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Independence and After

The following is a brief summary of the key figures who have helped to shape this country, then known as the Gold Coast, to its present. Without a doubt, the most dynamic and visionary leader was Kwame Nkrumah and therefore more space has been given to describe his contribution to our beloved country, Ghana. Along the way you will find that it has taken all sorts of personalities to mould Ghana into the shape it is in, politically, economically and socially.

Nkrumah - march 6th 1957

12.00am of March 6th 1957, was a special morning, a morning different from any other morning. This was a morning of jubilation and euphoria and anybody who was around in Ghana may never forget. To most Ghanaians the struggle was over. We were masters of our own destiny; a complete break from our colonial masters; at least that's what we thought. The first black sub-Saharan country to achieve independence. There was talk of 'land flowing with milk and honey' and there were going to be jobs for everybody.

"The independence of Ghana was meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa." our first Prime Minster said on the night. Nkrumah was a visionary, somebody whose ideas were sort of 'too advanced' for his followers to comprehend. He fully understood the problems black people faced, not just in Africa, but abroad. He set out some of his vision on that night and in the years that followed he tried to get other African leaders to see his vision with great difficulty. On hind-side, many politicians and citizens look back and realise what a great man he was.

Nkrumah - (Mar.6,1957 - Feb. 24,1966)

Kwame Nkrumah (September 21, 1909 - April 27, 1972), one of the most influential Pan-Africanists of the 20th century, was the leader of Ghana and its predecessor state, the Gold Coast, from 1952 to 1966.

In 1909, Madam Nyaniba gave birth to Francis Nwia Kofi Ngonloma in Nkroful, Gold Coast. Nkrumah graduated from the Achimota School in Accra in 1930, later studying at the Roman Catholic Seminary and teaching at the Catholic school in Axim. In 1935 he left Ghana for the United States, receiving a BA from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in 1939. During his time in the United States, Nkrumah visited and preached in black Presbyterian Churches in Philadelphia and New York City. He read books about politics and divinity. He encountered the ideas of Marcus Garvey. He arrived in London in May 1945 intending to study at the LSE. However, after meeting with George Padmore he helped to organize the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England.

In the autumn of 1947 Nkrumah was invited to serve as the General Secretary to the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) under Joseph B. Danquah. This political convention was exploring paths to independence. Nkrumah accepted the position and set sail for the Gold Coast. After brief stops in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast, he arrived in the Gold Coast in December 1947. In February 1948 police fired upon a protest by African ex-servicemen who were protesting the rapidly rising cost of living. The shooting spurred a series of riots in Accra, Kumasi and elsewhere. The government suspected the UGCC was behind the protests and therefore arrested Nkrumah and other leading members of the party. Realizing their error, the British soon released the convention leaders. After his imprisonment by the colonial government, he emerged as the leader of the youth movement in 1948.

In community after community he proclaimed that the Gold Coast needed "self-government now." He built a large power base.He appealed to women to be a part of the political process at a time when women's suffrage was new to Western Democracy. The trade unions also allied with his movement. By 1949 he had organized these groups into a new political party: The Convention People's Party.Making moves towards self-government, the British called for the drafting of a New Constitution that gave some responsibility for policy decisions. Under the new Constitution, drawn up by a selected commission of middle class Africans, wage and property requirements were the basis for suffrage. Nkrumah brought together his own "People's Assembly" composed of representatives of party members, youth organizations, trade unions, farmers, and veterans. Their proposals called for a universal franchise without property qualifications, a separate house of chiefs, and self-governing status under the Statute of Westminster. These amendments, known as the Constitutional Proposals of October 1949, were rejected by the colonial administration.

The colonial administration's rejection of the People's Assembly's recommendations led directly to Nkrumah's call for "Positive Action" in January 1950. Positive Action included civil disobedience, non-cooperation, boycotts, and strikes. The colonial administration arrested Nkrumah and many of his supporters in the CPP. Nkrumah was sentenced to three years in prison. Facing international protests and internal resistance, the British decided to leave the Gold Coast. Britain organized the first general election to be held in Africa under universal franchise; it was held on 5-10 February 1951. Though in jail, Nkrumah won the election by a landslide, with the CPP taking 34 out of 38 elected seats in the Legislative Assembly. On 12 February Nkrumah was released from prison, and on the 13th was summoned by the British Governor Charles Arden-Clarke and asked to form a government. On 20 February the new Legislative Assembly met, with Nkrumah as Leader of Government Business and E.C. Quist as President of the Assembly. A year later, on 10 March 1952, the constitution was amended to provide for a Prime Minister, and on 21 March Nkrumah was elected to that post by a secret ballot in the Assembly, 45 to 31, with eight abstentions. On 10 July 1953 he presented his "Motion of Destiny" to the Assembly, which approved it, requesting independence within the British Commonwealth "as soon as the necessary constitutional arrangements are made".

At 12 a.m. on March 6, 1957, Nkrumah declared Ghana independent.On 6 March 1960, Nkrumah announced plans for a new constitution which would make Ghana a republic. The draft included plans for an eventual surrender of Ghanaian soveriegnty to a union of African states. On 19, 23, and 27 April 1960 a presidential election and plebiscite on the constitution were held. The constitution was ratified and Nkrumah elected president, beating J. B. Danquah, the UP candidate, 1,016,076 to 124,623. In 1963, Nkrumah was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union. Ghana became a charter member of the Organization of African Unity in 1963.Gold Coast was already one of the most wealthy and socially advanced territories in Africa, with schools, railways, hospitals, social security and an advanced economy. Under Nkrumah's leadership, Ghana took steps towards a more socialist state. Nkrumah created a welfare system, started various community programs, and established schools. He ordered the construction of roads and bridges to further commerce and communication. In the interest of the nation's health, he had tap water systems installed in the villages and ordered the construction of concrete drains for latrines. However, his programs must, in the end, be judged unsuccessful, since the country's fortunes declined under his administration.

In February 1966 while Nkrumah was away on a state visit to Vietnam, his government was overthrown in an alleged CIA backed military coup.Today, Nkrumah is still one of the most respected leaders in African history. In 2000 he was voted Africa's man of the millennium by listeners to the BBC World Service.

Kotoka and Afrifa (feb.1966 - aug. 1970)

During the late 50s things started going wrong for Nkrumah and his party, CPP. Increases in world wide cocoa prices were not passed on to farmers, strikes by Trade Unions were made illegal and the economy was in serious decline by the early 60s. A lot of trade unionists were arrested and jailed without trial. People no longer felt secure. Most arrests were made early in the mornings and families were complaining of missing relatives. The Preventive Detention Act had become a means whereby ministers and senior officers were putting away anybody they considered as 'enemy' of the state or even personal ones. The country officially became one party state in 1964 though the years before hadn't been any different as far as parliamentary decision making went.

Amidst this uneasy climate, in February 1966 while Nkrumah was away on a state visit to Vietnam, his government was overthrown by Lieutenant Kotoka(left) and Major Afrifa. the coup, being apparently, inspired and managed by the CIA. The coup however was a very welcoming one to many Ghanaians since all legitimate means of change in government had been eroded. Kotoka and Afrifa invited a more senior retired officer Major-General Joseph Arthur Ankra to head the National Liberation Council, whose role was to oversee transfer of power back to civilian government. On April 17th, 1967, some junior army officers attempted to take office in an abortive coup which resulted in the death of Lieutenant Kotota. Kotoka was shot at the Ghana international airport. The airport now bears his name and his monument stands near the spot where he was killed.

Joseph Ankra (feb 24,1966 - apr.2, 1969)

Lieutenant General Joseph Arthur Ankrah (August 18, 1915 - November 25, 1992) served as the first commander of the Army of Ghana

Ankrah became the head of the National Investment Bank after leaving the army. He however became the Head of state and Chairman of the National Liberation Council after the February 24, 1966 coup. In January 1967, he mediated between the warring factions of the Nigerian civil war in Biafra. He was forced to resign as Chairman of the NLC and Head of State over a bribery scandal involving a Nigerian businessman and was replaced by Afrifa as head of state.

Abrefa Busia (oct 1,1969 - jan.13, 1972)

Kofi Abrefa Busia (11 July 1913 - 28 August 1978) became Prime Minister of Ghana from 1969-72 when the National Liberation Council (NLC) handed over power to civilian government. He gained his first degree with Honours in Medieval and Modern History from the University of London, through correspondence during this period. He then went on to study at University College, Oxford, where he was the college's first African student. He took a BA (Hons) in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (1941, MA) 1946) and a DPhil in Social Anthropology in 1947, with a thesis entitled 'The position of the chief in the modern political system of Ashanti: a study of the influence of contemporary social changes on Ashanti political institutions'.

