The Struggle for Total Liberation: Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana in Southern Rhodesian Politics
Brooks Marmon is an American PhD student in the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh. His research examines the impact of decolonisation across Africa on Southern Rhodesian politics during the Federal era. He has received funding for archival research from the New York Public Library, Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library, the Royal Historical Society, the British Institute in Eastern Africa, and Stanford University. He previously worked in Liberia with the African Development Bank and the Accountability Lab, supporting initiatives to build resilience and strengthen governance. Before moving to west Africa, he supported the implementation of international higher education partnership initiatives at the American Council on Education and the American Political Science Association. He volunteered with the Peace Corps in Niger and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Clark University.
Drawing on published primary sources, diplomatic archives, and memoirs of relevant actors, this paper examines the prominent role of Ghana in contributing to the radicalization and polarization of Southern Rhodesian politics across both sides of the racial political divide in the 1950s and early 1960s. It emphasizes the period from 1957 – 1961.
The symbolic and tangible inspiration of Ghanaian independence in 1957 played a significant role in stimulating political expression in Southern Rhodesia; the white political establishment routinely condemned Ghana’s policies, while anti-colonial activists celebrated them and sought to develop concrete links with the first sub – Saharan African state to emerge from colonial rule.
Perceptions of independent Ghana were at the frontline of a struggle over pan – Africanism and Southern Rhodesia’s place in a rapidly decolonizing world order. This paper traces the reactions and rhetoric of both the ruling establishment and anti – colonial activists in Southern Rhodesia to Nkrumah’s Ghana and the importance of the west African state in shaping how these opposing groups embraced or rejected the domino process of African decolonization that followed.
The paper argues that the strong international orientation of Ghana, accompanied by its moral and tangible support to the anti – colonial struggle in Southern Rhodesia, played a formative role in internationalizing the Rhodesian domestic political struggle from an early stage. By tracing the struggle over popular interpretations and representations of Ghana in Rhodesian society, this paper illuminates critical facets of Rhodesian political propaganda and ideology and illustrates the extent to which transnational influences were prevalent outside of the states of physical exile that have received considerably greater attention in the academic literature.