A strong political pioneer of Pan-Africanism, Nkrumah sought to unite the African nations to establish a strong counterweight in the face of the exploitative, capitalist states and former colonizers. The independence of Ghana was meaningless for him if it did not involve the liberation of all African states.
For Ghana to play such a leading role in the liberation of Africa from colonial domination, Nkrumah believed it necessary to invest in the modernization of national industries and communications as well as in infrastructure, mass education, health services and the construction of the Akosombo Dam on the Volta River to secure the supply of electricity (which has resulted in the creation of the world’s largest man-made lake.)
However, in order to impose his ambitious projects, Nkrumah sacrificed democratic processes and established an autocratic state with no opposition holding him back. Soon after the elections in 1960, he was proclaimed president for life and the CCP became the only party of the state. Opponents were detained without trial and non-Ghanaians deemed to be a danger for the country expelled.
Nkrumah’s policies created heavy financial burdens causing tax rises and resentments among the population. The growing discontent finally resulted in a military coup that was, as it has been argued, supported by the CIA. In 1966, members of the National Liberation Council (NLC) overthrew Nkrumah’s government. Nkrumah was in China at that time and took up asylum in Guinea where he eventually died in 1972.
The Second Republic: Busia’s government
After the coup, a representative assembly drafted a new constitution, political parties were allowed to form and nationwide elections were held in 1969. Kofi Abrefa Busia, head of the Progress Party, became the new prime minister. His pro-Western government introduced some popular measures, but the economic problems and high debts remained. Busia’s government was disempowered by a military coup in 1972.
The National Redemption Council
The failure of the Second Republic showed that no solution had been found so far to tackle the serious economic problems in Ghana. The leaders of the National Redemption Council (NRC), responsible for the coup, established a military government with no democratic elements involved. The military leadership introduced some popular measures, but none of them were suited to improve the country’s situation.
When the government started to oppress the opposition and was accused of corruption, a non-violent protest movement turned against the Council. The call for more democratic structures finally led to concessions by the military government which appointed a constitutional assembly to draft a new constitution.
But before a new attempt could be made, a group of young army officers led by Jerry John Rawlings overthrew the government in June 1979.
The Third Republic of Ghana: The Rawlings Era
Despite the coup, the planned elections were held and Hilla Limann from the People’s National Party (PNP) became prime minister of the Third Republic of Ghana. His government was threatened though by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) that had been formed by Rawlings and other army officers.
The AFRC carried out the self-appointed task of monitoring the civilian government and finally, after further economic failure and strikes, overthrew the government again in 1981. They established the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), dismissed the president, banned political parties and dissolved the parliament.
The Fourth Republic
As its predecessors, the PNDC struggled to solve Ghana’s economic problems and met resistance among the population. Finally, the domestic and international pressure to return to democracy grew too strong and the government allowed a Consultative Assembly to draw a draft constitution which was accepted in a referendum in April 1992 with an overwhelming majority of 92 percent of votes. Elections were held and Rawlings was elected President.
He was followed by John Kufuor in 2001 and John Atta Mills in 2009. Mills died in office in 2012 and John Dramani Mahama stepped into his position. In the following elections in December, he was confirmed as president.
The opposition challenged the election results and filed a petition at the Ghanaian Supreme Court. This blog post finds five interesting insights into democracy and politics in Ghana revealed in these elections and their aftermath.