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

No. 24


  • Interview with Prime Minister of Gold Coast, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

The following paragraphs summarize an interview which I had with the Prime Minister, at my request, on August 20:

I Possible Constitutional Changes.

I asked Nkrumah whether anything is being done to formulate proposals for further constitutional changes which Mr. Oliver Lyttelton indicated would be considered by the British Government (my despatch No. 233 May 14).1Nkrumah said that he expects to raise the question in the Assembly when it convenes in September. He will then obtain a wide number of views and recommendations. These will be consolidated into a paper for transmission to the British. Nkrumah emphasized that he and his party are definitely aiming at dominion status within the Commonwealth, and that “It will come!” He would like to see the following constitutional changes made in the near future:

All members of the Assembly to be elected by direct popular vote. This of course would require amendment of the constitution to do away with the Rural Members (returned by district electoral colleges); with the Territorial Members (elected by traditional bodies); and with the Northern Territories Members (elected by a Northern Territories Council).
Elimination of the three ex officio European ministers in the Executive Council. These would be replaced by representative African ministers. As a possible exception, the Ministry of Defense and External Affairs might continue on as at present under an ex officio minister.
Possible creation of an Upper House to be composed of the leading Chiefs as an entity roughly similar to the British House of Lords.

II The Opposition.

I asked Nkrumah if he could comment on Mr. Lyttelton’s observation concerning the necessity for “a vigorous and constructive opposition.” He replied that an opposition does not exist at the present time. He did not favor the idea of such an opposition under the existing circumstances. He felt that until self-government is achieved, “We must all be united.” Otherwise, he explained, the British might not be sure whom they should support as the prospective heir to autonomy. He [Page 276] indicated that the presence of two powerful political groups could open the way for tactics based on the traditional British policy of “divide and rule”. In a word, the existence of a powerful opposition party would undoubtedly retard progress toward the goal of self-government. At this point Nkrumah cited the conflict between India and Pakistan, saying that he wished to avoid any such division of the Gold Coast into opposing factions.

III The East–West Conflict.

Nkrumah thought the Gold Coast much too small a country to take sides in the differences between the Western democracies and the Soviet bloc. To endeavor to do so “would not be realistic”. He recognized however, that the Gold Coast should have much to gain through technical assistance from the United States or through the employment of individual American technicians. He also regarded the American democracy and economic system as examples for his country to emulate.

IV The Development Plan.

Nkrumah said that he regards implementation of the Development Plan as a matter of the highest importance. He stated that before enactment of the new constitution, the British officials displayed a leisurely, bureaucratic attitude toward development of the country. When the African ministers took office, however, they immediately began to push a development program as essential to the progress of the country. They got some hundred bills dealing with the matter passed through the Assembly within the first few months.

In Nkrumah’s opinion, some of the Americans who would like to come here to see what may be done have been discouraged by the length of time required to obtain an entry permit for the Gold Coast. According to him, such applications are sent to London by the British Embassy in Washington and thence to the Gold Coast authorities for approval. He has recently written to the Colonial Attaché in Washington to ask if the process could be expedited. He thought the applicant in the United States should be allowed to mail his application directly to the Gold Coast authorities.

Nkrumah also observed that he was not satisfied with the procedure whereby the Crown Agents of the Colonies in London will put out tenders for work to be done on development projects in the Gold Coast. He thought it would be better if interested concerns would send their representatives here to look over proposed projects on the spot and simultaneously to discuss terms with Gold Coast officials. He is hopeful that American firms will interest themselves and send some of their officials here to see things for themselves.

Nkrumah asked whether I knew of any American firms which want to undertake any kind of projects in the Gold Coast. I told him that I did not know of any specific instances at present but that, when firm [Page 277] specifications are ready respecting some of the large construction projects contemplated in the Development Plan, American firms would doubtless wish to consider them. He asked me to inform him personally whenever I should learn of any such American interest. In reply, I told Nkrumah that while I should be happy to keep him informed I could not deal with him directly to the exclusion of, for instance, the Minister of Defence and External Affairs. He indicated that he understood my position.

V Significance of the Experiment in the Gold Coast.

Nkrumah observed that the “experiment in the Gold Coast” is of fundamental importance to the rest of Africa, since, in his opinion, its outcome will determine to a considerable extent the progress which may be made in other colonial areas. In addition, it will influence the attitude of the United States toward the political aspirations of other dependent areas. He expressed his determination, therefore, that “We must succeed!”

During the above interview, Nkrumah appeared very interested in the topics discussed. He spoke with animation and seemed confident of achieving the aims he has in mind. I gathered that he is hopeful of obtaining American participation in the development of the Gold Coast and is somewhat impatient at what he considers British restraint upon his freedom of action in seeking assistance from sources outside the United Kingdom.

William E. Cole, Jr.
  1. Not printed; it indicated that one reason for Lyttelton’s projected visit to the Gold Coast between May 31 and June 6, 1952 might be to reassure African leaders that British colonial policy had not changed with the return to power of the Conservative Party. (033.4145G/5–1452)