Ghana History Part 1

By | March 23, 2021

From ‘Savior’ Nkrumah to ‘Enfant Terrible’ Rawlings

1947 United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) founded
1949 Foundation of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) by Kwame Nkrumah
1950 General strike – Nkrumah sentenced to three years in prison
1951 Early dismissal of Nkrumah after his party’s election victory – executive head of government
1954 Another clear election victory for the CPP – Nkrumah Prime Minister
1956 The British start another ballot arbitrarily – clear victory of the CPP and large majority in parliament for independence soon
1957 Independence (March 6th) – Nkrumah becomes head of government and the queen remains head of state, represented by a governor
1960 Turn away from the Westminister model – Ghana becomes a republic and Nkrumah becomes president
1964 plebiscite turns Ghana into a one-party state
1966 February: Military coup – end of the First Republic
1969 October: Beginning of the Second Republic – Busia Prime Minister
1972 Military coup in January – end of the Second Republic
1978 July: Palace revolt
1979 June: Lower-ranking military coup – Interregnum Rawlings
1979 September: Start of the III. Republic – Limann President
1981 New Years Eve coup – the beginning of the Rawlings era
1993 January: Beginning of the IV Republic – Rawlings (NDC) President
2001 January: Change of power – end of the Rawlings era

The end of the Second World War in 1945 ushered in an accelerated phase of decolonization that hit the European colonial powers completely unprepared. With the ultimate goal of independence in the Gold Coast, representatives of the urban elites, led by activists such as Boakye Danquah, Emmanuel Obetsebi Lamptey, Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, William Ofori Atta and Edward Akufo-Addo, founded the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) in 1947. and appointed Kwame Nkrumah, who was in London, to be their general secretary. These six activists went as the ‘Big Six’into the Ghanaian history books. Danquah himself suggested renaming the Gold Coast in Ghana, one of 16 countries located in Western Africa according to constructmaterials. But the split soon broke out, and Nkrumah founded the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in 1949 with massive support from broad and less educated sections of the population. The CPP’s radical demand for immediate self-determination contrasted with the vague formulation of the elite UGCC to achieve this goal as soon as possible.

The political weapons of ‘positive action’ and nonviolent resistance, which were adapted by Mahatma Gandhi, underpinned at times with sharp political agitation, secured the petty-bourgeois CPP further influx from the lower and middle classes, who borrowed the behavior of the small elite and the British colonial rulers Chiefs no longer wanted to accept without resistance. In early 1950, when the general strike was declared, social and economic life came to a standstill, and the British could think of nothing more than to declare a state of emergency and arrest activists. The new leader Nkrumah received three years in prison for rebellious behavior and sedition, a sentence that contributed significantly to the myth of the later state founder Nkrumah. But the British soon had to fire him prematurely, the victory of his CPP in the 1951 elections was too clear. So he exchanged his prison cell for an office from where he held the office of executive head of government, a position with no real power, but with a lot Symbolism for the struggle for independence. It offered a platform for the new negotiation strategy of ‘Tactical Action’, a mixture of political and constitutional approaches. But as early as 1954 the balance of power changed. Again the CPP won and Nkrumah became Prime Minister. Neither the ethnically defined Ashanti National Liberation Movement (NLM), nor the religious and regionally oriented Muslim Association Party (MAP), Northern People’s Party (NPP) and the Togoland Congress had enough supporters to to build up a counter-power to the CPP and its figurehead Nkrumah. The British were still reluctant to grant the country independence. In Ashanti in particular, violence and lawlessness increased, largely driven by the NLM. The party tried with all means to maintain its historically derived subliminal claim as a state people and to implement at least a federal solution in favor of the Ashanti region before independence.

The British tried to slow down the advocates of immediate independence and put new obstacles in their way. The colonial government finally set another ballot for 1956 to determine the extent to which the population supported the demand for an independent state. Again the CPP, which had previously unsuccessfully tried to persuade the NLM and its allies to participate in the Achimota Conference in early 1956, emerged as the clear winner of this ballot. Then the CPP and the British government alone laid down the steps towards independence, the future constitutional order and the system of government, which were based on the Westminster model and in which the institution of the chiefs should also find their place.

Independence and the way to the one-party state

The destroyed Nkrumah statue also externally sealed the end of the Nkrumah era

The destroyed Nkrumah statue also externally sealed the end of the Nkrumah era

Kwame Nkrumah Statue

Kwame Nkrumah Statue

Shortly after the election in August 1956, a large majority in parliament voted for independence for the Gold Coast, a vote that the colonial power had to accept. Based on the Kingdom of Ghana, which existed in the Middle Ages in the area of today’s Mali and Mauritania, the Gold Coast was renamed Ghana and became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to become independent as a member of the Commonwealth on March 6, 1957. Nkrumah remained Prime Minister and the British Queen was the nominal head of state, represented by a Governor General. But just a few years later, on July 1, 1960, it was converted into a presidential republic, and Nkrumah took over the office of president. Still, Ghana remained in the Commonwealth.

Instead of foreign investments and economic progress, the outflow of capital, stagnation and the trend towards arbitrary rule characterize the first years of independence. The unions and the association of cocoa farmers were brought into line, opposition members were brought to prison with the help of strict security laws, where the most important political opponent and former companion Danquah died in 1965. The plebiscitarian CPP one-party system gave Nkrumah dictatorial powers. Nkrumah, who stylized himself as the ‘Redeemer’ (Osagyefo), transformed Ghana into a one-party state and assigned the state the decisive role in the development process. The result was more than sobering. Because the expansion of the state sector set the course for the development of a bureaucratic petty bourgeoisie, which made the state the prey of petty bourgeois elements. Under these conditions, Ghana could neither produce a bourgeoisie capable of accumulating nor a productive state socialist sector. In addition, world market prices for cocoa, the main source of foreign exchange, fell, and Ghana now financed its public sector through delivery credits and access to reserves. The ruinous politics soon led to a severe economic and debt crisis, which finally led to the bloodless coup of the military at the beginning of 1966 when Nkrumah was on a trip abroad. He finally found asylum in Guinea, where he was buried. After a long illness, he died in Bucharest in 1972. The military junta under Ignatius Acheampong later transferred the remains to Ghana.