Documents Expose U.S. Role in Nkrumah Overthrow

Declassified National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency documents provide compelling, new evidence of United States government involvement in the 1966 overthrow of Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah.

Kwame Nkrumah was the first President of the Republic of Ghana.

The coup d’etat, organized by dissident army officers, toppled the Nkrumah government on Feb. 24, 1966 and was promptly hailed by Western governments, including the U.S.

The documents appear in a collection of diplomatic and intelligence memos, telegrams, and reports on Africa in Foreign Relations of the United States, the government’s ongoing official history of American foreign policy.

Prepared by the State Department’s Office of the Historian, the latest volumes reflect the overt diplomacy and covert actions of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration from 1964-68. Though published in November 1999, what they reveal about U.S. complicity in the Ghana coup was only recently noted.

Allegations of American involvement in the putsche arose almost immediately because of the well-known hostility of the U.S. to Nkrumah’s socialist orientation and pan-African activism.

Nkrumah, himself, implicated the U.S. in his overthrow, and warned other African nations about what he saw as an emerging pattern.

“An all-out offensive is being waged against the progressive, independent states,” he wrote in Dark Days in Ghana, his 1969 account of the Ghana coup. “All that has been needed was a small force of disciplined men to seize the key points of the capital city and to arrest the existing political leadership.”

“It has been one of the tasks of the C.I.A. and other similar organisations,” he noted, “to discover these potential quislings and traitors in our midst, and to encourage them, by bribery and the promise of political power, to destroy the constitutional government of their countries.”

A Spook’s Story

While charges of U.S. involvement are not new, support for them was lacking until 1978, when anecdotal evidence was provided from an unlikely source—a former CIA case officer, John Stockwell, who reported first-hand testimony in his memoir, In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story.

“The inside story came to me,” Stockwell wrote, “from an egotistical friend, who had been chief of the [CIA] station in Accra [Ghana] at the time.” (Stockwell was stationed one country away in the Ivory Coast.)

Subsequent investigations by The New York Times and Covert Action Information Bulletin identified the station chief as Howard T. Banes, who operated undercover as a political officer in the U.S. Embassy.

This is how the ouster of Nkrumah was handled as Stockwell related. The Accra station was encouraged by headquarters to maintain contact with dissidents of the Ghanaian army for the purpose of gathering intelligence on their activities. It was given a generous budget, and maintained intimate contact with the plotters as a coup was hatched. So close was the station’s involvement that it was able to coordinate the recovery of some classified Soviet military equipment by the United States as the coup took place.

According to Stockwell, Banes’ sense of initiative knew no bounds. The station even proposed to headquarters through back channels that a squad be on hand at the moment of the coup to storm the [Communist] Chinese embassy, kill everyone inside, steal their secret records, and blow up the building to cover the facts.

Though the proposal was quashed, inside the CIA headquarters the Accra station was given full, if unofficial credit for the eventual coup, in which eight Soviet advisors were killed. None of this was adequately reflected in the agency’s records, Stockwell wrote.

Confirmation and Revelation

While the newly-released documents, written by a National Security Council staffer and unnamed CIA officers, confirm the essential outlines set forth by Nkrumah and Stockwell, they also provide additional, and chilling, details about what the U.S. government knew about the plot, when, and what it was prepared to do and did do to assist it.

On March 11, 1965, almost a year before the coup, William P. Mahoney, the U.S. ambassador to Ghana, participated in a candid discussion in Washington, D.C., with CIA Director John A. McCone and the deputy chief of the CIA’s Africa division, whose name has been withheld.

Significantly, the Africa division was part of the CIA’s directorate of plans, or dirty tricks component, through which the government pursued its covert policies.

According to the record of their meeting (Document 251), topic one was the “Coup d’etat Plot, Ghana.” While Mahoney was satisfied that popular opinion was running strongly against Nkrumah and the economy of the country was in a precarious state, he was not convinced that the coup d’etat, now being planned by Acting Police Commissioner Harlley and Generals Otu and Ankrah, would necessarily take place.

Nevertheless, he confidently—and accurately, as it turned out—predicted that one way or another Nkrumah would be out within a year. Revealing the depth of embassy knowledge of the plot, Mahoney referred to a recent report which mentioned that the top coup conspirators were scheduled to meet on 10 March at which time they would determine the timing of the coup.

However, he warned, because of a tendency to procrastinate, any specific date they set should be accepted with reservations. In a reversal of what some would assume were the traditional roles of an ambassador and the CIA director, McCone asked Mahoney who would most likely succeed Nkrumah in the event of a coup.

