Lana Osei is a JURIST staff correspondent in Ghana and a recent graduate of the GIMPA (Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration) Faculty of Law. She files this dispatch from Accra.
Last Friday, September 15th, Ghana’s Armed Forces assured the country in an interview with the leadership of the Ghana Journalists Association that there will be no coup d’états in Ghana. Vice Admiral Seth Amoama, the country’s Chief of Defence Staff, said: “When it comes to coups and things like that, Ghanaians should be assured that the Ghana Armed Forces is not interested.” This is news, because in the past three years, there have been coups in several countries in Ghana’s West African neighborhood, in particular Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Guinea.
The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo, speaking at the 147th Independence Day celebration of the Republic of Liberia in back in July, stated that the current menace of coups in Africa must be defeated. He emphasized that the resurgence of coups in Africa, in all their forms and manifestations, must be condemned by all, as it seriously undermines collective efforts to rid the continent of instability and unconstitutional changes in government. That speech was delivered against the backdrop of recent events, where individuals in military fatigues claimed to have taken power in Niger, shortly after reports emerged that President Mohamed Bazoum had been seized by members of the presidential guard.
In a subsequent development, Ghana’s National Democratic Congress (NDC), a prominent opposition party to the incumbent President’s, made a statement on 4th September 2023 through their National Chairman, raising concerns about the situation in Ghana. They said that the country stands on the precipice of a coup d’état due to the government’s actions, which they deem as more detrimental than the triggers of past coups. But a few days later, the National Chairman clarified his earlier stance by firmly asserting that his political party would not endorse or support any military adventurists attempting to stage a coup d’état in the country.
The renaissance of coup d’états in West Africa has fueled a nationwide conversation. Ghanaian news outlet Joynews, in a segment of ‘PM Express‘, conducted an interview on Wednesday, September 6, with Yaw Nsarkoh, a former Executive Vice President of Unilever. During this exchange, Nsarkoh shed light on the perception surrounding coups. He argued that the political work that is required for development must never be outsourced to coup makers.“Why do we now perceive things in such a binary manner, where we feel compelled to choose between corrupt civilians or unaccountable soldiers?” Nsarkoh asked. He further noted the fact that some countries face numerous challenges, including corruption, yet never resort to coups. Therefore, he said that coups represent “an intellectually lazy approach for those unwilling to engage in the necessary political work.”
Ghana, since gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1957, has experienced several military interventions which have shaped its political history. Between 1960 and 1992, Ghana has had five transient written Constitutions and six military governments, so this whole matter hits very close to home.
The first coup in Ghana’s history was on February 24, 1966 when Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and the Conventions People’s Party (CPP) were ousted from power in a coup d’état carried out by the National Liberation Council (NLC). This event occurred while Dr. Nkrumah was away on a peace mission in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. He had been invited by President Ho Chi Minh to help resolve the Vietnam War. It was announced on state radio that; “Kwame Nkrumah [is] overthrown, and the myth surrounding him is broken”.
Perhaps the outspoken and powerful Dr. Nkrumah had become somewhat of a god, so close to God that some people believed he had to be toppled. In his book, ‘Dark Days in Ghana’, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah afterward wrote that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) aided the Ghana Army at the time to overthrow his government. It was believed that Nkrumah was an ally of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, although none of this has been substantiated. The coup makers in Dr. Nkrumah’s day justified their revolt on claims of abuse of power and corruption perpetuated by his government. Restrictive laws such as the Preventive Detention Act 1958 were promulgated by the Nkrumah government. This law allowed for the detention of individuals without trial on grounds of national security or public safety for up to one year.
From my perspective, no amount of internal clamoring or international intrusion should justify any form of unlawful political seizure of power.
Ghanaian people—statesmen, judges, soldiers, and civilians—were martyred in the past so I could have the liberty to be able to write on a platform like JURIST without fear for my life or my family’s.
Opinions expressed in JURIST Dispatches are solely those of our correspondents in the field and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.