President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, while on a visit to Communist China, was deposed on Feb. 24 as the result of swift action in an Army coup which established in power a National Liberation Council led by Major-General Joseph A. Ankrah, the former Chief of Defence Staff of the Army.
In the early hours of Feb. 24 units of the Ghanaian Army occupied key installations in Accra and the other principal towns and attacked President Nkrumah's presidential guard of about 200 men at Flagstaff House, the President's strongly fortified palace in Accra; many of the guard surrendered by 11 a.m. and were arrested, but others continued to resist until the following day.
One of the coup leaders, Brigadier A. K. Ocran [see below], said on March 7 that the action had been carried out by two brigades totalling 3,000 men, and that no more than 27 persons had lost their lives, including seven members of the Army and between 10 and 20 presidential guards at Flagstaff House. Among those killed was Major-General Charles M. Barwah, the Deputy Chief of Staff.
The leader of the military action, Colonel Emmanuel Kwashie Kotoka (the commander of the 2nd Army Brigade stationed in Kumasi) announced in a broadcast on Feb. 24: “The myth surrounding Kwame Nkrumah has been broken.” President Nkrumah and all his Ministers, Colonel Kotoka stated, had been dismissed, his Convention People's Party (C.P.P.) declared illegal, and Parliament dissolved. All political detainees were to be released. The Government had been taken over by a National Liberation Council with Major-General Ankrah as chairman, Mr. John W. K. Harley (the Commissioner of Police) as deputy chairman, and five other members drawn from the police and the Army, and General Ankrah would be commander of the forces with the rank of Lieutenant-General [in succession to major-General N.A. Aferi—see below]. Colonel Kotoka also declared that Ghana would honour all her international obligations and would remain a member of the Commonwealth, the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.), and the United Nations.
In a further broadcast the same day Dr. Nkrumah was criticized for having “ruled the country as if it were his own personal property” and for his “capricious handling of the country's economic affairs,” which had brought Ghana “to the point of economic collapse.” Pointing out that Ghana's national income had risen by only three per cent a year while the cost of living had, it was claimed, increased by 56 per cent, the broadcast stated: “We hope to be able to announce measures for curing the country's troubles within a few days. The going will not be easy, but the future is definitely bright. Ghana should have been a much better country than it is now.”
The members of the N.L.C., in addition to its chairman and vice-chairman, were: Colonel Kotoka, promoted Major-General and appointed Commander of the Ghana Army on Feb. 27; Colonel Albert Kwesi Ocran, promoted Brigadier on the same day, who retained the command of the 1st Infantry Brigade Group; Major A. A. Afrifa, promoted Colonel, also on Feb. 27; and Mr. A. K. Deku and Mr. B. A. Yakubu, both Assistant Commissioners of Police.
It was reported on Feb. 27 that the N.L.C. had appointed Mr. Kwesi Abbensetts as acting Attorney-General and Mr. Benjamin Annan Bentum as secretary-general of the Ghana Trade Union Council.
Lieutenant-General Joseph Arthur Ankrah (50), born in Accra, was educated at the local Wesley Methodist School and at Accra Academy. An Army warrant-officer at the outbreak of World War II, he later underwent officer training in Britain and, after serving with the Ghanaian forces in the Congo in 1960 [see 18191 A], was decorated by President Nkrumah for “having saved the life of Patrice Lumumba.” Promoted Chief of Defence Staff of the Army in November 1961, he was dismissed from this post in July 1965 without official explanation [see 20998 B].
It was officially stated after the coup that none of the former Cabinet Ministers had been killed, but that they were in protective custody “in their own interest.” Those detained included Mr. Kofi Baako (Minister of Defence), Mr. Kwesi Amoaka-Atta (Minister of Finance), Mr. Nathanael Welbeck (Minister of State for Party Propaganda), and Mr. B. E. Kwaw-Swanzy (the Attorney-General). Mr. Geoffrey Bing, Q.C., who had been Ghana's Attorney-General in 1957-61 and later special adviser to President Nkrumah, had sought refuge in the Australian Embassy in Accra, but gave himself up on Feb. 26 and was also detained. It was also announced that all leading officials of the Convention People's Party (C.P.P.) had been “rounded up.”
