On a day like today, everyone would usually be out shaking a leg and having a good time. I remember the first time I snuck out to go to a club was a Ghana Independence Day party at the Coronet in Elephant & Castle in London (I was almost 18 and I didn’t drink). Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, you may not be interested in going out and in that case I’ll keep it brief, informative and to the point.
When did Ghana become independent?
Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to receive independence on March 6, 1957. This sparked a movement across Africa with many other countries following suit over the next few decades.
Why did Ghana want independence?
The people in Ghana had little say for their lives and future and existed mainly to prop up the United Kingdom. Ghana was heavily reliant on European imports with heavily inflated prices. A Ga chief named Nii Kwabena Bonne III (Boycotthene) organised a boycott of foreign imports as a response. It is also said that the original spark had been created when Ghanaian soldiers who served in World War II, fighting for Britain, requested compensation for their efforts. Veterans from other commonwealth nations had been compensated so the Ghanaian veterans thought it was a fair request. During a peaceful protest about this on the 28th February 1948, soldiers: Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe, and Private Odartey Lamptey were shot by the British authorities. Accra riots happened shortly afterwards and the people held responsible for this were called The Big Six. This incident led to Britain gearing Ghana up for independence and allowing elections for a Prime Minister.
How did Ghana go about achieving this?
The Big Six were part of an organisation called the United Gold Coast Convention. It was financed by the successful Ghanaian merchant George Alfred Grant (Paa Grant) and founded by lawyer Jeffrey Boakye Danquah (J.B. Danquah). Paa Grant, being one of the richest men in Ghana, was displeased with the colonial economic practices so he invested in the plan laid out my J.B. Danquah. The other prominent members of the UGCC were Edward Akufo-Addo, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey and William Ofori Atta. After the addition of Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, charisma was needed in the UGCC. Ako-Adjei and Paa Grant knew of a man studying abroad called Kwame Nkrumah who had the presence needed to make the change required. Paa Grant paid for Nkrumah to return to Ghana and it was a huge success. However, along with wanting a very fast independence process, Nkrumah was a socialist and the UGCC was a conservative party. He then left to create the Convention People’s Party (CPP).
Whilst in prison for various counts (including inciting unrest), Kwame Nkrumah competed in Ghana’s first election as the leader of the CPP to become Prime Minister of Ghana under the campaign promise of immediate independence. He won by a landslide and was therefore released from prison and installed as the Ghanaian Prime Minister and bringing about independence to Ghana officially on 6th March 1957 with festivities afterwards attended by President Nixon, Martin Luther King, The Duchess of Kent and more. The Queen visited an independent Ghana in 1961 where she famously danced with President Nkrumah.
What does this mean for Ghana now?
Being the first sub-Saharan country to attain independence, Ghana faced a lot of challenges and has made many reconciliation attempts. However, as it stands now, Ghana is a stable democracy with a two-term limit for whoever is in power. Being a two-party state, power has changed hands from the two dominant parties, the NDC and the NPP multiple times in the last 20 years.
How can we celebrate?
You can celebrate by partying at home if you’re in the UK. If you’re in the USA, you can party following the rules of your state. If you’re in Ghana, it’s pretty obvious that parties will happen, but the President has asked for people to be vigilant as COVID is still present
Written by James Mercer