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State

Capital

Ghana

Accra

Currency unit

Cedi

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Empire

West Africa

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History

The ancient kingdom called Ghana was not within the borders of the present state. Kwame Nkrumah chose the name because he wanted to stop using a colonial name (Gold Coast).

The Akan states of the coast and forests began about the 13th century. The Asante, the largest kingdom are a branch of the Akan. Robert Graves believed there was a mythological link through Libya with ancient Athens (that is, Africa and Europe once shared in a common culture, easier when the Sahara was greener). Many African peoples, including the Yoruba of Nigeria, have a myth of arrival from the Mediterranean area, which may well represent the memory of a genuine connection.

The Asante empire was formed from the amalgamation or conquest of several earlier states in about 1695. Tradition says it was a voluntary association. It was centered on the ceremonial ruler the Asantehene and the symbol of the Golden Stool, his ceremonial throne.

Europeans arrived towards the end of the 15th century when the Portuguese founded a settlement at Elmina in 1482 for trading. From about 1518 the Atlantic trade in slaves began. The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Prussia and England then displaced the Portuguese. Each had a fort for trading and some of these can still be seen.

Colonial Period
The Gold Coast colony was proclaimed in 1874. It covered only the coastal strip from Accra to Takoradi.

The first Ashanti war was in 1874 and the kingdom of Ashanti was annexed in 1896. A Protectorate over Ashanti and the northern territory dated from 1901. The conquest of this area lasted from 1900-01. As in Nigeria the Ashanti were ruled through a Native State.

After the second world war the colony was used by the British as an experiment to see how the ending of colonial status could be carried out. Thus the institutions of elected assembly and responsible government were introduced earlier than in the other African colonies.

Independence
Independence came in 1957 and was the first British African colony to gain independence. The economy at the time was considered to be the strongest of British West Africa. There was a high world price of Cocoa at independence but afterwards the price fell.

The government was wealthy on independence but the money was soon spent on uneconomic projects and the country is now poor.

The first Prime Minister and later President was Kwame Nkrumah. He brought in the first of the African one-party states modeled on the Soviet Union. In 1966 he was overthrown in a coup of the army and police apparently led by General Ankrah and other officers - though there is some evidence that it was provoked by CIA officials afraid of the influence of the Soviet Union. Nkrumah went into exile in Guinea where he died.

Multiparty elections followed in 1969 with Kofi Busia as civilian Prime Minister but another military coup ended the civilian government in 1972, partly provoked by the continuing economic decline as the cocoa price continued low. In 1979 after years of an incompetent government led by General Acheampong there was a short civilian government of President Hilla Limann. He was overthrown by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings in 1981. He led a somewhat eccentric regime since then and handed over to an elected government.

Languages

Niger Congo family

Kwa group

Fanti

Ga

Adangme

Ewe

Akyem

Asante

Brong

Krachi

Voltaic group

Dagomba

 

English

Pidgin

 History

 Economics

 Green

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Politics

There was a series of military and semi-military governments after several tries with elected governments.

Kwame Nkrumah led the country to independence in 1957 but soon declared a one-party state, thus creating a precedent for most other African countries. He was overthrown in 1966 by a military group in protest at his arbitrary rule and the failure of his economic promises which had been based on a high price for cocoa.

A new civilian and multi-party regime was installed in 1969 but it was overthrown by the military. A series of military governments ruined the economy. The present government is just managing to keep the country from famine.

Presidential elections 3 November 1992 were widely reported to have been rigged by ballot box stuffing and phantom electors. Jerry Rawlings was declared elected. (But he probably had some real popularity, unlikeAbacha the contemporary military ruler of Nigeria who was rumored to be thinking of following the same route to continued power before he died).

An election at the end of 2000 resulted in a peaceful handover of power to John Agyekum Kufuor (see Craig Murray's account ). Possibly Ghana can now be classified as democratic. There have now (Feb 2008) been four successive elections with peaceful hand over.

Interesting reading

Kwame Nkrumah - Neo-colonialism
This book is a clue to Nkrumah's lifelong suspicion of the outside world. Was he right in believing other powers continued to want to control Ghana and other African countries? Perhaps if he had practiced more competent government they would not have been able to.


Neo-colonialism: the Last Stage of Imperialism


Craig Murray - Catholic Orangemen



The inside story of African negotiations.

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Economics

The economy was based at independence on cocoa and gold mining. The government had a large surplus from cocoa which encouraged a policy of industrial development. Shortly after independence the cocoa price fell and left the country with a deficit. The Akasombo Dam on the Volta, intended to produce electricity for industry, failed to cause the take-off hoped for, especially as the electricity was sold to an American aluminum company which paid a very low price. The gold mines are now nearly worked out and the world price of cocoa remains low. Thus a relatively rich country was converted into a very poor one with large external debts. Many years of offering the farmers a low internal price via a monopoly Marketing Board led to much smuggling in which the cocoa was sold in the Ivory Coast rather than to the government.

Nkrumah had tried to imitate the Soviet Union.

Since independence most governments have been incompetent. Much of the modern infrastructure has decayed from lack of maintenance.

The present government has adopted IMF policies but there is doubt about whether these can raise the confidence of people and revive economic activity. At independence there was a large class of well educated people but many have emigrated to neighboring countries such as Nigeria and the education system and other professions have suffered. However, Ghana is no longer the poorest of the west African states and may recover if modest development projects are pursued along the lines of Burkina Faso, its neighbor.

One useful plan now is to sell the electricity from Akosombo to neighboring states, and to receive Nigerian gas in return.

BBC reports that since the establishment of peaceful and stable government many of the exiles have returned and are building a more successful economy.

Oil has recently been detected off-shore. If this is exploited will it give rise to the same problems as found in Nigeria - corruption and pollution?

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Green/Ecology

The largest project undertaken by the Nkrumah government was the Akosombo Dam on the River Volta. This has flooded about 10% of the country. There is considerable doubt about whether the results have been favorable. On the one hand hydroelectricity comes from the dam; on the other river blindness and bilharzia have spread to areas where previously they were unknown. Many people had to be moved from their home areas and not all have settled on new lands. The transport possibility of the new lake has not developed as much as was envisaged.

The other environmental problem of the country is the cutting of the former dense forest for timber export and plantations. In the long run this is leading to climate change and soil loss.

Lack of rain in the 2006 drought led to electricity shortage.

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Much improved

Climate effects

Last revised 11/07/09


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