powers were turned over to the locals. Africanization could only take place slowly—a circumstance which Nkrumah and his Ministers recognized fully. They would soon so state publicly, although the fact was an unpalatable one for many of their supporters. They would announce that the “expatriate” is necessary to the continuance of governmental functions and that there is no intention of belittling the essential role he plays.

William E. Cole, Jr.
  1. Not printed; it briefly summarized Cole’s discussion with the Governor on Mar. 26. (745K.00/3–2852)