Those arrested included Mr. Kofi Batsa, editor of Spark (the C.P.P. newspaper); Mr. Eric Heyman, editor of the Evening News (one of Dr. Nkrumah's newspapers); Mr. John Tettegah, secretary-general of the All-African Trade Unions Federation (affiliated to the World Federation of Free Trade Unions with headquarters in Prague); Mr. Michael Dei-Anang of the African Affairs secretariat; and Mr. Hyman M. Basner, a former Natives’ Representative in the Senate of South Africa [where he had inter been temporarily detained after the Sharpeville shootings—see page 17452.].
The ex-President's Egyptian-born wife, Mrs. Fathia Nkrumah, and her three children sought refuge in the U.A.R. Embassy on Feb. 24 and were later the same day allowed to leave for Egypt by air.
As announced by Colonel Kotoka, the N.L.C. also immediately began to release the political prisoners of Dr. Nkrumah's regime, about 600 persons being freed on Feb. 24–26; they included Mr. S. D. Dombo, the former parliamentary leader of the United Party. Herr Lutz Herold, the West German correspondent of Der Spiegel (Hamburg), who had been sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment in November 1965 [see 21140 A], was released on March 7; he said that conditions in the Usher Fort prison in Accra had been “horrible” and medical care inadequate. The Ghana Red Cross reported on March 8 that almost all 800 political prisoners released by that date were in ill health and partly blind and paralysed.
Numerous Ghanaians who returned to Ghana from exile included Mr. K. A. Gbedemah, a former Minister of Finance [see page 18410], and Dr. Kofi Busia, the former Opposition Leader [see 20657 A], who reached Kumasi on Feb. 27.
All political parties, including the United Party and the so-called United Party in exile, were banned by the N.L.C. on March 1, and the Young Pioneer youth movement was dissolved on March 7.
The overthrow of President Nkrumah's rule was greeted with enthusiastic popular demonstrations in favour of the new regime, and messages of support were received by the National Liberation Council from chiefs (including the Asantehene, the traditional head of the Ashanti region), civil servants, organizations, and individuals. Workers and students demonstrating in Accra, Kumasi, and other centres destroyed pictures of the ex-President; his statue in Accra was overthrown and broken up on Feb. 25; and his effigy in front of the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute at Winneba was also crushed. A hut in the Lower Axim district, believed to be Dr. Nkrumah's birthplace, and previously a place of pilgrimage for “Young Pioneers,” was razed to the ground by demonstrators.
The N.L.C. disbanded the Bureau of African Affairs (concerned with the training of “freedom fighters” for the “liberation” of other African countries), closed the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute at Winneba, and terminated the training of so-called “freedom fighters” at two camps found near Konongo, about 30 miles N. of Accra.
The first of these camps was dissolved on Feb. 24. Until October 1965 there had been 13 Chinese instructors at this camp, and one of the Ghanaian instructors found in it stated that about 200 “students” had passed through it, most of them from South Africa, the last of these having left in May and June 1965. Of the 20 “freedom fighters” arrested in the camp, 10 came from Cameroon and 10 from Fernando Po.
A second camp, discovered on March 7, had contained 13 “students” from Niger who had fled on hearing of the military coup; among its equipment were 32 barrels of gunpowder, five Soviet-built vehicles, and a firing range.
Ghanaian Embassies in other countries declared their adherence to the new regime, including those in Peking, Moscow, and Cairo. Dr. J. E. Bossman, appointed High Commissioner-designate to London by President Nkrumah, flew from Peking to London on Feb. 28 and declared his “unqualified support” for the new regime, adding that his loyalty was to the State and not to any individual.
An oath of allegiance to the N.L.C. as well as a new judicial oath was sworn by the Chief Justice and all the judges of the Supreme Court on Feb. 26.
Major-General Nathan A. Aferi (the Chief of Defence Staff). who was in Addis Ababa for an O.A.U. military meeting, stated on Feb. 27 that he unconditionally supported the National Liberation Council and would return to Ghana the next day to help with the work of reconstruction that lay ahead.
