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Political History of Ghana

Political History

'Poli' in Latin means 'many' and 'tics' means 'bloodsucking creatures'.

Political highlights
1957 - independence, Nkrumah of CPP is PM, 2 key parties
1960 - declared republic, one party system, presidential system
1966 - military overthrow of 1st republic
1969 - 2nd republic, Busia of PP is PM, 2 key parties
1972 - military overthrow of 2nd republic
1978 - palace coup to restructure military government
1979 - junior officer uprising and military housecleaning
1979 - ushered third republic, Limann of PNP is President, 3 parties
1981 - overthrow of the constitutional PNP gov't by the PNDC military junta
1983 - Attempted overthrow of the PNDC junta by other junior army men 1992 - Rawlings of NDC is Dem elected as President, 2 parties **
1996 - Rawlings of NDC is re-elected, 2 parties
2001 - Kuffour (NPP) is President

2005 - Kufuor begins second-term in office

Summary: multiparty system 16 years
military system 21 years
oneparty system 6 years

** fraud allegations led to an electoral boycott resulting in an effective one party system. Also, marks the first time when the head of a military regime had contested in an election.

Ghana lies at the heart of a region which has been leading sub-Saharan African culture since the first millenium BC in metal-working mining, sculpture and agriculture.

Modern Ghana takes its name from the ancient kingdom of Ghana, some 800 km. (500 miles) to the north of present-day Accra, which flourished up to the eleventh century AD. One of the great sudanic states which dominate African history, the kingdom of Ghana controlled the gold trade between the min- ing areas to the south and the Saharan trade routes to the north. Ancient Ghana was also the focus for the export trade in Saharan copper and salt.

The coming of Europeans altered the trading patterns, and the focus of economic power shifted to the West African coast- line. The Portuguese came first, seeking the source of the African gold. It lay too far inland for them to reach; but on the Gold Coast they found a region where gold could be obtained, exported along established trade paths from the interior. Their fort at Elmina ("the mine") was the first in a series of forts along the Gold Coast designed to repel the other European seafarers who followed in their wake, all struggling for their share of the profitable Gold Coast trade.

In due course, however, slaves replaced gold as the most lucrative trade along the coast, with the European slave buy- ers using the forts and adjoining buildings for their own accommodation and protection, as well as for storing the goods, mainly guns and gunpowder, which they would barter for slaves. Some of the forts were also used for keeping newly acquired slaves pending the arrival of the ships sent to collect them.

The history of the various forts, given later in this guide, graphically expresses how the various European trading nations fought for our gold, ivory and later, slaves.

But while Europeans quarrelled over access to the coastal trade, and despite the appalling depredations of the slave traders, which left whole regions destroyed and depopulated, the shape of modern Ghana was being laid down. At the end of the 17th century, there were a number of small states on the Gold Coast; by 1750, these had merged, by conquest or diplomacy, into two: the Asante empire, and the Fantes. By the 19th century, the Asantes were seeking mastery of the coast, and especially access to the trading post of Elmina. By this time the British had won control of the coastal trade from the other European nations, and their interests could not tolerate further Asante expansion - more so since the Asante Empire was known for its sophisticated admin- istrative efficiency and would have been difficult or im- possible to best at trade. Nevertheless it took a series of military campaigns over some 50 years before the British were finally able to force the Asantes to give up sovereignty over their southern possessions. In a final campaign in 1874 the British attempted, without success, to seize Asante; they were however able to take Kumasi and exact a huge ransom for it in gold; and the vast Asante empire shrunk to the Asante and Brong-Ahafo regions of modern Ghana.

Meanwhile, the Fantes too had been uniting and organiz- ing, and in 1868 formed themselves into a confederacy under a king-president with a 15,000 strong army, a civil service and a constitution. In 1871 the British arrested the Fante leaders for "treason". They were however freed a month later, but the con- federacy never recovered from the blow. In 1874 the British for- mally established the British Crown Colony of the Gold Coast, "legalizing" a colonial policy which had in fact been in force since the signing of the bond between the coastal Chiefs and the British in 1844, despite the fact that the Chiefs never ceded sovereignty to the British under the bond, though some of them allowed British intervention in judicial matters.

