Colonial Gold Coast, Kwame Nkrumah
UGCC, nationalist leaders, Danquah, urban professionals, federalist system
Founded in 1947, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) was the first nationwide political party to call for self-government. Its leading members included the respected lawyer Joseph B. Danquah and the American-educated socialist Kwame Nkrumah. The UGCC drew support from educated Ghanaians, most of whom were either urban professionals or traditional chiefs. Economic dissatisfaction among the Gold Coast’s Africans, especially those who had served in World War II, resulted in nationwide rioting in 1948. The colonial administration accused the nationalist leaders of inciting the disturbances and arrested Nkrumah and several others. This only served to make Nkrumah a more popular figure and fueled the call for self-rule.
Viewing Danquah and other UGCC leaders as too conservative in their efforts to win independence, Nkrumah split with the UGCC later in 1949 and formed his own Convention People’s Party (CPP). Nkrumah’s watchword was “Independence Now”—an uncompromising policy that appealed to many. The CPP drew populist support from rural and working class Ghanaians, further distancing it from the more elite UGCC. In 1950 Nkrumah announced his “Positive Action” campaign, which consisted of a boycott of foreign business, noncooperation with the government, and a general workers’ strike. Public services were disrupted, and when rioting occurred Nkrumah and some CPP leaders were again arrested and imprisoned. A new constitution was adopted in 1951, replacing the Legislative Council with a Legislative Assembly, designed to provide rural Africans greater representation. In the 1951 elections, the CPP won a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly. Colonial governor Sir Charles Arden-Clarke released Nkrumah from prison and appointed him leader of government business. Nkrumah and Arden-Clarke transformed the colonial government into a parliamentary system, and in 1952 Nkrumah was elected to the newly created office of prime minister. The UGCC and several regional-based parties—including the Ashanti-dominated National Liberation Movement and the Northern People’s Party—comprised the political opposition to Nkrumah and the CPP. These groups opposed the new governmental structure, advocating a federalist system.
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