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Kulungugu: Remembering bomb attack on Nkrumah

BY: Gilbert Mawuli Agbey
 The writer beside the statue
The writer beside the statue

Located in the Pusiga District in the Upper East Region, Kulungugu is the famous town and place where Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, escaped a bombing attempt on his life.

The town which derived its name from the Bissa language is the last town and minor entry point at the border between Ghana and Burkina Faso.

Origin

According to history, a Bissa man who became the first chief of the town lived not too far from a crooked shea tree and people in search of him were always told to look out for the crooked shea tree since his house was close to it.

In Bissa, shea nut is “kur” while crooked is translated as “ghungu”. Thus, the crooked shea tree in Bissa is translated as “Kur ghunghu”.

As the settlement expanded, the people in the community were referred to as “Kur ghungu people” but due to the difficulty in the pronunciation of the name, it was corrupted to Kulungugu.

On August 1, 1962, the town gained both local and international attention when Dr Nkrumah, during a visit to the town, survived an assassination attempt on his life, which was orchestrated by his political opponents.

Assassination attempt

The first Ghanaian leader was returning from a meeting with the then President of Burkina Faso, Maurice Yameogo in Tenkodogo, in the neighbouring French-speaking nation, during which a document was signed by both presidents towards the construction of a major hydroelectric project over the Volta Lake.

Dr Nkrumah’s trip back to Ghana by road was hampered by a downpour and the bad state of the road through Kulungugu hampered the movement of the presidential convoy.

After getting wind of the information that Dr Nkrumah would pass through the town en route to Accra, a number of schoolchildren and the elderly lined up along the major street through the town to catch a glimpse and wave him as well.

Due to pressure on the convoy to stop and the excitement which was visibly written on the faces of the enthusiastic schoolchildren, former President Nkrumah stopped to respond to the cheers and speak to the schoolchildren.

As a 14-year-old schoolgirl walked toward Dr Nkrumah to present a bouquet of flowers to welcome him, the flowers exploded, killing the girl instantly and injuring several others.

State of monument

Immediately after the sad incident, members of the Kulungugu community came together to build a statue at the exact place where the incident occurred in honour of Dr Nkrumah, to preserve the history of the incident and to remember others who died and got injured as well.

But 60 years after its construction, the statue located in the middle of the road through the town is currently not in good shape and not befitting of the status of Dr Nkrumah who laid a solid socio-economic foundation toward the growth and development of the country.
Parts of the statue have been defaced, which makes it very difficult for especially visitors to identify it as the statue of Ghana’s first President.

NNDP’s intervention

Fortunately, a yet-to-be registered political party, Nkrumah Never Dies Party (NNDP), formed to champion the ideals of Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, has initiated steps to rehabilitate the defaced statue.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic after a brief ceremony for work to begin on the project, the Founder of the NNDP, Amusu Kwaggrey, said the statue constructed 60 years ago had not seen any major rehabilitation, hence its deterioration.

He noted that “As a country, we cannot afford to lose historic artefacts, especially Nkrumah’s statue at Kulungugu, as it would be a great disservice to generations yet to be born since such history would elude them,” he said.

For his part, an opinion leader of the town, James Abilla Yahaya, commended the NNDP and its partners for coming together to renovate the statue, which is cherished by members of the community.