Saturday, December 20, 2008

On Becoming Samia Nkrumah

We, in Africa as in elsewhere, indeed need to to move away from 'politics by association'. But in our quest to do so let us not forget that actually some associations are legacies of our movements against 'politics by association' dictated by the 'imperial/global status quo'. Within the context of Obamamania and the quest for a post-racial world, we only need to re-read how Nkrumah's marriage was a huge political statement to a (then?) highly polarized world that pitted Pan-Africanism against Pan-Arabism, Blacks against Whites, Women against Men, the West against the Rest/East and the "I" against the "We".

The private/personal, feminists remind us, is political. Yet, to the apoliticized individual self, marriage is supposed to be a personal/private matter. But in this case the marriage was more of a public/political matter - it intended to show that Pan-Humanism is possible even in the so-called binary world. That is why the rise of Samia Nkrumah could and can be seen as a symbolic move toward the realization of an inclusive humanity - the one Frantz Fanon cried for when he, in effect, said that the dehumanized humans only want it to be possible for them to discover and to love humans wherever they may be!

"When Kwame Nkrumah married his Egyptian bride, Miss Fathia Halen Ritzk, in a surprise wedding," notes the New African of February 2006, "British and American authorities were sent into a panic as they feverishly sought to determine what the political implications were". On that issue, the New African columnist, Carina Ray, unearth a lot of political exchanges from the archives to prove that it was indeed The marriage that sent the West into panic. For instance, she observe that the then British High Commissioner in Accra, Sir Ian Maclennan, informed the Commonwealth Relations Officer (CRO) "that there were 'no doubt' that Prime Minister Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt hoped to 'build something on the foundation of the marriage.'"

"To support that claim", Carina Ray further notes, "Maclennan reported that shortly after the wedding, Nasser had 'sent a special emissary to Accra to invest Nkrumah with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Nile." In that archived exchange, Maclennan thus accused Nkrumah of hypocricy for accepting Nasser's tribute: "It is ...amusing that [Nkrumah] should himself become the first exception to the rule which he laid down after independence that Ghanaians were not to accept foreign orders and decorations". In the context of Nkrumah's vision of a United States of Africa, one wonders if he indeed saw Egypt as a foreign country - the very Egypt whose grand ancient civilization Africa was working so hard to reclaim from Europe as its very own!

The 'omnipresent-wannabe' CIA was also not left behind. Carina Ray notes that the US State Department and the CIA sought verification from British officials in Washington of what it referred to as a rumor that "Dr Nkrumah felt he was getting too tied up with Israel and as a balancing measure indented on Cairo for 'one bride, sight unseen'". But a picture of the couple in Kente is a 'sight seen'. Indeed the discourse of the veil predates US' 'war on terror'.

Interestingly, Carina Ray's Tales from the Archives, notes that the former governor of the then Gold Coast as Ghana was once known, Sir Arden-Clarke, told the CRO that he believed the marriage was the "bright idea" of George Padmore. By the way, this long-term friend and adviser of Nkrumah from his revolutionary days in London, UK, was the one who wrote that famous book on Pan-Africanism or Communism? after being frustrated by the way the Marxist movement he worked so hard to organize in Europe was paying lip service to the 'class-cum-racial' plight of Africans in the continent and its diaspora. "Padmore", observes Carina Ray, "was believed to have 'suggested to [Nkrumah] that a symbolic marriage of this type with an Egyptian girl would be an indication of a unity of interests between East and West Africa, etc.'" Of course the etcetera means and the rest of what Nkrumah called 'Balkanized Africa'!

Many conjectures abound on why Nkrumah married Fathia. But of "all the various theories concocted about the marriage", concludes Carina Ray, "it would seem that the British authorities, despite their denial, believed the union was a political weapon that could be used against them". No wonder, as her Tales from the Archives reveals, Maclennan sent a confidential telegram to the CRO noting that "in normal circumstance presumably [the British] prime minister and secretary of state would send messages of congratulations to a Commonwealth prime minister on the occassion of his marriage" but the "hole and corner way in which [the] wedding has been arranged" and "the Egyptian nationality of the bride" would discourage them from conveying their congratulations to Nkrumah. Yet the secretary conveyed his "good wishes" to Nkrumah, albeit, through Maclennan, thus avoiding contacting him directly.

If the prospective union between Ghana and Egypt was such a threat to the then dying British Empire, what more could we say of the then prospective union between all countries of Africa - the very vision Nkrumah symbolized? What can we say of the power that symbol still wields? Regardless of whether Samia Nkrumah is 'her father's daughter' or 'her own woman' let us not forget about the symbolic power of her 'Africa Must Unite' becoming.


Absolutely Awesome Things (AAT) January 21, 2009 at 11:35 PM  

Interesting !thanks for posting it.Nice educational blog!Keep it Up

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