Baden Powell Memorial Hall, Accra, July 18, 1960
I am indeed happy to be here this morning to open such a conference. Who would have thought that in this year of 1960, it would be possible to even hold a conference of all Ghanaian women, much less of women of all Africa and African descent! But today, that is a reality and an achievement which constitutes another landmark of progress in Africa’s irresistible march to emancipation and victory.
All of you are aware of the present trend in Africa. The whole continent is ablaze with the fire of nationalism. This great giant Africa, which was anaesthetised for so long, is now awake and has shaken itself out of the slumber that for so many years enabled exploiters and marauders to plunder its wealth. The new African has arrived on the scene. Colonialism and imperialism are on the run, fleeing from the blows of African irredentism. What is woman’s part in the great struggle for African liberation? You have to provide an answer to that question. But I can say something of the role adopted by Ghanaian womanhood in the past. The women of Ghana have played a most glorious part in our struggle for independence. They were solidly behind the Ghana revolution. Guided by the Convention People’s Party, thousands of our women flocked to the nationalist banners and, side by side with the men, fought heroically until freedom was achieved for Ghana.
I repeat what l have many times stated before, that the independence of Ghana is meaningless, unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa. Therefore, the struggle in Ghana still continues and our women are still combatant troops. I would like to take this opportunity today to pay tribute to them.
This Conference, organised by the Ghana Women’s Movement which represents all women’s groups in the country, must ask the questions: why the women of South Africa must be in possession of passes in order to go about their ordinary business. Why apartheid overlords should shoot down defenceless women and children in their God-given land in order to maintain white supremacy. Whether Africa is an extension of Europe. Why Algeria, a country on African soil, should be claimed as French. Why South Africa should flout the authority of the United Nations over South-West Africa. What part can the women of Africa and of African descent play in the struggle for African emancipation? What part can the women of African descent anywhere in the world play in the struggle for African emancipation? You must ask these questions not by word of mouth, but by action — by positive action, which is the only language understood by the detractors of African freedom.
There is a pressing need for Africa to find solutions to many problems, but to try and mind the greatest problem of all and one to which a quick solution must be found, is how independent states of Africa can preserve their hard-won independence and sovereignty.
I think the solution is not difficult to find, if African leaders have the will and the courage to face facts. The fact which faces us must be obvious to us all. It is unity — a real political unity of African States. Any solution offered other than unity can only serve to shelve the issue and can never solve this vital problem. We have the choice of three things: to unite, to stand separately and disintegrate or to sell ourselves to foreign powers.
What is happening now in Congo is a grim reminder of what could so easily be repeated in any African territory, whether independent or not. African leader must recognize at once the pressing necessity for the states in Africa to come together in a political and economic union. If the United States of America and the Soviet Union, China and India can achieve this, why can’t we? If Russia can unite sixteen states in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and America, fifty states in the United States of America, no power on earth can prevent a similar union of African states, provided the African leaders realise that this is their only salvation. If this is not done, I can see nothing that can save Africa.
Your role in this direction is of great importance. Not only can you carry back this message to the men of your respective countries, but, if you are convince• that unity is the right answer, you can also bring your feminine influence to bear in persuading your brothers, husbands and friends of the importance of Africa unity as the only salvation for Africa. For my part, I stand resolutely an• inexorably by this conviction and will work with unrelenting determination for its attainment.
There is a great responsibility resting on the shoulders of all women of Africa and African descent. They must realise that the men alone cannot complete the gigantic task we have set ourselves. The time has come when the women of Africa and of African descent must rise up in their millions to join the Africa crusade for freedom. All over Africa, the cry goes out for action-political, social, economic cultural and educational vivid picture of the danger besetting us is provided by the present examples of colonialist and imperialist intrigue in the Congo. The fact that Congo has achieved independence has not prevented her detractors from causing double and dissension by subversion or overt treachery in persuading the province of Katanga to try to secede. We recognize Katanga as a natural integral part of the Republic of Congo.