Mahoney again correctly forecast the future: Ambassador Mahoney stated that initially, at least, a military junta would take over.

Making it Happen

But Mahoney was not a prophet. Rather, he represented the commitment of the U.S. government, in coordination with other Western governments, to bring about Nkrumah’s downfall.

Firstly, Mahoney recommended denying Ghana’s forthcoming aid request in the interests of further weakening Nkrumah. He felt that there was little chance that either the Chinese Communists or the Soviets would in adequate measure come to Nkrumah’s financial rescue and the British would continue to adopt a hard nose attitude toward providing further assistance to Ghana.

At the same time, it appears that Mahoney encouraged Nkrumah in the mistaken belief that both the U.S. and the U.K. would come to his financial rescue and proposed maintaining current U.S. aid levels and programs because they will endure and be remembered long after Nkrumah goes.

Secondly, Mahoney seems to have assumed the responsibility of increasing the pressure on Nkrumah and exploiting the probable results. This can be seen in his 50-minute meeting with Nkrumah three weeks later.

According to Mahoney’s account of their April 2 discussion (Document 252), “at one point Nkrumah, who had been holding face in hands, looked up and I saw he was crying. With difficulty he said I could not understand the ordeal he had been through during last month. Recalling that there had been seven attempts on his life.”

Mahoney did not attempt to discourage Nkrumah’s fears, nor did he characterize them as unfounded in his report to his superiors.

“While Nkrumah apparently continues to have personal affection for me,” he noted, “he seems as convinced as ever that the US is out to get him. From what he said about assassination attempts in March, it appears he still suspects US involvement.”

Of course, the U.S. was out to get him. Moreover, Nkrumah was keenly aware of a recent African precedent that made the notion of a U.S.-organized or sanctioned assassination plot plausible—namely, the fate of the Congo and its first prime minister, his friend Patrice Lumumba.

Nkrumah believed that the destabilization of the Congolese government in 1960 and Lumumba’s assassination in 1961 were the work of the “Invisible Government of the U.S.,” as he wrote in Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, later in 1965.

When Lumumba’s murder was announced, Nkrumah told students at the inauguration of an ideological institute that bore his name that this brutal murder should teach them the diabolical depths of degradation to which these twin-monsters of imperialism and colonialism can descend.

In his conclusion, Mahoney observed: “Nkrumah gave me the impression of being a badly frightened man. His emotional resources seem be running out. As pressures increase, we may expect more hysterical outbursts, many directed against US.”

It was not necessary to add that he was helping to apply the pressure, nor that any hysterical outbursts by Nkrumah played into the West’s projection of him as an unstable dictator, thus justifying his removal.

Smoking Gun

On May 27, 1965, Robert W. Komer, a National Security Council staffer, briefed his boss, McGeorge Bundy, President Johnson’s special assistant for national security affairs, on the anti-Nkrumah campaign (Document 253).

Komer, who first joined the White House as a member of President Kennedy’s NSC staff, had worked as a CIA analyst for 15 years. In 1967, Johnson tapped him to head his hearts-and-minds pacification program in Vietnam.

Komer’s report establishes that the effort was not only interagency, sanctioned by the White House and supervised by the State Department and CIA, but also intergovernmental, being supported by America’s Western allies.

“FYI,” he advised, “we may have a pro-Western coup in Ghana soon. Certain key military and police figures have been planning one for some time, and Ghana’s deteriorating economic condition may provide the spark.”

“The plotters are keeping us briefed,” he noted, “and the State Department thinks we’re more on the inside than the British. While we’re not directly involved (I’m told), we and other Western countries (including France) have been helping to set up the situation by ignoring Nkrumah’s pleas for economic aid. All in all, it looks good.”

Komer’s reference to not being told if the U.S. was directly involved in the coup plot is revealing and quite likely a wry nod to his CIA past.

Among the most deeply ingrained aspects of intelligence tradecraft and culture is plausible deniability, the habit of mind and practice designed to insulate the U.S., and particularly the president, from responsibility for particularly sensitive covert operations.

Komer would have known that orders such as the overthrow of Nkrumah would have been communicated in a deliberately vague, opaque, allusive, and indirect fashion, as Thomas Powers noted in The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA.

It would be unreasonable to argue that the U.S. was not directly involved when it created or exacerbated the conditions that favored a coup, and did so for the express purpose of bringing one about.

Truth and Consequences

As it turned out, the coup did not occur for another nine months. After it did, Komer, now acting special assistant for national security affairs, wrote a congratulatory assessment to the President on March 12, 1966 (Document 260). His assessment of Nkrumah and his successors was telling.

