Report by the Vice Consul at Accra (Fleming)1


This report should be read in conjunction with the last Labor Report [Page 287] submitted by this post as Despatch No. 24, dated August 12, 1953.2

During the past week a number of events have occurred in the Gold Coast with regard to this country’s stand in the Cold War which are, perhaps, more significant than any previous development. Though they accord with the consistently neutral position which Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his Party have maintained, they constitute the strongest denunciation of Communism which the Party has so far expressed. Two leading members of the Convention Peoples’ Party, one a member of the Legislative Assembly and the other the General Secretary of the Gold Coast Trade Union Congress, have been suspended from the Party by the Party’s Central Executive on the charge that they were servants of the Communist World Federation of Trade Unions. The day following this action, October 24th (United Nations Day), the Prime Minister delivered an important policy statement before the United Nations Students Association, which was holding a national combined meeting at the University College of the Gold Coast, Achimota. In the final paragraphs of his speech he made it clear that though he wished to remain aloof from all international disputes, at least until independence was achieved, he regarded his country as “wedded” to the “friendly democracies”, and that he looked forward to the day when the Gold Coast would be an equal partner in the British Commonwealth. On October 28 Turkson-Ocran was relieved of his duties as TUC General-Secretary. Finally, the Ghana Evening News, the official organ of the Party, has in the past several days published its first forthright criticisms of Communist activity and those who indulge in it. Such actions when weighed against the Party’s previous, somewhat anti-Western line mark a very significant shift. The events leading to this change were as follows:

On Wednesday afternoon, October 21, the Prime Minister stopped in at the home of the Information Officer, Vice Consul Robert I. Fleming, and in a conversation lasting about an hour, he criticized strongly the conduct of Dr. Cheddi Jagan, former Prime Minister of British Guiana. It was obvious that Dr. Nkrumah and his friends had found food for thought in the recent developments in British Guiana,3 and that they had regarded them as a warning to curb the irresponsible elements within their own Party. Nkrumah, who has been very indulgent with these wilder elements had apparently begun to realize [Page 288] that he might be judged by their actions and to appreciate the possible consequences.

That same evening at a local “night spot” in Accra, Public Affairs Officer Eugene D. Sawyer met Albert Hammerton, ICFTU representative in West Africa, who told him that he might soon be travelling to Brussels to make his report to the executive body of that organization and that before going he would like an opportunity to consult with the Consul, William E. Cole, with Sawyer, PAO, and with Robert Fleming, the Information Officer. Mr. Sawyer arranged for such a meeting the following morning at which the four men discussed the situation generally.

At the meeting Hammerton stated that he had collected a substantial quantity of documentary proof of Communist activity in the Gold Coast. He said also that while he regarded this as valuable, he feared that to present it at Brussels without at the same time offering some counteracting evidence that Nkrumah’s party was not supporting this activity might very possibly lead to serious consequences. Hammerton has not had a pleasant experience in the Gold Coast. Without understanding why, he had aroused the enmity of the Prime Minister, who in a stormy interview last June had told him that he was not wanted in the Gold Coast. This attitude was reflected throughout the Convention Peoples’ Party. It found expression in the Party’s press, and, of course, was represented in those Trade Unions, whose leaders were CPP adherents. As stated in the last report, it led also to the disaffiliation of the Gold Coast Trade Union Congress from the ICFTU at the time of its last annual meeting, when control of the Congress was captured by CPP supporters. What really set it off was that Hammerton in working with and through the old officers of the TUC seemed to Nkrumah to be supporting his political enemies. Since in this country the leaders are still largely preoccupied with internal struggles, the bigger issues were lost in the face of personal rivalries. Given this experience, and having evidence that the CPP had engineered the shift in TUC leaders, included among whom were certain WFTU supporters, Hammerton felt that his report would make the Gold Coast appear no less Communist than British Guiana. He realized that this did not accord with the larger facts—was in fact a half-truth; yet his own experience supplied him with nothing which would bring the picture into balance. He had sought American assistance to help him acquire a clearer understanding of the real situation. The three Americans replied that they accepted his evidence as perfectly factual, but stated that their wider view of the political aspects had led them to believe that Nkrumah was “neutralist” with regard to the Cold War.

