Africa’s eternal hope: Ghana since independence



A recap of the key events since independence in the West African nation of Ghana, which holds presidential elections on Monday:

Breaking free

Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to end colonisation, becoming a model for many in the post-colonial world.

On March 6, 1957, it won independence from Britain under nationalist leader Kwame Nkrumah.

In 1960, it became a republic with Nkrumah as president. He promoted “African socialism” but became increasingly autocratic. Plotters tried to assassinate him several times between 1961 and 1964.

Coups and elections

In 1966, Nkrumah was overthrown and a military regime took over. More coups followed.

On June 4, 1979, Captain Jerry Rawlings toppled the regime of General Frederick Akuffo. Rawlings set up an “Armed Forces Revolutionary Council” and launched an anti-corruption “house-cleaning exercise”.

Later that year, he organised democratic elections, won by Hilla Limann.

But in 1981 Rawlings accused Limann’s government of mismanagement and took over with another coup.

He held fresh elections in 1992, and won. Rawlings was re-elected in 1996 following unrest in February 1994 that left more than 1,000 people dead in northern Ghana.

Opposition leader John Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was elected president in 2000, and was succeeded in 2008 by a Rawlings ally, John Atta Mills, of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Mills died in July 2012 and was replaced by the vice president, John Dramani Mahama.

Obama visit

On July 11, 2009, Barack Obama, the United States’ first black president, chose Ghana as his first visit to Africa. He called on Africa to take in hand its own destiny.

Oil boom

Ghana started pumping crude oil in December 2010 from an offshore field discovered three years earlier.

This led to a burst of growth that transformed the country into an emerging economy, piquing the interest of global investors.

But new exploration and production was halted in 2014 when Ivory Coast said drilling off Ghana’s western coast had strayed into its sea area.

A court victory in September 2017 resolved the long-standing dispute, sparking predictions of an oil boom.


In December 2012, Mahama drafted a code of ethics for ministers and civil servants.

Twenty judges were fired for corruption in late 2015 after they were filmed with justice ministry personnel accepting bribes. A dozen other judges were placed under investigation.

Mahama himself was then accused of receiving a car from a contractor in Burkina Faso.

Mahama lost out in his bid for re-election in 2016 to Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP, who pledged to fix a host of economic problems and fight corruption.

Old foes

In February 2019, Mahama scored a landslide primary victory to become the opposition candidate in the 2020 elections.

He will be up against incumbent Akufo-Addo for the top job, the fourth time the two rivals face off against each other at the ballot box.