The Asante and Fante traditions of education and organ- ization, and their urge for autonomy, remained throughout the years of British colonial rule. The Gold Coast was regarded as the showpiece of Britain's colonies: the richest, the best educat- ed, the first to have an elected majority in the legislature and with the best organized native authorities. The Gold Coast riots in 1948, which marked the start of the people's agitation for independence, were instrumental in changing British policy and drove home the point that colonialism had no future.

But a long struggle still lay ahead - and the man who was the catalyst of that struggle was Dr. Kwame Nkrumah

Born in 1909, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah trained as a teacher at Achimota College in Ghana and then in the United States and Britain, where he obtained his degrees.

He became prominent as a leader of West African organiza- tions in London and was invited to return to Ghana as general secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention. In 1949 he broke away to from the Convention People's Party with the slo- gan Self-Government Now.

In February 1951 the party swept to victory in the polls and became the leaders of Govermnent business in the colony's first African government. The Gold Coast had become the first British colony in Africa to achieve self-government. Govt in 1957

On 6 March 1957 Ghana achieved independence - again, the first British colony in Africa to do so - with Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as its first Prime Minister. On 1st July,1960 it became a republic with Kwame Nkrumah as its first President.

Ghana spearheaded the political advancement of Africa and Dr. Nkrumah laid the foundations for the unity later expressed in the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). He was a firm supporter of the Commonwealth and the Non-Aligned movement.

On 24th February 1966, the government of Dr. Nkrumah was overthrown by the Ghana armed forces and the police. A National Liberation Council (NLC), headed by Lt. General Joseph Arthur Ankrah, was formed to administer the country.

General Ankrah was removed from office in April 1969 and Lt. General Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa became the Chairman of the NLC, which later gave way to a three-man Presidential Commission with General Afrifa as chairman. The Commission paved the way for a general election in 1969 which brought into power the Progress Party government, with Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia as Prime Minister and Mr. Edward Akufo Addo as president.

The Ghana armed forces again took over the reins of gov- ernment on 13th January 1972, and Colonel (later General) Ignatius Kutu Acheampong became the Head of State and Chairman of the National Redemption Council (NRC). The name of the NRC was later changed to the Supreme Military Council (SMC). General Acheampong was replaced by General F.W.K. Akuffo in a palace coup in July 1978.

The SMC was overthrown on 4th June 1979, in a mass revolt of junior officers and men of the Ghana armed forces. Following the uprising, an Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was set up under the chairmanship of Flt.-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings. The AFRC carried out a house-cleaning exercise in the armed forces and society at large, while restoring a sense of moral responsibility and the principle of accountability and pro- bity in public life. The AFRC was in office for only three months and, in pursuance of a programme already set in motion before the uprising, allowed general elections to be held. On 24th September 1979, the AFRC handed over power to the civilian administration of Dr. Hilla Limann, leader of the People's National Party which had won the elections.

In the wake of the continuing downward plunge of the coun- try, the Limann administration was overthrown on 31st December 1981, ushering in a new revolutionary era of far-reach ing reforms and rehabilitation at all levels. Flt.-Lt. Rawlings became the Chairman of a nine-member Provisional National Defence Ruling Council, (PNDC) with Secretaries of State in charge of the various ministries being responsible to the PNDC .

Immediately on assumption of office, the PNDC set up a National Commission for Democracy (NCD) charged with for- mulating a programme for the more effective realisation of true democracy. The Govemment of the PNDC also provided for the establishment of elected District Assemblies to bring local government to the grassroots.

