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Independent Ghana, Ghana Since Nkrumah

Ghana armed forces, army coup, Acheampong, revolutionary spirit, open democracy

Conditions in Ghana worsened rapidly following the overthrow of Nkrumah. The economy was stagnant, and Ghanaians, disillusioned by the downfall of their once-revered founding father, were divided. The National Liberation Council, the cabal behind the coup, put forward a multiparty constitution and handed over power in 1969 to a democratically elected government. Kofi A. Busia, a former UP leader and one of the nation’s leading scholars, was elected prime minister. Busia’s government was economically conservative but failed to improve Ghana’s depressed economic conditions. When a drop in the price of cacao precipitated a financial crisis in 1971, his government raised prices and interest rates while devaluing the currency, causing massive inflation. In January 1972 Busia’s government was ousted by another army coup, ushering in a decade characterized by severe economic decline and acute political instability.

The leader of the 1972 coup, Colonel Ignatius K. Acheampong, banned political activity and established a ruling military council. Military control was relaxed slightly in 1974, and a civilian political affairs advisory council and an economic planning council were set up. In 1978, however, the military council forced Acheampong to resign, giving way to General Frederick W. Akuffo. Akuffo ruled for less than a year before he was overthrown by Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings. Rawlings had both Acheampong and Akuffo executed for corruption. Rawlings also arrested and executed a number of other prominent military officers on charges of compromising the image of the Ghana armed forces. In September 1979, just months after seizing power, Rawlings stepped down in favor of an elected civilian president, Hilla Limann. When economic conditions worsened, however, Limann was deposed in a second coup led by Rawlings, on December 31, 1981.

Enjoying the support of workers and the poor, Rawlings injected a populist, revolutionary spirit into Ghanaian politics. The economy went through a severe decline in the early 1980s, leading hundreds of thousands of people to leave the country, most migrating to Nigeria. In 1983 the Nigerian government forced 1 million Ghanaians to return to their home country. In the same year, Rawlings abandoned his more radical economic strategies and negotiated a structural adjustment plan with the IMF. As the economy recovered, Rawlings moved toward democratic reforms as well. A new multiparty constitution was adopted by public referendum in 1992, and Rawlings was elected president.

In the 1990s many foreign observers praised Ghana for its increasingly open democracy. While visiting the country in 1998, U.S. president Bill Clinton recognized Ghana as a leader in a “new African renaissance.” Rawlings was reelected president in 1996. Limited to two terms by the 1992 constitution, he did not participate in the December 2000 elections, which marked the ascendancy of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). The NPP edged Rawlings’ party in legislative elections, and NPP candidate John Kufuor defeated Rawlings’ vice president in the vote for president. Kufuor was sworn in as president in January 2001, the first time since Ghana’s independence that power changed hands peacefully and democratically.



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