Later in the day, Robert Fleming approached the Principal Officer with the suggestion that he be allowed to talk with Nkrumah on the matter of Hammerton’s report in an effort to force some public expression [Page 289] of Nkrumah’s real position. The reason Fleming could make this suggestion is that he and his wife enjoy a close, friendly relationship with Nkrumah which would make it possible for him to lay the matter on the line in a frank and firm manner. The Principal Officer approved of this course of action since it seemed possible that if the ICFTU, with its considerable influence, were brought into conflict with the CPP it would not only threaten stability within the Gold Coast, but would obviously greatly complicate the job of guiding Nkrumah and his people into the democratic camp. Fleming then arranged to meet with Nkrumah at the latter’s home at 5:00 that afternoon, October 22.

After about an hour’s discussion, Nkrumah agreed to meet with Hammerton and to make his peace with the ICFTU. Fleming went for Hammerton immediately and brought him back to Nkrumah’s house. They talked for three hours, Fleming acting as a mediator and attempting to clarify positions where it appeared that this might be helpful. During the discussion Hammerton voiced his various grievances; that he had been vilified in the press, abused from public platforms; that his African assistant had been threatened, and that though he and his organization were in full sympathy with Gold Coast aspirations, he had found it virtually impossible to serve the country as he had hoped he might. He also laid his evidence of Communist activity before the Prime Minister and stated what he thought the consequences would be should this be made public without some counteractive evidence that this did not receive Nkrumah’s support. Nkrumah agreed finally to give the ICFTU free reign to carry on its activities in the Gold Coast, but said that he could not support immediate reaffiliation lest it appear that he had been “bought.” He promised to use his influence to stop abuse in the press and by spokesmen of his Party. He said further that he would call a special meeting of his Party’s Central Committee the following morning and that he would urge that known Communists be suspended pending an investigation of their activities. He said also that he would make an addition to his UN Day speech which he hoped would make his position clear.

Fleming saw Nkrumah again the following noon and was informed that true to his promise, he had called the Central Committee together and they had suspended the two men in question. He also discussed with Fleming the remarks which he would include in his speech the next day. Though he would not go nearly so far as Fleming urged him to do, what finally resulted was a considerable improvement over the loose public statements which had been made in the past. As a further step, he had won support for a plan whereby the outlines of all Party speeches must be submitted to Headquarters before they are delivered.

Much of this began to break in the press the following day. The results were electric. The Party papers started a campaign against [Page 290] those with Communist connections. When Hammerton spoke before a large union meeting, the President of the TUC introduced him in glowing terms. The new changes seemed to be the popular topic of discussion in Accra among Europeans and Africans alike.

When it became evident that Nkrumah meant what he had said, Hammerton put through a call to the General Secretary of the ICFTU in Brussels requesting permission to leave Accra by plane on Monday, October 26. This permission was granted. On Sunday, October 25, Robert Fleming assisted Hammerton in drafting a statement for presentation to the ICFTU which describes the general situation in the Gold Coast. Copies of that statement are enclosed.4

On October 28 it was announced in the Gold Coast press that Turkson-Ocran, General Secretary of the TUC has disappeared from Accra and that he had been relieved of his duties by the Executive Committee of that organization. Anthony, Woode, meanwhile, was in Vienna attending a conference of the WFTU.5

  1. This report was an enclosure to despatch 69 of Nov. 7, 1953 from Accra. (845K.062/11–753)
  2. Not printed; it transmitted a memorandum regarding the Trade Union Congress meeting at Kumasi which reported the circumstances which led the TUC to decide upon the amalgamation of the government-recognized Gold Coast Trade Union Congress (GCTUC) and the maverick Ghana Trade Union Congress (GTUC). (845K.062/8–1253)
  3. The constitution of British Guiana was suspended and the Progressive Party, which had taken office on Apr. 27, 1953, was dismissed on Oct. 9 because of alleged Communist infiltration.
  4. Not printed.
  5. In airgram 27 of Jan. 15, 1954 to Accra, the Department commended Cole, Fleming, and Sawyer for the fine results they had achieved as Nkrumah’s action was considered “of the utmost importance to the Free World” at that critical moment of constitutional development in the Gold Coast. (845K.062/11–753)