Large numbers of Soviet and Chinese “experts” were expelled during the first three weeks of March, and a spokesman of the National Liberation Council stated on March 5 that 665 Soviet citizens and 52 Chinese, with about 350 wives and children, had to leave the country. These included about 200 Russians who had worked at an air base at Tamale (Northern Ghana); 125 teachers and advisers (some of them from the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute); 54 men attached to the Ministry of Defence; 47 Russians who had worked in the Geological Survey; 27 from a nuclear reactor near Accra; and 75 fishery experts. It was reported on March 17 that the N.L.C. had also demanded that the staffs of the Soviet and Chinese embassies should be reduced to about 18 members each.
Earlier, Fraulein Hanna Reitsch (57)–who in April 1945 had spent several days in Hitler's breaker in Berlin, and had later gone to Ghana, where she helped to organize the Young Pioneers and established a gliding school about 30 miles E. of Accra–had been expelled on March 3 and returned to Germany via Lagos.
The N.L.C. abolished the red, white, and green national flag adopted by Dr. Nkrumah at the conversion of Ghana to a one-party State in 1964 [see 19858 A] and reverted to the previous red, gold, and green colours with a black star on the gold.
The N.L.C. announced on Feb. 26 that it had no political ambitions, but would as soon as practicable appoint a committee to draft a new Constitution for approval by the Council and by the people of Ghana in a referendum. This Constitution was to provide for the division of power between the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary, so that there should never again be a concentration of power in the hands of one individual. It was also to provide for “free and fair general elections,” after which the N.L.C. would hand power over to any Government duly elected under the Constitution.
At the first press conference of the N.L.C. on Feb. 28, Lieut.-General Ankrah said that, if Dr. Nkrumah returned to Ghana, he would be tried, but not killed, as “we do not want bloodshed here”; if he found exile elsewhere, the Council would seek his extradition in due course. Depending on decisions to be made by the O.A.U., the new regime might resume diplomatic relations with Britain [broken off by Dr. Nkrumah in December 1995—see page 21182.]. Ghana's links with Russia or China would not be severed, although there had been “one or two incidents” and the regime had been “forced” to ban flights to Ghana by the Soviet airline Aeroflot because it had carried Dr. Nkrumah and his entourage from Peking. Explaining the origins of the coup, General Ankrah said that, although it had been “in mind” for a long time, it had been decided upon only three weeks earlier in Kumasi.
In a further statement on March 12 General Ankrah declared that the N.L.C. was determined to pursue “a policy of balanced neutrality” and “a sound and firm independent African policy, based upon a proper and objective assessment of Ghana's needs and national interests.” In co-operation with the U.N. and the O.A.U. Ghana would, he said, continue to press for the removal of the illegal regime in Rhodesia, while “the struggle for the total liberation of our continent will he placed in proper perspective.” He also announced that the Press–which under Dr. Nkrumah had created “friction” between Ghana and other countries and had been used to “mislead and confuse our people”–would now be expected to express any political opinion and to criticize freely, provided it was done “constructively and responsibly.” [Two of the newspaper editors detained had been released by March 12].
The new regime was faced with serious economic difficulties owing to the earlier deterioration in the country's financial position.
Mr. Amoaka-Atta, Dr. Nkrumah's Minister of Finance, presenting his 1966 Budget in the National Assembly, had said on Feb. 22 that the foreign exchange situation was far more serious in 1966 than in 1965 and that “much closer adherence” to a “much stricter” exchange control was necessary. During a recent visit to the Soviet Union he had obtained a moratorium on the repayment of long-term credits and short-term loans, and he planned to visit a number of Western countries to negotiate similar agreements.
Ghana's gold, dollar, and sterling reserves in 1957 amounted to about £240,000,000, whereas at the end of December 1965 the official figure was £12,000,000 and more than 20 per cent of Ghana's foreign earnings in 1965 was diverted to debt servicing. Total exports in 1965 were worth about £120,000,000, as against imports of about £169,000,000.
According to The Times, Soviet loans and technical aid to Ghana totalled about £30,000,000 and covered more than 30 projects, including six State collective farms and mineral and geological surveys; the Chinese had granted £13,000,000, but most of their projects had not yet been started; and other European countries had pledged about £27,000,000. Shortages of consumer goods and the constantly rising cost of living, with an official wage freeze in force since 1962, had led to riots and other manifestations of discontent among the population.
