Erica Powell, Nkrumah's private secretary dies

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Erica Powell OBE, who was the Private Secretary to Kwame Nkrumah, President of Ghana and later to Siaka Stevens, President of Sierra Leone, died last month at the age of 86. She died at Peterborough on June 5, 2007. She was made an MBE in 1958 and OBE in 1960.

Erica was born on March 15, 1921 at Brighton in Sussex England into a middle class family. She trained as a secretary and then as a teacher. She worked with Barclays Bank during World War II. She was the top candidate in the 1940 London Chamber of Commerce Shorthand and Typewriting exams.

In February 1952, the Crown Agents for the Colonies offered her the position of "Private Secretary (Female)/Gold Coast" which later became the title of her autobiography. She ended up working as the Private Secretary to the Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Charles Arden-Clarke. While working for the Governor, she became a close friend and confidant of Kwame Nkrumah, then bidding for Ghana's independence from the United Kingdom. Her closeness to Nkrumah led to her being dismissed in 1954 and being sent back to the UK.

Powell returned in January 1955 to work for Kwame Nkrumah, a position she held till 1965, a year before his overthrow. Her close relationship and loyalty to Nkrumah bred a lot of rumours both in Ghana and the UK. It also brought a lot of resentment from various quarters. She kept in contact with Nkrumah while he was in exile in Guinea until his death in April, 1972.

She later worked for Siaka Stevens as his private secretary from 1970 to 1979. She attended Nkrumah's funeral in 1972 as part of the official Sierra Leone delegation.