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UPDATED: 08:46, July 02, 2007
Kwame Nkrumah, pioneer of pan-Africanism
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The ninth summit of the African Union (AU) opened on Sunday under the theme "The Grand Debate on the Union Government."

The unprecedented wide and high-level focus on this subject coincides with Ghana's celebration for becoming 50 years ago the first sub-Sahara African nation to win independence.

Ghana's independence triggered a wave of decolonization movement and Ghana's first president Kwame Nkrumah is remembered for his strong commitment to and promotion of the ideal of establishing a unified Africa.

His enthusiasm about the continental integration had profound influence on the founding of the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor of the AU.

Following is a brief biography of this pan-Africanist leader:

Nkrumah was born in September 1909 in Nkroful, a small village on the 80 km trek from the port city of Takoradi, to a goldsmith's family.

He went to Accra in 1927 to pursue further education, graduating from the Achimota School in 1930.

In 1935 he went to the United States and studied there for 10 years. He received a BA from Lincoln University in 1939 and earned a Master of Science in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942 and a Master of Arts in philosophy the following year.

During his study in the Untied States, he encountered the ideas of Marcus Garvey, an influential leader and a proponent of the Back-to-Africa movement. Influenced by Garvey's thoughts, Nkrumah decided to commit himself to the cause of Africa's liberation and unification.

Nkrumah left New York for London in 1945, intending to study at the LSE. However, after meeting with leading Pan-Africanist George Padmore he helped organize the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester. After that he founded the West African National Secretariat to work for the decolonization of Africa.

He returned to Gold Coast, the name for Ghana during the colonial era, in 1947, becoming general secretary to the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), an organization promoting independence.

He won the first general election held in Africa under universal franchise in 1951 by a landslide. In 1952, upon the withdrawal of the British governor, he was appointed to the office of prime minister.

On March 6, 1957, at a grand ceremony for Ghana's attainment of independence, Nkrumah made the historic declaration: "At long last, the battle is ended and Ghana, your beloved country, is free forever."

In 1960, Nkrumah became the first president of Ghana.

He was deposed in February 1966 in a military coup while he was away on a state visit to Vietnam, forced into exile in Conakry, Guinea.

In failing health, he was flown to Bucharest, Romania, for medical treatment in August 1971 and died the following year.

His body was sent back to Ghana and was buried in his birthplace. His remains were later transferred to a large national memorial tomb and park in Accra.

Source: Xinhua

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