The greatest harm to Ghana's economy had been caused by the collapse of the world market price of cocoa, its staple crop, which in the London market had fallen from a peak of £562. 10. 0. per ton in July 1954 to £153. 15. 0. in 1961. Subsequently it dropped still further and the price quoted in July 1965 for the next Ghanaian crop was only £87. 10. 0. per ton, though by the end of 1965 the world market price had recovered to about £160 per ton. President Nkrumah claimed that a price of £240–the figure on which the seven-year economic plan for Ghana was based–had been promised by Western manufacturers, but the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board actually lost about £20 per ton in 1965, or probably more than £8,000,000, representing over 5 per cent of the value of Ghana's total exports in 1965.
As cocoa stocks continued to grow and the Cocoa Producers’ Alliance [see 18783 A] had failed to arrest the fall in prices, the Ghanaian Government began to encourage the internal consumption of cocoa, increased local storage facilities and processing into chocolate, and agreed to barter sales, mainly to Communist countries and Israel; those to the Soviet Union, however, led to a further lowering of the world market price because the U.S.S.R.resold the cocoa in a declining market.
President Nkrumah told a farmer's meeting on Sept. 22, 1965, that because of the low price Ghana would restrict cocoa production and instead would encourage the return to rubber production, the production of palm oil and coconuts, and the increased cultivation of food. Efforts to diminish Ghana's dependence on cocoa were limited, however, by the fact that large areas planted with cocoa trees were found to be unsuitable for other cash crops.
An outline of the N.L.C.'s economic policy was given on March 2 by General Ankrah, who stated that the Nkrumah Government had left Ghana with a national debt of over £400,000,000, as against £20,000,000 at the achievement of independence.
General Ankrah forecast a new liberal economy in which “active State participation” would be limited to “certain key and basic projects”; the private sector would remain “the largest sector in terms of number of persons engaged and gross output”; and there would also be a “joint private-Government sector, a Government sector, and a co-operative sector.” The seven-year development plan, which for the past two years had “existed only in name,” was being abandoned, and a new plan would be drawn up in the next two years. The recently formed People's Trading Corporation and the United Ghana Farmers’ Council Co-operative would be dissolved immediately, while all public corporations would be reviewed as a matter of urgency and some turned back to the private sector.
Co-operatives would “not be allowed to get involved in politics”; “healthy competition” would be encouraged; and there were no plans for nationalization. Any necessary assumption of State ownership “in the best interests of the country as a whole” would be preceded by “properly conducted negotiations.” All existing trade agreements would be honoured. Import licensing would continue, but irregularities and aspects not in the best interests of the country would be rectified. The I.M.F. and the World Bank would be asked to help to re-negotiate debt repayments to foreign creditors “to alleviate the burden.” General Ankrah added that new coins and banknotes without the effigy of any person, to replace those bearing Dr. Nkrumah's head, would be issued soon.
A further statement on the Ghanaian economy was made the following day (March 3) by Mr. Emanuel N. Omaboe, the chairman of the economic committee of the N.L.C.
Mr. Omaboe defined the main problems facing Ghana as the necessity of correcting the imbalance in the foreign payments position, arresting inflationary pressures, providing more jobs, and restoring the balance of the Government's Budget. Alleging that Dr. Nkrumah's office had cost Ghana £30,000,000 a year, he said that in order to deal with the “chaotic economic situation” Ghana required immediately £15,000,000 in foreign aid. He denied reports that the cocoa crop had been mortgaged in advance through barter deals with Communist countries and added that the new regime would work to obtain a price stabilization agreement for cocoa, whose future was “bright.”
The National Liberation Council said on March 3 that when leaving Accra for Peking Dr. Nkrumah had taken with him about $130,000 in cash. Details of the ex-President's economic activities were given on March 4 by Mr. Emmanuel Ayeh-Kumi, who had been Dr. Nkrumah's economic adviser and business associate, and who had been taken into custody after the coup.