“The coup in Ghana,” he crowed, “is another example of a fortuitous windfall. Nkrumah was doing more to undermine our interests than any other black African. In reaction to his strongly pro-Communist leanings, the new military regime is almost pathetically pro-Western.”

In this, Komer and Nkrumah were in agreement. “Where the more subtle methods of economic pressure and political subversion have failed to achieve the desired result,” Nkrumah wrote from exile in Guinea three years later, “there has been resort to violence in order to promote a change of regime and prepare the way for the establishment of a puppet government.”

Copyright ©2001, Paul Lee.

Paul Lee is a historian, filmmaker, and freelance writer. He is Director of Best Efforts, Inc. (BEI), a professional research and consulting service that specializes in the recovery, preservation, and dissemination of global black history and culture. BEI offers “OurStory,” a black history lecture series. You can reach him at

By Paul Lee
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Remarque: I do not own the rights of this document nor did i compose or aided in its writing. I am simply sharing it. You can visit the article’s website origin by clicking here.

Thanks for reading. Long Live the memories of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah


Try Ignorance

Honourable Sir/Madam,

I occasionally resort to the criticism of the Ghanaian way of life, comparing her peoples lack of simple understanding and inability to back up great ideas with the very commonest of reasons. Verily i can’t begin to think that a people trying to create a life for themselves is unable to come to the conclusion that free education is primordial and understanding its essence is absolutely infinite.

As said by Sydney J. Harris “the whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” To teach a people to create a life for themselves and the comprehension survival in this modern life during best times or when harsh realities makes a call.

If a people are educated, they wouldn’t need one describing to them how their lives would be destroyed but through their own proper eyes would they perceive the deceit in every evil that comes their way. If it wasn’t for education, i solemnly regret to inform you probably could perceive me from far away undoubtedly listening to nature’s call on the streets of the capital city of Mother Ghana. Yea, it happens only in Africa and thats the good news.

One argument still stands, “The occurrence of the well educated to pry on the weak minded”. This is an inevitable situation i substantially believe couldn’t be eradicated unless at least seventy percent of any given population stands educated. By “educated” here i mean can read and write, basic(literacy).

The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.  ~Bill Beattie.

In any case kind Sir/Madam, our constitution itself encourages the “progressive introduction of education”. education here meaning, all forms i.e basic, secondary and even beyond.

The Ghana Constitution states in Chapter Five: THE FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS AND FREEDOM

All persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities and with a view to
achieving the full realization of that right- (a) basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all;
(b) secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education;
(c) high education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education;
(d) functional literacy shall be encouraged or intensified as far as possible.

I’ve seen a people stuck with bread and oil for breakfast provide free education to their citizens(not only basic).

I ask kind Sir/Madam that you make available the richness of our free nation to all in all forms as described by the constitution.

As the constitution stands one for all, so do i wish we all stand for it for without it into nothingness shall we go.

Thank you.


Robots Call (A Ghanaian Letter) Part I

Dear Sir / Madame

A few days ago I came into contact with an incident that did not only change my perception on ideas and or opinions but reaffirmed my position on the latter. I discuss with people about certain subjects mostly on the need for social reforms, the dignity of the Ghanaian citizenship, security, the importance of the rule of law and the need to aspire for a better future for all Ghanaian born and unborn but never have I dared to publish them online as a blog or an article.

If you are obtuse by this post already then, ” I am talking about politics”.

Ghana is a country very much admired by all who has heard of it morocco on the other hand leads Ghana on the popular vote campaign. But i take more pride in the fact that, Ghana although is smaller in comparison, is the United People of Africa. I call her so because she has approximately 200 different languages with about a 100 different tribes coming together to establish her successes & failures. Small in size she is very grand in composition.

I could go continuously for hours boring you with all the good sides of Mother Ghana without telling you every so called good life is pure fallacy. I took the liberty to read the Ghanaian Constitution it struck me more think, “what in the hell have we been doing all this time”.

Certainly, i was swift to put the blame on the old leaders whose constant failures has led a country that was said to be more than 10 times richer than China come to her knees and beg from China. Trust me, it ain’t getting better.

In Ghana today, you would find that in general the adults are teaching the youth their failed way of life. I barely meet an honest person poised to uphold the good name of of the country. In fact, I see the intellect waste their breath on the aspirations of a bogos society that teaches her future children to lie continuously, backbite daily san cease as well as practice to become perfect in corruption. One would be shocked at the lack of understanding on simple matters that calls for nothing but mere common sense.

