Silence and Solidarity in 1968 Ghana
In My First Coup d'Etat, the country's vice president compares his school bully to dictators in 1960s Africa.
What was happening to my group of friends and me in Achimota, around 1967 and 1968, was truly a microcosm of what was happening all throughout Africa. Dictators were sprouting up one after another, bushmen with bad manners and violent tendencies. They held their communities in fear and felt entitled to what did not belong to them. They betrayed the vision of unity and progress that Africa had established for its future during the struggles for liberation from colonial rule.
We were merely three boys on a playground. What kind of revolution could we begin? We did not know that it was within our power to stop it, to effect change in our lives and in the lives of others. But out in the larger world beyond our campus, from the cities of Accra and Addis Ababa to the apartheid-burdened South Africa, there were men who did. Those men gathered in threes and fours to complain and plan and prepare for the moment when they would take a stand, damn the consequences.
We would hear the news reports on the radio and read about them in the papers. In 1967, the African National Congress and the Zimbabwe African People's Union joined forces for armed battle against the Rhodesian army; that same year in Bolivia, a friend of African independence, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, was executed. In 1968, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritius, and Swaziland all gained their independence; several African countries joined forces with the Soviet Union and various Islamic and Caribbean nations to threaten a boycott against the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City if South Africa were allowed to participate; the Association of Senegalese Students and the Dakar Association of Students staged a strike and boycott of examinations that resulted in on-campus riots and nearly a thousand arrests. That same year in the United States of America, another friend of African independence, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated.
So much was happening so quickly. Africa felt like too big a subject, too expansive a continent, for us to ever fully know or understand. It seemed like a world far beyond our reach. Perhaps our season of Ezra was our initiation rite into this new Africa, one that was changing so rapidly and radically from the Africa for which our fathers fought and the Africa of which our grandfathers dreamed.
Reprinted with permission from Bloombury USA.
John Dramani Mahama is the vice president of Ghana.