Mr. Ayeh-Kumi stated that Dr. Nkrumah's assets were worth not less than £2,500,000, consisting mainly of the Guinea Press (printers and publishers of the Ghanaian Times, the Evening News, and other newspapers), a large suburban housing estate in Accra, and a big office block in the capital, as well as about £8,000 abroad. Alleging that both the C.P.P. and Dr. Nkrumah personally had benefited from Government contracts through the National Development Company, which was worth “nearly £1,000,000,” and of which he (Mr. Ayeh-Kumi) was chairman, he revealed that Dr. Nkrumah had been intent upon doing everything to stop the growth of private African business which might have rivalled his and his party's prestige; he had therefore given instructions to limit the granting of credit and the issue of import licences to African businessmen, so that they would be forced to buy through large firms or Government agencies.
As a result of Mr. Ayeh- Kumi's disclosures, the N.L.C. appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate (a) the circumstances surrounding the establishment of Nadeco Ltd. (the National Development Company) and its relationship with the C.P.P., and (b) alleged malpractices in the granting of import licences during the past three years.
A decree signed by General Ankrah on March 10 prohibited Dr. and Mrs. Nkrumah and his former aides from withdrawing money and other assets from Ghanaian banks without the consent of the N.L.C., the penalty being a fine of £1,250 or two years’ imprisonment or both. The persons named in the decree included all former Cabinet Ministers, Mr. Ayeh-Kumi, Mr. W. M. O. Halm (the former Governor of the Bank of Ghana), and Mr. A. R. Boakye (the former chairman of the State-owned Black Star Line). The decree was later extended to cover also the assets of party officials, district commissioners, former M.P.s, the C.P.P., the Young Pioneers, and other organizations.
As stated above, Dr. Nkrumah was on a visit to China when the coup took place. Accompanied by a suite of 60 persons, including Mr. Alex Quaison-Sackey (the Ghanaian Foreign Minister) and Mr. Kwesi Armah (the Minister of Trade), he had left Accra on Feb. 21 to travel via Cairo to Peking, with the intention of later visiting Hanoi at the invitation of President He Chi Minh of North Vietnam. Reaching Peking from Rangoon late on Feb. 24, he was officially welcomed by President Liu Shao-chi and was later informed of the coup, the news of which was, however, not at first published in China. In a statement read by Mr. Quaison-Sackey the next day (Feb. 25), Dr. Nkrumah declared that he was still the head of State of Ghana and that he would return there soon, in the knowledge that the people of Ghana were loyal to him.
The same day President Sekou Toure of Guinea, after a special meeting of the Democratic Party of Guinea condemning the coup in Ghana, offered the ex-President political asylum in Guinea. The North Vietnam News Agency stated on Feb. 26 that his visit to Hanoi had been postponed.
A statement issued by Dr. Nkrumah in Peking on Feb. 28 read as follows: “I am sure you have all heard that some men of my Armed Forces in Ghana have attempted to usurp political power in Ghana while I was on my way from Ghana on a mission to Hanoi. What they have done is in fact an act of rebellion against the Government of the Republic of Ghana. This rebellion does not deserve the support of any government. I am determined to stamp out the rebellion without delay and in this I count on the support of the Ghanaian people and friends of Ghana all over the world.
“By the arrest, detention, and murder of Ministers, party officials, and trade unionists, and by indiscriminate killing of defenceless men and women, the perpetrators of these wanton acts of brigandage, violence, and lawlessness have added brutality to treason. Never in the history of our new Ghana have citizens, men and women, been murdered in cold blood and their children orphaned for political reasons. Never have our Ghanaian people been riddled with bullets because of their political convictions.
“This is a tragedy of monstrous proportions. The inordinate personal ambitions and wanton acts of these military adventurers, if not checked now, would not only destroy the political, economic, and social gains which Ghana has made in recent years but also turn the tide of the African revolution.
“All that the people of Ghana have achieved in the way of economic and social progress, with the assistance of friends all over the world, is now in jeopardy because of the perfidious act of a few military adventurers. As I go back to Ghana I know that friendly nations and men of good will will support any action I take to restore the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana….”
After cabling the O.A.U. Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Addis Ababa that he would be represented there by Mr. Quaison-Sackey, Dr. Nkrumah left Peking for Moscow in a Soviet aircraft on Feb. 28 and from the Soviet capital flew to Conakry (the capital of Guinea) where he was welcomed by President Toure on March 2.