You would be more amazed at the youth’s interest in pursuing a promiscuous life than great aspirations, great endeavours, genuine interest the economy as well as politics. What you would find is everyone is compromised. The youth who are the future of the country are raped mentally as the aging crooked politicians bribe and excite them to play DIRTY POLITICS.

The truthful pain is these mentally molested shortsighted individual will grow up and continue the convenance that was thought to them in their youthful days.

Borrowing, spending, corruption, kickbacks, backbiting, lying, deceiving, rebuff constitution, increase in poverty rate, theft…an infinite list. The hopelessness of the watchers are not seen and that of the mother selling smoked fish to put her children through university is ignored although smoked fish is a favorite part of our gastronomy.

Its not all……

Come back later for the Robots Call( A Ghanaian Letter) PART II 

The New Iamaghanaian Dot Com 2

Just a stone throw away from achieving the greatest feat amongst many others, your immediate visit to the new iamaghanaian website shouldn’t be a waste of your time. You would notice amongst many new feats a new chat bar ( which I’ve been dying to inform you) which features an online game with tons and tons of challenging GAMES arranged under different categories.

I will be very reluctant to talk to you about other new additions to the website but what i am dying to spill out is iamaghanaian wouldn’t just be your normal ghanaian social network but a place to search and post jobs, play & chat with friends, meet other ghanaians via our dating application, listen or upload ghanaian music etc. etc. etc.

The team is very much overwhelmed with their work improving the old website into a new dynamic social portal for ghanaians both home and abroad. But did i mention their courage grew when user visite continued to increase? I guess i just did.

Out of the old comes the new so we left some old features unchanged including the online market now called “Markola”. E-shopping: Shop online even overseas.

We are inviting you to spread the word as we build a better Ghanaian through a greater online presence. Join iamaghanaian now or tell your friend if you are already a member.

Meet you there!

Azonto Fever, The New Ghanaian Craze.

Its Azonto! “Yea, you know what time it is.” says Sarkodie, the self proclaimed inventor of the Azonto dance. Before you read further, all I kindly ask of you is to watch this short video of how the new Ghanaian dance, AZONTO, goes. Funny thing, my in-built dictionary keeps red underlining the word “AZONTO”.

Its my guess after watching this video you probably would watch it a second time before i finish, edit and or re-edit this blog.

Azonto originated from somewhere in Ghana. Hey! don’t ask because i have no idea where exactly. What i know is, it’s the new craze, the new fever widely spread out across the globe even known to the most hidden Ghanaian immigrant somewhere in Uzbekistan. Use Google earth. You’ll find him/her.

Everyone is dancing Azonto. Anyone not yet dancing it is probably discreetly learning how to dance it in their rooms or public sanitary places. Been there, done that but not all, lol.

The Azonto dance so popular to the extent that the youth of Ghana enjoys it more than looking for work or coming up with fresh and innovative ideas for the very broke, mismanaged and highly going to turn worst economy of Ghana.

In fact, word out is, the youth of Ghana will rather spend time dancing Azonto and making videos of themselves than using up proteins in their cerebrum. The truth is it, this dance has no cultural roots but people are making it cultural. Yep, welcome to Ghana. On the other hand, i would want you to take note that the old and real Azonto dance is totally different from the new age Azonto.

Enough being a hater. If you don’t know how to dance Azonto in Ghana, then you certainly have to dig and bury yourself because this singular, simpler dance has brought many Ghanaians all around the world into doing the same something just at an exact same time and moment. Isn’t that just amazing?

It has brought so people in this simple country, it reminds me of one fact, THE ONLY THING GHANAIANS DO TOGETHER IS TO DANCE AND ENTERTAIN THEMSELVES, thus the total absence of war in the history of Ghanaian. Isn’t that twice Amazing?

The dance just like any other Ghanaian dance, even if someone is just jumping like he’s on fire, does one thing, speaking to  another and or an audience.

And that’s why the Azonto dance has become very popular among the youth of Ghana today. In my opinion, the youth having so many things to say has put all those words into the Azonto literally virtual dictionary. The dance can be done alone, but that’s unless you mostly talk in your sleep, to yourself. This dance works perfectly well following one important and essential rule of communication. COMMUNICATION INVOLVES TWO PEOPLE. Azonto always works well when it involves two people “dancingly” talking to one another.

Now, let me teach you how to dance the Azonto. Yes i forgot, re-watch the video for second time.

Wish you all Azonto days ahead. Meet you on the AZONTO battlefield.