The Times of Tanzania
Eastern Africa News Network, Breaking News Tanzania

How Ghana worked to Kill the East African Federation

Sir Geoffrey Ellerton served as the Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet and Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta’s Office in Kenya back in 1963.

As Kenya geared towards independence, it was the wish of Her Majesty’s Government that Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika should be united into an East African Federation.

In this regard, the British government transferred its High Commissioner in Ghana, Sir Geoffrey Stanley de Freitas to Nairobi to help in modalities of setting up the envisaged East African Federation.

However, according to Ellerton, the idea of an East African was greatly opposed by Ghanaian President, Kwame Nkrumah who fought it vehemently.

To achieve his aim, Nkrumah posted David Bosumtwi-Sam, former Administrative Secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs as Ghana’s ambassador to Uganda.

Envoy David Bosumtwi-Sam was however given one special assignment; his main task was to ensure that the idea of an East African Federation did not see the light of the day.

Ambassador Bosumtwi-Sam would later admit in his old age that Kwame Nkrumah had indeed posted him to East Africa to fulfill the leader’s mission of killing the idea of an East African Federation.

And Ellerton writes: “Bosumtwi-Sam  was literally  spending  large sums of money in  Uganda,  Kenya  and Tanganyika  trying to whip  up opposition to the  idea  of  an East  Federation  by bribing officials.”

Nkrumah, the Ghanaian Head of State, had feared that an East African Federation would be the center of power on the continent.

Kwame Nkurumah

The proposed East Africa Federation presented a threat to Nkurumah’s own ambitions of trying to achieve a much wider pan-African association of newly independent African states of which he would be president.

On the other hand because of   his admiration for Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta’s early association with the Ghanaian leader in England, Jomo Kenyatta   proposed that the Nkurumah should be the chief guest at Kenya’s independence.

Consequently Kenyatta  instructed  Ellerton,  who was the Permanent Secretary  in his office,  to draft a befitting  invitation  for Nkrumah  which he would sign himself. 

Nkrumah,  however , rejected  the invitation on grounds  that Kenya  appeared to be  leaning towards the idea of an  East  African  Federation contrary  to his plan   of creating  one Pan-Africanist association for Africa of which  he would  be the leader.

With independence just around the corner and the proposed African chief guest having turned down the invitation, Kenya found itself in a dilemma.

Government officials turned around and started shopping around for another principled African chief guest. 

The person they settled on was Haile Selassie.

Haile Selassie I (Tafari Makonnen) was the emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974.

“Kenyatta was having a meeting with his ministers when a bell rang in my office and l was summoned.  And he said ‘Mr Ellerton’ as he used to call me, ‘we want to send a letter to Emperor Haile Selassie, but we are not sure how to address it’.

I said l will find out and l indeed did find out.”

Sir Geoffrey Ellerton

An invitation was subsequently sent out to Haile Selassie.

A special house was acquired in Muthaiga for the Emperor and his delegation. 

However, the British pressured Kenya to cancel the invitation out of fear that his presence would overshadow that of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh who was to represent the Queen at the Independence ceremony.

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