At a large open-air meeting Dr. Nkrumah declared: “I have come here purposely to use Guinea as a platform to tell the world that very soon I shall be in Accra, in Ghana. I am not going to say anything against anyone, because I understand perfectly well the factors at work in the world today. What has happened in Algeria has happened in Ghana. We are not surprised–we understand the problems… All we have to do is to stand firm and see how we can counteract these factors.”
President Toure announced at the same meeting that Dr. Nkrumah had been appointed head of State of Guinea and secretary-general of the Guinean People's Party, the country's sole political party [see 21260 A].
It was explained in Addis Ababa on March 3 by M. Abdoulaye Diallo (the roving ambassador of Guinea) that Dr. Nkrumah had been a Guinean citizen since the union of Guinea and Ghana in 1958, just as President Toure had been a Ghanaian citizen [The proposed union of the two states had, however, never been implemented.]. M. Abdoulaye said on the following day that President Toure would remain Guinea's chief excutive.
The immediate result of this development was the decision by the N.L.C. in Accra to close the Ghanaian Embassy in Conakry, to recall Ghana's diplomatic mission, and to send a sharp protest to the Guinean Government. The Note alleged that the Ghanaian Embassy staff had been under house arrest since March 1, accused Guinea of harbouring “one of the most notorious tyrants and criminals in Africa, Kwame Nkrumah,” and reminded Guinea that it still owed Ghana £5,000,000 lent by Dr. Nkrumah in 1958.
Speaking over the Guinean radio on March 6, Dr. Nkrumah again said that he would soon be back in Ghana as leader of the Ghanaian people and would put to death all the military leaders now in power, as well as all those who had helped to bring about the coup. He added: “I know that when the time comes you will crush the new regime. I know the Ghanaian people will remain faithful to me as well as to my party and my Government.”
On March 7 President Toure and Dr. Nkrumah flew to Bamako for talks with President Modibo Keita of Mali.
The Foreign Minister of Mall, M. Ousmane Ba, said in Paris the same day that “President Nkrumah's revolutionary work cannot be replaced, and we do not accept that some musical comedy general, helped by policemen, should question the Ghanaian people's 20 years of struggle.” Although he expressed his country's “total and resolute support” for Dr. Nkrumah, he did not consider it necessary for other countries “to be summoned to liberate Ghana,” as “the Ghanaian people are sufficiently strong and aware of their responsibility to solve the problem.”
President Toure stated on March 10 that “20,000 Guinean ex-servicemen who had been in the French Army, as well as 50,000 soldiers recruited from women members and youths of the Guinean Democratic Party” would be going to Ghana “in military convoys to help the Ghanaian people free itself from the dictatorship of the military traitors.” [Guinea is separated from Ghana by 300 miles of Ivory Coast territory.]
Measures to protect the Ivory Coast frontier with Guinea were taken immediately by President Houphouet-Boigny, who announced on March 17 that troops of the Ivory Coast had been moved to the frontier with Guinea with orders to repulse any attempts by Guinean troops and volunteers to march through to Ghana; on the previous day he had described any such attempt as “a fatal adventure” and had reminded Guinea that the Ivory Coast had a defence agreement with France, which would immediately come to her assistance if she was attacked. A statement by Radio Conakry on March 17 that “so-called French teachers, professors, and engineers” who had been “flooding” the Ivory Coast were “in reality soldiers in civilian clothes,” and that “thousands of French troops” were “pouring in” as “new forces of French colonial conquest,” were dismissed in Paris as merely a reaction to President Houphouet-Boigny's attitude towards the Guinean plans.
In Accra Mr. Harley (the vice-chairman of the N.L.C.) said on March 10 that he had “initiated certain actions aimed at recapturing the former President and bringing him back to Ghana to stand trial.”
Dr. Nkrumah, in a broadcast on March 13, urged the people of Ghana to “prepare to revolt” against the N.L.C., but the Ghana Trades Union Congress the next day warned President Toure that the workers and all the people of Ghana did “not want Kwame Nkrumah or anything of him” and would “stand solidly by our new progressive Government.” The T.U.C. at the same time threatened to disaffiliate itself from the All-African Trade Unions Federation unless the latter ended its recognition of Dr. Nkrumah. [The other-trade unions affiliated to the Federation are in Algerial the congo (brazzaville). Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Tanzania, and the U.A.R., the Ghanaian trade unions accounting for about one-third of the Federation's total membership].