In 1990, the NCD, at the prompting of the PNDC, organised forums in all the 10 regions of the country at which Ghanaians of all walks of life advanced their views as to what form of gov- ernment they wanted. These views were collated and analysed by the NCD whose final report indicated that the people want- ed a multi-party system of government.

This led to the appointment of a Committee of Experts to draw up constitutional proposals for the consideration of a Consultative Assembly. The Assembly prepared a draft consti- tution based on proposals submitted to it by the PNDC, as well as previous constitutions of 1957,1969 and 1979, and the report of the Committee of Experts. The final draft constitution was unanimously approved by the people in a referendum on April 28,1992.

Among other things, the Constitution provides for an Executive President elected by universal adult suffrage for a term of four years and eligible for re-election for only one addi- tional term. In the presidential elections held on November 3, 1992, Flt.-Lt- Rawlings who stood on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), garnered 58.8% of the 3,989,020 votes cast to beat to second place his closest rival Prof. Albert Adu Boahen representing the New Patriotic Party who polled 30.4% of the votes. Other contestants for the presidency were former president Dr. Hilla limann of the People's National Convention (6.7%), Mr. Kwabena Darko of the National Independence Party (2.8%) and Lt-Gen. Emmanuel Erskine representing the People's Heritage Party (1.7%).

In the parliamentary elections held on December 29,1992, the Progressive Alliance made up of the National Democratic Congress, the National Convention Party and the Egle Party won 198 seats out of a total of 200, within the Alliance the NDC won 189 seats, the NCP had 8, the Egle Party 2, and Independents 2. Four parties - the NPP, PNC, NIP and PHP - boycotted the parliamentary elections, disatisfied with the pro posed election strategy.

The Fourth Republic was inaugurated on January 7,1993 with the swearing-in of Flt. Lt. Rawlings as President and his running mate, Mr.K.N. Arkaah as Vice President. The newly elected Parliament was opened on the same day and elected, Mr. Justice D.F. Annan as Speaker.

1996: Rawlings was re-elected for a second term

In the December 7, 2000 elections, John A. Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), won the largest share of the presidential vote with 48.17% of the vote, compared to 44.54.% for Rawlings vice-president and hand-picked successor, John Atta Mills of the NDC. The NPP also won 100 of the 200 seats in Parliament. The NDC won 92 seats, while independent and small party candidates won eight seats. In the December 28 run-off election, with pledges of support form the other five opposition parties, Kufuor defeated Mills by winning 56.73% of the vote and the NPP picked up one additional MP by winning a by-election, giving them 100 seats and a majority in Parliament. Both rounds of the election were observed, and declared free and fair by a large contingent of domestic and international monitors. President Kufuor took the oath of office on January 7, 2001, becoming the first elected president in Ghanas history to succeed another elected president. He was re-elected in December 2004 for a second four-year term, becoming the first civilian president (without a military background) to fully serve his tenure and go ahead to be re-elected.

Political outlook

Under Jerry Rawlings' rule, Ghana became the most politically stable and prosperous nation in West Africa and provided a model of development for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. This may continue under President Kufuor if the new government and opposition remain mindful of the turbulence in neighbouring Cte d'Ivoire and try to quell some of the grassroots violence seen during the last general election and in Dagbon in 2002.

Political instability and the intervention of the military is unlikely, particularly given Kufuor's ability to turn the Ghanaian economy around since he came to power. Despite his outbursts, Rawlings' career as a serial coup maker appears to be over. Nevertheless, following his inauguration in January 2001, President Kufuor appeared to backtrack on many popular policies which brought him electoral success. Apparently more interested in appeasing Western donors and international financial institutions than bolstering his own popularity, Kufuor pledged a period of austerity measures. He claims he is fully aware of the dangers this could pose to Ghana's political stability. In his swearing-in ceremony he warned that the ailing economy would 'put severe strains on our people's beliefs and enthusiasm for the democratic process' unless donors step up their assistance.

Culled from the booklet "GHANA - a brief guide" a publication of the Ghana Information Services Department 1994.
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