He became the first African to occupy a Chair at the University of Gold Coast. In 1951 he was elected by the Ashanti Confederacy to the Legislative Council. In 1952 he was Leader of Ghana Congress Party which later merged with the other opposition parties to form the United Party (UP). As leader of the opposition against Kwame Nkrumah, he fled the country on the grounds that his life was under threat. He later became a Professor of Sociology and Culture at the University of Leiden in the Hague, Netherlands. From 1962 until 1969 he was a Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford.

He returned to Ghana in March 1966 after Nkrumah's government was overthrown by the military, and was appointed as the Chairman of the National Advisory Committee of the NLC. In 1967/1968 he served as the Chairman of the Centre for Civic Education. He used this opportunity and sold himself as the next Leader. He also was a Member of the Constitutional Review Committee. When the NLC lifted the ban on politics, Busia, together with friends in the defunct UP formed the Progress Party (PP).

In 1969, PP won the parliamentary elections with 104 of the 105 seats contested. This paved the way for him to become the next Prime Minister. Busia continued with NLC's anti-Nkrumaist stance and adopted a liberalised economic system. There was a mass deportation of half a million of Nigerian citizens from Ghana, and a 44 percent devaluation of the cedi in 1971 which met with a lot of resistance from the public.

While in Britain for a medical check-up, the army under Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong overthrew his government on January 13, 1972. He died from a heart attack in 1978. Along with J.B. Danquah, Busia's name is associated with Ghana's political right.

Kutu Acheampong (jan. 13,1972 - jul.5, 1978)

Kutu Acheampong (September 23, 1931 - June 16, 1979) Colonel Acheampong led a surprise coup to overthrow the democratically elected government of the Progress Party and its leader Dr. Kofi Busia on 13 January 1972. He became Head of State and Chairman of the National Redemption Council (NRC), which was later transformed into the Supreme Military Council on October 9, 1975, with Colonel Acheampong (promoted to General) as its chairman.

Notable historical changes and events introduced or implemented in Ghana during the period under Acheampong include: the change from the imperial to the metric system of measurement, change from driving on the left to right-hand drive in "Operation Keep Right", "Operation Feed Yourself" (a programme aimed at developing self-reliance in agriculture), "National Reconstruction" (aimed at promoting employment and skill for workers), face-lift projects in cities, and the reconstruction/upgrading of stadia to meet international standards. There were, however, widespread accusations of both the encouragement and endorsement of corruption in the country under his rule.

Acheampong sought to perpetuate the military in government by introducing a model called "Union Government" or "Unigov" for short.This became a very contentious national issue which was vehemently opposed by many. A referendum held on 30 March 1978 to accept or reject this concept was widely believed to be rigged, though the official results were 60.11% for and 39.89% against. The electoral commissioner at the time, Justice Isaac Kobina Abban (who later became Chief Justice), went into hiding from the government for fear of his life after coming under pressure to manipulate results.

Acheampong was deposed in a palace coup on 5 July 1978 and succeeded by the Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. General Fred Akuffo.

Acheampong, together with two other former Heads of State (Gen. Afrifa and Gen. Fred Akuffo) and five other senior military officers, were executed by firing squad in June 1979, after the June 4 revolution that brought Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) to power.

Frederick Akuffo (jul. 5,1978 - jun.4, 1979)

Lieutenant General Frederick William Kwasi Akuffo (March 21, 1937 - June 26, 1979) was a soldier and politician. His reign as head of state was one of the shortest. He was a former Chief of Defence Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces and the Head of state and chairman of the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC) in Ghana from 1978 to 1979. He came to power in a military coup, which removed Acheampong from power and was himself overthrown in another military coup within a year (Jun 4th, 1979) and executed three weeks later by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings and his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council.

Jerry Rawlings (Jun. 4,1979 - Sep.24, 1979)

Jerry John Rawlings (born Jeremiah Rawlings John June 22, 1947 in Accra) was twice the head of state of Ghana and was the 1st President of the Fourth Republic. He first appeared on the Ghanaian political scene on May 15, 1979 when he led a group of junior officers in the Ghana Air Force in an unsuccessful coup against Fred Akuffo, that resulted in his arrest and imprisonment. He was court martialled in public and sentenced to death. But Rawling's self-defence and the persuasive manner in which he conducted and presented himself won him public admiration and support.

