In 1920 a campaign for independence
began in West Africa. A number of educated, middle-class West
Africans formed the National Congress of British West Africa
and sent a petition to the British government asking for greater
self-rule. This petition was rejected, but the campaign certainly
did not end. By the 1940s there was a strong movement across
West Africa that wanted independence. There were campaigns in
Nigeria and in the Gold Coast (which would become Ghana). Nigeria,
Sierra Leone and Gambia gained independence in the 1960s, but
it was Ghana that led the way.
In Ghana the leading figure in the nationalist movement was
Dr Kwame Nkrumah. He wrote his first book on the subject 'Towards
Colonial Freedom' in 1947. In 1948 he became General Secretary
of the United Gold Coast Convention, which campaigned for independence
for the Gold Coast. The British were not opposed to the idea
of independence for West Africa. However, they were anxious
that newly formed states would be stable and democratic. They
introduced elections and a Parliament to the region, but they
planned to remain in control until the country was ready for
independence - in their opinion.
Nkrumah felt his country was ready and campaigned for the British
to leave. In 1948 he and the other leaders of the Convention
were arrested by the British. Nkrumah was released soon after.
In 1949 he formed the Convention People's Party and called for
positive action to get the British out. This led to disturbances
and he was arrested again. In 1951 elections were held in Ghana
and Nkrumah won, even though he was in prison. The British released
him and allowed him to form a new government, although the Gold
Coast was still part of the British empire.
As leader of the Gold Coast Nkrumah continued to push for the
British to leave. In 1956 he was re-elected by his people as
leader and this convinced the British to go. The Gold Coast
became the independent state of Ghana in 1957. However, British
concerns about Nkrumah continued. The country was troubled by
rivalries between him and other political leaders. There was
an attempted assassination against him in 1962. He declared
Ghana a one party state with himself as leader for life in 1964,
but was overthrown by officers from his own army two years later.
He died in exile in Romania in 1972 and his body was buried