Liberia's Role In The Explosion Of Freedom And Independence In Africa

By Abraham James

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
March 26, 2007


On March 6,2007, President John Kuffuor of Ghana hosted world leaders from around the world to Ghana's jubilee celebration. Fifty years, ago Ghana became the first of the colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence. The event was a memorable achievement in the struggle for African independence. On the occasion of the celebration of their golden jubilee, we wish to salute the president and people of the Ghanaian nation for the significant political and economic progress they have made over the years.

Liberia, having declared its independence in 1847, played an important role in the African liberation struggle and the movement for independence from colonial rule. Liberia's efforts were manifested in various ways.

In 1951 with a special focus on the African territory of the Gold Cast (Ghana), Liberia extended a special invitation to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, leader of the Gold Coast to visit Liberia. It was a friendly gesture to help expedite the independence process for the Gold Coast and to provide appropriate international exposure for Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

The Gold Coast was going through a period of preparation for independence by Britain, the colonial power, hi 1950 when some disorders occurred, Dr. Nkrumah, along with his principal lieutenants, was arrested and imprisoned. The detention merely increased his prestige as leader and hero of the independence movement for the Gold Coast. In February 1951, the first elections were held for the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly under the new constitution for the colony. Dr Nkrumah still in jail, won a seat and his party won an impressive victory with a two-thirds majority of the 104 seats. The governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Charles Arden-Clark, released Dr. Nkrumah and invited him to form a government as "leader of government business" a position somewhat similar to that of prime minister. A major milestone had been passed on the road to independence and self-government. Nonetheless, the structure of government that existed was certainly not what Dr. Nkrumah's party preferred. The ministries of defense and external affairs were still controlled by British officials.

hi 1952, the position of prime minister was created and the Executive Council became the cabinet. The Prune Minister was made responsible to the assembly, which duly elected Dr. Nkrumah prime minister. British officials still controlled the foreign affairs of the Gold Coast and independence was still to be won. It was against this backdrop that the visit to Liberia took place.
The visit had all the features of a "state visit." President Tubman and his government decided to extend full recognition and special diplomatic honors to the African leader.

The president sent Under Secretary of State J. Rudolph Grimes to Accra to escort the African leader to Liberia aboard his official yacht. As the vessel with appropriate decorations cruised into Monrovia harbor, it was escorted by a "flotilla" of small boats. Upon his arrival at the old Executive Mansion on Ashmun street, where thousands of Liberians had assembled to welcome him, there was a thunderous applause from the huge crowd. He smiled and waved to the crowd in acknowledgment of the spontaneity and warmth of the Liberian welcome. The words on a large placard carried by one of the well wishers in the crowd attracted special attention. It read: "Explosion of freedom and independence in Africa." The words seemed to capture the spirit of the visit.

In the parlor of the executive mansion, Dr Nkrumah was introduced to members of the diplomatic corps that had been invited for the occasion. In his welcoming address the president noted the progress that had been made by the Gold Coast. In thanking the British Government for the progress in preparing the territory for independence he emphasized the need to expedite the process. Dr. Nkrumah thanked the president and people of Liberia for the visit .two leaders in their individual oratorical style called for self government and independence for the other African countries that were still under colonial rule. It was a remarkable affirmation of a joint determination to secure freedom and independence for the remaining colonial territories of Africa.

The gesture of the Liberia Government's invitation helped to trigger several important developments. A few weeks after the visit, Time Magazine carried the photograph of the Dr. Nkrumah on the cover of its magazine and provided a lengthy feature story about the Gold Coast's march to independence under the leadership of Dr. Nkrumah. This and other important international media attention provided additional momentum for the African independence movement. Indeed, on March 6,1057 the Gold Coast achieved independence within the British Commonwealth of Nations. This was followed by independence for several other African territories.
While this process was going on, Liberia and Ethiopia brought charges against the apartheid regime of South Africa in the early 1960s. In their presentation to the International Court of Justice at the Hague, the two countries pleaded for South Africa to relinquish control of South West Africa (Namibia). Regrettably, after a lengthy preparation and the allocation of considerable resources to the effort, the court ruled against Liberia and Ethiopia on the ground that the two African states had "no legal interest" in the case. This technical ruling was criticized by legal and other scholars around the world. It is necessary to note that Liberia and Ethiopia were the only two countries that were both members of the League of Nations and the United Nations.

Undaunted by this set back Liberia continued its advocacy for African freedom and independence from colonial rule. Liberia also played a leading role in the drafting and adoption of the Charter for the Organization of African Union (OAU) and has continued to champion many important African causes, over the years.

The author was a highschool student during the historic visit of Dr. Nkrumah. He was left with many memories of the visit. In fact, the words of the placard mentioned above which read: "An Explosion of African Freedom and Independence," remain etched in his memory. They are a vivid reminder of the important role that Liberia has played in the advocacy for human freedom and independence in Africa.
© 2007 by The Perspective

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