He was widely seen across the country as a true son of Ghana who stood for the good of all. Before he could be executed, another group of junior officers within the Ghana Army led by Major Boakye Djan, overthrew the then military government of Lieutenant General Fred Akuffo in a bloody coup on June 4, 1979. Major Boakye-Djan and his men also set Rawlings free from prison, and installed him as head of the new government - the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). At the time of the coup, Ghana was already far into the process of returning to civilian rule and general elections were already scheduled. The AFRC went ahead to conduct an election and handed over power to Dr. Hilla Limann who won the popular vote in the election to establish the Third Republic. Less than two years later, Dr. Limann's civilian and constitutional government was overthrown again by Jerry Rawlings on December 31, 1981.

Hilla Limann(Sep. 24,1979 - Dec.31, 1981)

Hilla Limann (December 12, 1934 - January 23, 1998) When the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) led by Rawlings honoured the elections which had been set in motion by General Akuffo, the AFRC gained instant respect from the general public.

As a result of these elections, Limann became the President of Ghana from September 24, 1979 to December 31, 1981. So it was all the more shocking when on Dec. 31,1981, Limann and his government were overthrown by Rawlings. There could have been bloody coup were it not for the fact that the general public still saw Rawlings as a kind of saviour.

Eventually Limann became a diplomat, and served in Switzerland.In 1992, at the end of the PNDC (Rawlings)military rule that overthrew him. Dr. Limann again got involved in politics and stood as the candidate of the People's National Convention in the presidential election that year. He received only 6.7% of the popular vote in the elections, coming third after Rawlings and John Kuffour.

Rawlings formed and led the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) regime. In all Jerry Rawlings inspired three coups d'etat in Ghana, two of which were successful. In the early 1990s internal pressures led by a group identified with the Danquah-Busia tradition coupled with external pressures from Ghana's development partners, forced the PNDC government to adopt constitutional rule. As elections drew near, however, he switched from being a military Head of State, retired from the military, then run and won in the 1992 elections which the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) claimed was rigged although international observers judged the elections largely free and fair.

After two terms in office as head of state and barred by the constitution from standing in any election, he elected his vice-president John Atta-Mills as his choice to replace him as President. Ghanaians rejected his choice in the 2000 election by voting for the opposition NPP's candidate, John Kufuor.

John Kuffour(Jan. 7,2001 - Jan. 6, 2009 )

John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor (born December 8, 1938) was president of Ghana, from January 7, 2001. He ran for election in 2000 and won, succeeding Jerry Rawlings, who defeated him when he previously ran for President in the election in 1996; Kufuor's victory marked the first peaceful democratic transition of power in Ghana since the country's independence was declared. Kufuor was also the Chairperson of the African Union from 2007 to 2008.

During the period of coups and conter-coups, Ghana's economy suffered gravely. Things started improving during the second term of Rawling's reign as civilian Head of State and up to the time of writing, the economy continues to be improving and is better than most African countries. During Rawlings time, the media was not as free as it wanted to be. But Kufour restored press freedom and also economy based on market forces. Among other things, he will be remembered for being the president when Ghana celebrated 50 years of independence in 2007 and the president when commercial quantities of oil was found in Ghana. After the December 2008 elections, Kufuor was succeeded by Atta Mills.

Atta Mills (Jan. 7,2009 - July 24,2012)

Dr. John Evans Atta Mills (born July 21,1944) He ran for elections in 2004 and lost against Kufuor. Atta Mills came to power after a fiercely contested elections. The results of the elections on 7th. Dec. 2008, were 'too close to call'. His party NDC (National Democratic Congress) won the majority of parliamentary candidature but neither he nor his opponent Nana Akufo Addo of NPP (New Patriotic Party) got 50 percent required by the constitution for the presidential votes. As a result run-off elections were held on 28th Dec. Atta Mills won 50.23% and his opponent 49.77%. He was sworn into office on the 7th. Jan, 2009.

These elections have shown that Ghanaians are maturing in democratic principles although there were a few skirmishes in a couple of towns/villages during the elections. Atta Mills had Ph.D in law at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He spent about twenty five years teaching at University of Ghana, Legon and other institutions of higher learning.

The whole nation is now united behind the new President and hope that he will come up with policies which will move the nation forward.

John Mahama (Jan. 7,2013 - )

John Mahama (born November 29,1958) is the current president of Ghana after the sudden death of Atta Mills on July 24th 2012. The cause of death was not clear but he (as the constitution required) was replaced immediately by Mahama who until then was the vice-president. Mahama led the nation and contested the presidential election in December 2012. The main election contestant parties were the NDC and NPP. Mahama's party, NDC won and was officially sworn into office on January 7th 2013.

He had BA degree in the University of Ghana, Legon in 1981 and has all the qualities to move the country on to a successful future.

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