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Summary Article: Ghana
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Country in West Africa, bounded north by Burkina Faso, east by Togo, south by the Gulf of Guinea, and west by Côte d'Ivoire.

Government Ghana has a limited presidential political system. The 1992 constitution provides for a multiparty system, with a directly elected president as head of state and government, serving a maximum of two four-year terms. The president appoints a vice-president and a council of ministers. The legislature is the 275-member parliament, whose members are directly elected for four-year terms by universal suffrage in single-member constituencies by simple majority vote.

History The area now known as Ghana was once made up of several separate kingdoms, including those of the Fanti on the coast and the Ashanti further inland.

The first Europeans to arrive in the region were the Portuguese in 1471. Their coastal trading centres, dealing in gold and slaves, flourished alongside Dutch, Danish, British, Swedish, and French traders until about 1800, when the Ashanti, having conquered much of the interior, began to invade the coast. Denmark and the Netherlands abandoned their trading centres, and the Ashanti were defeated by Britain and the Fanti in 1874.

The Gold Coast In 1874, the coastal region became the British crown colony of the Gold Coast. After continued fighting, the inland region to the north of Ashanti in 1898, and the Ashanti kingdom in 1901, were made British protectorates. After 1917 the western part of Togoland, previously governed by Germany, was administered with the Gold Coast. Britain thus controlled both coastal and inland territories, and in 1957 these, together with British Togoland, became independent as Ghana. It was the first black African country to obtain independence from colonial rule.

Nkrumah's presidency In 1960 Ghana was declared a republic and Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the anticolonial leader and first prime minister of the Gold Coast, became president. He embarked on a policy of what he called ‘African socialism’ and established an authoritarian regime. In 1964 he declared Ghana a one-party state, with the Convention People's Party (CPP, which he led) as the only political organization. He then dropped his stance of non-alignment and forged links with the Soviet Union and other communist countries. In 1966, while visiting China, he was deposed in a coup led by Gen Joseph Ankrah, whose national liberation council released many political prisoners and purged CPP supporters. The USA's CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) was believed to have assisted in this coup.

In 1969, Gen Akwasi Afrifa replaced Ankrah and announced plans for a return to civilian government. A new constitution established an elected national assembly and a non-executive presidency. The Progress Party (PP) won a big majority in the assembly, and its leader, Kofi Busia, became prime minister. In 1970, the former chief justice, Edward Akufo-Addo, became the civilian president.

Economic problems and coups Following economic problems, involving devaluation of the currency and mounting inflation, the army seized power again in a bloodless coup in January 1972. The constitution was suspended and all political institutions replaced by a National Redemption Council under Col Ignatius Acheampong. In 1976 he too promised a return to civilian rule but critics doubted his sincerity. Corruption and mismanagement by the government led to antigovernment strikes and demonstrations and in July 1978 Acheampong was arrested and replaced as president by his chief-of-staff, Frederick Akuffo, in a bloodless coup. Akuffo set up a constitutional assembly and allowed political activity to restart but failed to get to grips with corruption, and in June 1979 junior officers, led by Flight-Lt Jerry Rawlings, deposed him.

Rawlings headed an Armed Forces Revolutionary Council which took swift action, including the execution of senior military officers, including Acheampong and Akuffo, imprisonment of military officers and government officials for corruption, and the holding of elections. Dr Hilla Limann, a career diplomat from the People's National Party (PNP), was elected president, assuming power in September 1979.

The civilian government failed to reverse the economy's decline and in December 1981 Rawlings led another coup. He established a Provisional National Defence Council with himself as chair, suspended the constitution, dissolved parliament, and banned political parties. Although Rawlings's policies were initially supported by workers and students, his failure to revive the economy caused discontent, and he had to deal with a number of demonstrations and attempted coups, including one in October 1989. Some power was decentralized to districts and local communities and to ‘defence committees’.

Multiparty politics The public approved an April 1992 referendum for a multiparty constitution for a Fourth Republic. This was framed by a consultative assembly made up of representatives of interest groups and different regions. Rawlings resigned his air force commission and in November 1992 won, with 59% of the vote, the first presidential elections held since 1979. His supporters, in the National Democratic Congress (NDC), won a sweeping victory in the parliamentary elections, which were boycotted by much of the opposition.

In 1994, ethnic clashes in the north of the country claimed 6,000 lives and forced the imposition of a six-month state of emergency. Rawlings and the NDC won the presidential and assembly elections again in December 1996. This time they were fully contested by the opposition and were free and peaceful.

Peaceful transfer of power to NPP Rawlings was constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, and John Atta-Mills, the vice-president, stood as the NDC's candidate in the December 2000 elections. He finished behind John Kufuor, leader of the main opposition party, the liberal New Patriotic Party (NPP), in the first round, and Kufuor won the run-off, with 57% of the vote. Kufuor was sworn in as president, in January 2001, in what was the first peaceful transfer of power in Ghana since independence from Britain. The NPP also emerged dominant in parliamentary elections.

Kufuor pledged to crack down on corruption and to encourage entrepreneurship and modernization of agriculture. But he also warned that a period of economic austerity lay ahead as he set about stabilizing public finances. Overseas, he was active in brokering peace plans in Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, and Sierra Leone.

Kufuor was re-elected president in December 2004 and his NPP polled strongly in parliamentary elections.

NDC narrowly regain power Nana Akufo-Addo, the foreign minister under Kufuor, stood as the NPP's candidate in the December 2008 presidential election. He won most votes in the first round, but fell short of an overall majority. The election went to a run-off round which was narrowly won by John Atta-Mills, of the NDC. A former vice-president, in 1997–2001, and previously a law professor, Atta-Mills took charge of the country in January 2009 at an auspicious time, with the discovery in 2007 of large new oil reserves that would bring in new revenues. The peaceful transfer of power from one elected government to another also marked Ghana out as one of Africa's more stable new democracies.

Atta-Mills faced the challenge of Ghana's rising external debt, up from $8 billion in December 2008 to $18 billion in December 2011. To help finance this, Ghana closened its economic and financial ties with China, which it supplied with oil in return for a $3 billion loan, in December 2011.

Mahama succeeds Atta-Mills as president Atta-Mills died in office, in July 2012, and was succeeded as president by his vice-president, John Mahama, of the NDC. Mahama went on to win the December 2012 presidential elections, with 50.7% of the vote. He defeated Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP, which claimed there had been polling irregularities. The NDC achieved a majority in the concurrent parliamentary elections, winning 148 (of 275) seats to 123 for the NPP.

Under Mahama economic growth slowed, because of lower global prices for the country's cocoa, oil, and gold exports. As a consequence, public debt and inflation increased, energy shortages brought power cuts, and the currency weakened. This led to anti-government street protests in July 2014.

NPP returns to power, with Akufo-Addo elected president The 72-year-old NPP leader Nana Akufo-Addo won the December 2016 presidential elections, defeating Mahama by a 54% of the vote to 44% margin. He had run an ambitious campaign which had pledged free high-school education and to industrialize the country through building a factory in each of the country's 216 districts. The NPP also won a clear majority in the concurrent parliamentary elections.

images

Ghana

memorial to Nkrumah, Ghana

peanuts drying in Ghana

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