GHANA: A Final Return to Democracy?


The Samaritan Research Group

The positive and perhaps, the adverse effects of military adventurism in Ghanaian politics had been well documented in the Ghana National Reconciliation Commission (GNRC) Final Report of 2004. The NRC Act of 2002 (Act 611) was perhaps, passed for the purpose of some historical patchwork, morale revival and love for the needy Ghanaian.

 Indeed, it could be argued that Ghana’s desperate search for political and economic stability since independence had been characterized by imprisonment, bloodshed and political victimization for which both civilian and military regimes had been responsible.

So, the law that entered into force on January 11, 2002 following NPP electoral success, mandated the Commission to investigate allegations of human rights abuses during times of instability and unconstitutional governments in Ghana and to seek and promote national reconciliation among Ghanaians by establishing an accurate and complete historical record of human rights violations and abuses related to killings, abductions, disappearances, detentions, torture, ill-treatment, and seizure of properties by governments- civilian and/or military within the period of 6 March 1957 to 6 January 1993. As to whether the Commission had been fair, impartial, accurate and successful in their mandated work, has been left in the hands of historians and political commentators.

But with the devastating revelations at the NRC sittings which many came before it, it is our summary position that while our country’s stability and progress truly rest on the politician and the affluent, our collective efforts- irrespective of our beliefs, ethnicity and above all, as Ghanaians, also matter our country were to sustain its fragile democracy.

Hence, JusticeGhana’s subscription to: ‘Justice, Security and Progress’- a pillar that a diverse nation and society like ours, could indeed hardly ignore if it were to achieve the goals and the benefits that multi-party democracy and governance promises- which are collective peace, stability and prosperity. Ghana’s political future, save the measurable interrupted periods of Dr Nkrumah ((1952-1966) and brief eras of Drs Busia-led Progress Party (1969-1972) and Hilla Limann-led Peoples National Party ((1979- 1981)), had been dictated by the members of the Ghana Armed Forces who end up enriching themselves at the expense of the very masses whose problems and welfare they sought to champion.

The successful military coup of 24 February 1966 led to the establishment of the National Liberation Council (NLC) with General J. A. Ankrah, who was said to have had “fair share of personal problems” with the then ruling CPP Government, as its Chairman, seconded by the then Commissioner of Police Service- Mr J. W. K. Harlley, as Vice-Chairman. In its decisive move the then police-cum-military regime that promised the Ghanaian freedom, equitable society and economic realignment and prosperity of the country, tactically, had Major-General Komla Kotoka and Major Akwasi Amankwaa Afrifa, as its backbone (32).

As part of its agenda to achieve its aims, it has been found by military historians that the basic human rights of some members and sympathisers of the then disbanded CPP, were openly violated (Ibid).The acceptance and the support for the NLM were put to test on 19 April 1967 in a counter-coup in which the General Kotoka- a strongman in the NLM, was killed. At this point, it might have been evident to the Ghanaian and for this matter the civilian politicians that the military, could hardly be trusted with true promises of democracy, freedom and the rule of law- justice, security and national development (33).

Events that followed the 1966 military coup support this as concerted efforts were made, leading to the establishment of the Constitutional Committee which by the beginning of 1968 had submitted a draft Constitution for the approval of the 154 Constituent Assembly (Ibid). The 1969 Constitution was followed with the election of 29 August 1969 that Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia (Progress Party) pooled some 9,000 votes as against his main opponent- Mr Komla Agbeli Gbedema of the National Alliance of Liberals who secured some 8,000 votes. It is argued that the Busia-led PP took little inspirations from Ghana’s history- both from the Colonial regime, CPP and NLC, although he had all the constitutional footprints and support that could have made him successful Prime Minister.

The most cited defects were his foreign policies, opposing media houses over the allegation of building an ostentatious palace in his hometown- Wenchi, in the Brong-Ahafo Region. Not forgetting the judiciary, over the dismissal of some 600 civil servants (otherwise, known as The Salla Case), which weakened the very roots of the United Party tradition that he had been its faithful adherent (34). Indeed, it is laughable, but worth noting that in all these, the last straw that broke the back of Busia’s government on 13 January 1972, according to the radio broadcast made by then Colonel I. K. Acheampong- the leader of the military coup, was his refusal to continue the traditional supply of kako (salt-fish) to members of the Ghana Armed Forces. So, the Col. Acheampong and some of his supported service commanders, who, as it appeared, saw this as basic violation of their human rights, constituted themselves as National Redemption Council (NRC) and later, Supreme Military Council (SMC), with Acheampong as Chairman and Head of State.

By the last-quarter of the 1970s, the Gen. Acheampong had been toppled by his own colleagues in a palace coup on grounds of “one man show”, muted by his second-in-command, one General Frederick William Kwasi Akuffo. Appearing similar to his predecessors, Akuffo and his Supreme Military Council (SMC II) also pledged themselves to make things better for the Ghanaian. Yet, critics might remember him for retiring and confining his former boss to his home village- Trabuom, in the Asante Region, where the retired General Acheampong, embarked on one of his cherished preoccupations- farming.

Until the foiled attempted mutiny of 15 May 1979, led to the court martial of its alleged leader one Flt-Lt. Rawlings and some junior ranks, described by Major Boakye-Djan (rtd) as predominately Ewes from the air force, Acheampong subjected himself to the dictates of the new leadership. It might be instructive to learn the inability Akufo/Acheampong regime to resolve their internal problems and differences, led to their humiliating deaths.

The eventual overthrow of the Gen. Akuffo-led SMC (II)- whose effort/promise, as it had always been with his predecessors- was to secure just, equitable and incorruptible society for the Ghanaian, came on 4 June 1979, was also removed by one Captain Boakye Djan and his predominantly Akan soldiers (Rawlings, Untold Story). Akufo/Acheampong had to be publicly executed alongside some of his SMC military colleagues for allegation of nepotism, abuse of power, bribery and corruption in 1979 by all-knowing Djan’s AFRC military junta. The “law”, as the Spokesman for the proscribed AFRC argues it, was invoked and applied retrospectively to catch its intended violators. But whether the Afrifas of 1979 were right in 1966 or Acheampong/Akufo had been fairer in 1972, it might forever remain a contested issue that might haunt the future generation.

There are opposing schools on the success roots of our current democratic experiment. Whereas some might evoke 1957 as the basis to their claim and 1966 as curse to our destiny, others insist on 1969/72. For some, 1979/81 are the crucial dates. Whichever branch or leaf we might hold on for our personal survival, as Ghanaians, the truth remains that having wandered through rolling contours of history and events we cannot ignore our own trials and triumphs- we must be guided by them for the sake of posterity.


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