|Ghana Table of Contents
Within thirty-five years of Ghana's becoming a sovereign state, the country experienced, before its fourth return to multiparty democratic government in January 1993, nine different types of government (three civilian and six military), including a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy, a socialist single-party republic, and several military regimes following coups in 1966, 1972, 1979, and 1981.
The new national leadership of postcolonial Ghana inherited state machinery that had evolved under British rule and that emphasized strong centralization of power and top-down decision making. Kwame Nkrumah--prime minister, 1957-60; president, 1960-66- -unsuccessfully attempted to create a socialist economy in the early 1960s, but his effort merely served to compound the inevitable problems and dangers of administrative centralization and state intervention in the economy. These problems, which survived Nkrumah, included political corruption, self-enrichment, misuse of power, lack of public accountability, and economic mismanagement, leading in turn to economic decline and stagnation and to the rapid erosion of political legitimacy and attendant coups d'état. Authoritarian or arbitrary styles of leadership that limited genuine democratic participation and public debate on policy as well as the lack of political vision of successive postcolonial regimes (with the exception of Nkrumah's) contributed greatly to political instability and to the rapid alternation of civilian and military rule.
One of the changes in government came on June 4, 1979, when a handful of junior officers seized power less than a month before scheduled elections. An Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was formed with the overriding objectives of ridding Ghana of official corruption, indiscipline in public life, and economic mismanagement before handing over power to a civilian government. A relatively unknown twenty-nine-year-old air force flight lieutenant, Jerry John Rawlings, emerged as the leader of the AFRC. The so-called house-cleaning exercise embarked upon by the AFRC was extended to a variety of civilian economic malpractices such as hoarding, profiteering, and black-marketing.
Parliamentary elections were duly held on June 18, 1979, as planned. A party of the Nkrumahist tradition, the People's National Party (PNP), won a majority of the parliamentary seats, and its leader, Hilla Limann, became president after a run-off election. On September 24, 1979, the AFRC handed over government to the PNP. At this time, Rawlings warned the PNP government that it was on probation and admonished the incoming officials to put the interest of the people first.
The PNP administration was short-lived. On December 31, 1981, Rawlings returned to office for the second time as head of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC). He insisted that the 31st December, 1981, Revolution was necessitated, among other factors, by the failure of the PNP administration to provide effective leadership and by the virtual collapse of the national economy and of state services. Upon assuming power, Rawlings immediately declared a "holy war" aimed at restructuring national political institutions, establishing genuine democracy based on Ghanaian ideals and traditions, and rehabilitating the economy.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress