Ghana, country, Africa: Struggles of an Independent Nation

Struggles of an Independent Nation

On Mar. 6, 1957, the state of Ghana, named after the medieval W African empire, became an independent country within the Commonwealth of Nations. At the same time the people of British Togoland chose to become part of Ghana. In 1960, Nkrumah transformed Ghana into a republic, with himself as president for life. By a 1964 referendum, all opposition parties were outlawed, and many critics of the government were subsequently imprisoned. Nkrumah followed an anticolonial, pan-African policy and grew increasingly less friendly to the West. Falling cocoa prices and poorly financed large development projects led to chaotic economic conditions, and in 1966 Nkrumah was overthrown by a military-police coup. A National Liberation Council (NLC) was set up to rule until the restoration of civilian government.

Relations with the Western powers improved, and in 1969 the NLC transferred power to the government of K. A. Busia, who had been elected under a new constitution. Busia's government was undermined by labor problems, an unpopular currency devaluation, and serious inflation, and in 1972 it too was overthrown in a bloodless coup led by Col. I. K. Acheampong. The constitution was suspended and a National Redemption Council (NRC) set up to govern; it pursued a more neutralist course in foreign affairs and concentrated on developing Ghana's economy. The country's large foreign debt was brought under control; imports were curtailed; and the state took controlling interests in foreign-owned mining and timber firms.

However, in 1978, Acheampong was forced out of office by a group of military officers. Low wages and high unemployment led to a series of strikes that further disrupted the economy. Formerly one of the most prosperous nations in W Africa, Ghana's economy was in severe decline. The government lifted a ban on political parties in 1979 but denied potential leaders the right to participate.

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