Nkrumah is Overthrown:
On February 24, 1966, the Ghanaian Army and police overthrew Nkrumah's regime. Nkrumah and all his ministers were dismissed, the CPP and National Assembly were dissolved, and the constitution was suspended. The new regime cited Nkrumah's flagrant abuse of individual rights and liberties, his regime's corrupt, oppressive, and dictatorial practices, and the rapidly deteriorating economy as the principal reasons for its action.
Government by the National Liberation Council:
The leaders of the February 24, 1966 coup established the new government around the National Liberation Council (NLC) and pledged an early return to a duly constituted civilian government. Members of the judiciary and civil service remained at their posts and committees of civil servants were established to handle the administration of the country.
Ghana's government returned to civilian authority under the Second Republic in October 1969 after a parliamentary election in which the Progress Party, led by Kofi A. Busia, won 105 of the 140 seats. Until mid-1970, a presidential commission led by Brigadier A.A. Afrifa held the powers of the chief of state. In a special election on August 31, 1970, former Chief Justice Edward Akufo-Addo was chosen President, and Dr. Busia became Prime Minister.
Another Military Coup:
Faced with mounting economic problems, Prime Minister Busia's government undertook a drastic devaluation of the currency in December 1971. The government's inability to control the subsequent inflationary pressures stimulated further discontent, and military officers seized power in a bloodless coup on January 13, 1972.
High Ideals for Military Government:
The coup leaders, led by Col. I.K. Acheampong, formed the National Redemption Council (NRC) to which they admitted other officers, the head of the police, and one civilian. The NRC promised improvements in the quality of life for all Ghanaians and based its programs on nationalism, economic development, and self-reliance. In 1975, government reorganization resulted in the NRC's replacement by the Supreme Military Council (SMC), also headed by now-General Acheampong.
General Acheampong Unable to Deliver:
Unable to deliver on its promises, the NRC/SMC became increasingly marked by mismanagement and rampant corruption. In 1977, General Acheampong brought forward the concept of union government (UNIGOV), which would make Ghana a non-party state. Perceiving this as a ploy by Acheampong to retain power, professional groups and students launched strikes and demonstrations against the government in 1977 and 1978.
A Military Coup of a Military Coup?:
The steady erosion in Acheampong's power led to his arrest in July 1978 by his chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Frederick Akuffo, who replaced him as head of state and leader of what became known as the SMC-2. Akuffo abandoned UNIGOV and established a plan to return to constitutional and democratic government. A Constitutional Assembly was established, and political party activity was revived. Akuffo was unable to solve Ghana's economic problems, however, or to reduce the rampant corruption in which senior military officers played a major role.
Jerry Rawlings Seizes Power:
On June 4, 1979, Akuffo's government was deposed in a violent coup by a group of junior and noncommissioned officers – Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) – with Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings as its chairman. The AFRC executed eight senior military officers, including former chiefs of state Acheampong and Akuffo; established secret Special Tribunals that tried dozens of military officers, government officials, and private individuals for corruption, sentenced them to long prison terms and confiscating property.
Creating the Third Republic:
Through a combination of force and exhortation the AFRC attempted to rid Ghanaian society of corruption and profiteering. At the same time, the AFRC accepted, with a few amendments, the draft constitution that had been submitted; permitted the scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections to take place in June and July; promulgated the constitution; and handed over power to the newly elected President and Parliament of the Third Republic on September 24, 1979.
Limann's Fresh Hope Fails and Rawlings Returns:
The 1979 constitution was modeled on those of Western democracies. It provided for the separation of powers between an elected president and a unicameral Parliament, an independent judiciary headed by a Supreme Court, which protected individual rights, and other autonomous institutions, such as the Electoral Commissioner and the Ombudsman. The new President, Dr. Hilla Limann, was a career diplomat from the north and the candidate of the People's National Party (PNP), the political heir of Nkrumah's CPP. Of the 140 members of Parliament, 71 were PNP. The PNP government established the constitutional institutions and generally respected democracy and individual human rights. It failed, however, to halt the continuing decline in the economy; corruption flourished, and the gap between rich and poor widened. On December 31, 1981, Flight Lt. Rawlings and a small group of enlisted and former soldiers launched a coup that succeeded against little opposition in toppling President Limann.
Previous: A Brief History of Ghana - Part 1
Next: A Brief History of Ghana - Part 3
(Text from Public Domain material, US Department of State Background Notes.)