This example of what has happened in Congo is a positive warning to all Africa to unite in action to defend and preserve the independence of Africa. Women of Africa and African descent, the history that you make today records not only the iron determination of our people to be free, but also, our proclamation to the world to take note of the fact that colonialism and imperialism are a decadent force with their backs to the wall and that they must be helped to liquidate themselves. Our rich heritage must be restored to us. Women of Africa and African descent, yours is the duty and privilege of hoisting high the nationalist banner of redemption; yours is the glory of answering the call of our beloved Africa; yours is the enviable opportunity to call a decisive halt to the ruinous penetration of colonialism and imperialism in Africa; yours is the honour to fight relentlessly for the total emancipation of this great continent: yours is the task of projecting the African personality to the world of today. Sisters of the African Liberation Front, the last century was one of European occupation of Africa. This century the twentieth century is one of African liberation. The year 1960 is the most challenging and significant year in this historic development. It is the year of the climate of the revolution in which Africa has rebelled against the shame and injustice which for so long has been meted out to her. The clarion command echoes across the mountains and the valleys, across the rivers and the lakes, across the oceans and the deserts. Hands off Africa! Hands off Africa! All artificial boundaries which separate brother from brother and sister from sister must be wiped out. Africa, so mighty, so rich, must be developed not only for the common good and prosperity of the African, but also for the peace and happiness of all mankind.
First and foremost, however, Africa must have peace, for we have a vested interest in peace. Anything which threatens the peace of the world has a direct impact on the destiny of Africa. We will not tolerate those who gamble with our very lives and consequently, we are determined to see that no nuclear bases are established on African soil.
The fate of the world must not be abandoned to the control and pleasure of nuclear powers. lt is my profound belief that Central and South America, the Middle East, China, India and South East Asia together with the Far Eastern Countries and other non—nuclear: powers, should come together to form a non-nuclear association. Such an association could limit the risk of nuclear war and give a lead to the final abolition of this terrible weapon and so contribute towards the ending of animosities which at the moment are threatening to destroy mankind.
After this long suffering at the hands of colonial oppressors, a free Africa cannot and must not allow herself to become the cockpit of nuclear madness. Independent and near-independent African states must firmly and resolutely refuse any concessions to nuclear powers for the establishment of nuclear bases of our continent. Military bases should not be made a condition for the granting of independence. The acceptance of such a condition makes independence fake and unreal it has been suggested in certain quarters that, independence is not possible through a mere political act, and Congo has been cited as an example of this.
Those who make such an assertion must know very well indeed how utterly untrue and preposterous — that statement is and how unrelated it is to the true position in the African nationalist struggle. We in this Africa liberation movement are fully alert to this new form of colonialism which is struggling to get a hold in our continent. To perpetuate imperialist interests in Africa, the colonial power now makes a point to grant fake independence. Chaos ensues and this enables the ex-colonial master to re- enter the territory on the pretext of maintaining law and order. Their idea is to grant independence with one hand and to take it back with the other. This chicanery of granting fake independence must stop. We demand real independence. We demand that when the colonial powers quit, they quit for\ good, baggage and all, and leave us to sink or swim according to our own efforts. To the colonial powers still in Africa and to the forces of imperialism and colonialism, I repeat: Quit Africa! Hands off Africa completely!
Sisters of Africa and African descent, we must now speak to our detractors in plain, blunt words. We must tell them that we know the game they are playing, that we are tired of watching it and demand that they play it no more. A free Africa wants and is determined to make its own contribution to the world. This can only be done in an atmosphere of political and economic freedom.
My sisters, I have said much to give you some idea of the danger facing our continent and of the obvious remedy. We believe in the destiny of the African continent and will continue to labour with faith and purpose until Africa is united in freedom. May God’s blessing rest upon your conference and guide your deliberations.
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