Tuesday, 21 September 2010


[Kwame Nkrumah peaks in Harlem, with Malcolm X listening and looking on
(bottom right of the frame)]

Kwame Nkrumah speech:
I Speak of Freedom (excerpt)

For centuries, Europeans dominated the African continent. The white
man arrogated to himself the right to rule and to be obeyed by the
non-white; his mission, he claimed, was to "civilise" Africa. Under
this cloak, the Europeans robbed the continent of vast riches and
inflicted unimaginable suffering on the African people.

All this makes a sad story, but now we must be prepared to bury the
past with its unpleasant memories and look to the future. All we ask
of the former colonial powers is their goodwill and co-operation to
remedy past mistakes and injustices and to grant independence to the
colonies in Africa?

It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems,
and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are
weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good
in the world.

Although most Africans are poor, our continent is potentially
extremely rich. Our mineral resources, which are being exploited with
foreign capital only to enrich foreign investors, range from gold and
diamonds to uranium and petroleum. Our forests contain some of the
finest woods to be grown anywhere. Our cash crops include cocoa,
coffee, rubber, tobacco and cotton. As for power, which is an
important factor in any economic development, Africa contains over
40% of the potential water power of the world, as compared with about
10% in Europe and 13% in North America. Yet so far, less than 1% has
been developed. This is one of the reasons why we have in Africa the
paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty, and scarcity in the midst
of abundance.

Never before have a people had within their grasp so great an
opportunity for developing a continent endowed with so much wealth.
Individually, the independent states of Africa, some of them
potentially rich, others poor, can do little for their people.
Together, by mutual help, they can achieve much. But the economic
development of the continent must be planned and pursued as a whole.
A loose confederation designed only for economic co-operation would
not provide the necessary unity of purpose. Only a strong political
union can bring about full and effective development of our natural
resources for the benefit of our people.

The political situation in Africa today is heartening and at the same
time disturbing. It is heartening to see so many new flags hoisted in
place of the old; it is disturbing to see so many countries of
varying sizes and at different levels of development, weak and, in
some cases, almost helpless. If this terrible state of fragmentation
is allowed to continue it may well be disastrous for us all.

There are at present some 28 states in Africa, excluding the Union of
South Africa, and those countries not yet free. No less than nine of
these states have a population of less than three million. Can we
seriously believe that the colonial powers meant these countries to
be independent, viable states? The example of South America, which
has as much wealth, if not more than North America, and yet remains
weak and dependent on outside interests, is one which every African
would do well to study.

Critics of African unity often refer to the wide differences in
culture, language and ideas in various parts of Africa. This is true,
but the essential fact remains that we are all Africans, and have a
common interest in the independence of Africa. The difficulties
presented by questions of language, culture and different political
systems are not insuperable. If the need for political union is
agreed by us all, then the will to create it is born; and where
there's a will there's a way.

The present leaders of Africa have already shown a remarkable
willingness to consult and seek advice among themselves. Africans
have, indeed, begun to think continentally. They realise that they
have much in common, both in their past history, in their present
problems and in their future hopes. To suggest that the time is not
yet ripe for considering a political union of Africa is to evade the
facts and ignore realities in Africa today.

The greatest contribution that Africa can make to the peace of the
world is to avoid all the dangers inherent in disunity, by creating a
political union which will also by its success, stand as an example
to a divided world. A Union of African states will project more
effectively the African personality. It will command respect from a
world that has regard only for size and influence. The scant
attention paid to African opposition to the French atomic tests in
the Sahara, and the ignominious spectacle of the U.N. in the Congo
quibbling about constitutional niceties while the Republic was
tottering into anarchy, are evidence of the callous disregard of
African Independence by the Great Powers.

We have to prove that greatness is not to be measured in stockpiles
of atom bombs. I believe strongly and sincerely that with the
deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect for human lives,
the intense humanity that is our heritage, the African race, united
under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world
bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose
greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and
suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope,
trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.

The emergence of such a mighty stabilising force in this strife-worn
world should be regarded not as the shadowy dream of a visionary, but
as a practical proposition, which the peoples of Africa can, and
should, translate into reality. There is a tide in the affairs of
every people when the moment strikes for political action. Such was
the moment in the history of the United States of America when the
Founding Fathers saw beyond the petty wranglings of the separate
states and created a Union. This is our chance. We must act now.
Tomorrow may be too late and the opportunity will have passed, and
with it the hope of free Africa's survival.

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