Ghana Brief History

Not everything that shines in Ghana is not gold, even though the country is the world’s second largest gold producer. What shines most clearly for us visitors is the life of the people with the smiling and friendly people.

This was my second trip to sub-Saharan Africa. The previous trip was to Liberia at the turn of the year 1970/71. Much of what met me in Ghana I recognized from Liberia, cultures, ethnic groups, environments.

My visit to Ghana, Kofi Annan’s homeland, was a journey full of experiences of various kinds. Meetings with many friendly people, visits to national parks, a village stay during which I got to try the hard everyday life and visits to the former slave forts in Cape Coast and Elmina. On the coast I met the men who challenged the sea in their small fishing boats and inland I met gold diggers who dreamed of wealth.

Ghanaian history in brief

According to businesscarriers, archaeologists have found finds of people, hunters and gatherers, in the area that today constitutes Ghana, which is between 100,000 and 200,000 years old. In the 21st century BC, people were already engaged in animal husbandry. Traces of buildings from this period have been found near Kintampo. During the 1000s BC, the first large population groups were formed, sometimes with up to 2,000 inhabitants. People came here from different parts of West Africa a long time ago, which affected the population mix. The kingdom was founded. In the north, the development was influenced by Islamic currents. The eastern parts of Lake Volta are populated early.

In 1415, the Portuguese conquered the Moroccan port city of Ceuta, which was the start of the European colonization of Africa, often with very tragic consequences. By 1471 they had reached the small village of Edina, now called Elmina. The Portuguese named the site “Da Costa de el Mina de Ouro”, “The Coast with the Gold Mines”, and began trading with one of the mighty chiefs, Caramansa. In 1482, the Portuguese built Fort St. Georg on a rocky shore, which became the first of many European forts along the “Gold Coast”. Elmina remained the center of the Portuguese during their 150-year gold trade. They also traded in ivory, cotton and animal skins during this period.

The first English ships reached West Africa in the 1530s and in 1542 the first French ship docked in Dixcove. Here the French bought 28 kilos of gold. In the 1550s, the arrival of European ships increased. The Dutch were out late and attacked the Portuguese at Elmina in 1596, but without much success. Their contradictions in Europe were transferred to Africa. In 1612, however, they built their first fort with materials shipped from their homeland. Thereafter they expanded greatly and in 1637 they defeated the Portuguese at Elmina.

Sweden and Denmark also had interests on the Gold Coast during this period. The Swedes built Fort Carolusburg on the Cape Coast in 1653 and maintained it for eleven years. The Danes built one of the strongest forts on the Gold Coast, Fort Osu, which was in their possession between 1642 and 1850.

The English established themselves in West Africa by founding their “West Africa Company” in 1618, but without much success. In 1665, the English attacked on a broad front against the Dutch and managed to take over several of their large forts. The British takeover of Cape Coast in 1665 marked a turning point in the gold trade. By the beginning of the 18th century, they had switched to the more lucrative human trafficking.

Trading in slaves was nothing new for West Africa. The various tribes that fought against each other had already done so before, albeit on a small scale and sporadically. Europeans took over this trade and developed it in a very cruel and ruthless way. This is one of the blackest periods in colonial history. The slave trade lasted from 1665 to 1807. During this period, it is estimated that between 12 and 20 million slaves were shipped across the Atlantic, to North and South America. A large proportion of them died during the boat transports. Trade was kept alive by exchanging weapons for slaves. Fearing defeat by a better-equipped enemy, the tribes delivered people in exchange for weapons. This handling can still be felt today when visiting the forts that were used for this cruel human handling. The slave trade was banned in Denmark in 1804, England in 1807,

The colonization of the Gold Coast lasted from 1806 to 1902 with various protests from the local population, who also fought among themselves. The greatest opposition to the British came from the Ashanti people. The Dutch withdrew from the Gold Coast in the 1870s. The English declared the area a Crown Colony on July 24, 1874. The French and Germans showed interest in the region in the late 19th century during their expansion into West Africa. The British colonial rule that lasted until 1957 was met by various contradictions and demarcations.

He formed a political party and was imprisoned for his anti-British protests. In March 1952, he was elected the Gold Coast’s first African Prime Minister. On March 6, 1957, the Gold Coast became independent and was named Ghana.

Under Nkrumah’s leadership, the country first developed positively. He had new roads, ports and the great Volta Dam built as well as improved the education system. However, he lagged behind the important agricultural sector. Politically, he oriented himself towards socialism, which created negative relations in the Western world. Corruption grew in scope. On February 24, 1966, the military seized power during Nkrumah’s visit to Hanoi. He never returned to Ghana but died in exile in 1972. The military annulled the one-party constitution Nkruhma introduced. They again began to apply a market-adapted economy and wrote about the constitution.

Ghanaian history, modern, some important years


In November, Kwame Nkrumah returned to Ghana after twelve years in the United States and England


The Radical Party (CPP) was formed with Kwame Nkrumah as its leader. He advocated a free United States of Africa and, through his political work for this vision, played a major role in the African liberation from colonialism.

1950 Nkrumah was imprisoned. The British gave the Gold Coast some autonomy


Elections to a local parliament were held. CPP won through strong support from the young middle class.

1952 Kwame Nkrumah is released and forms a government


In a referendum, monitored by the UN, the British part of the neighboring Togoland chose to join the Gold Coast


Of all the British colonies in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana was the first to become independent and Ghana became a nation within the British Commonwealth. The country’s first prime minister, independence hero Kwame Nkrumah, was elected


Following a constitutional amendment, Ghana became the Republic and Nkrumah the country’s first president. He came to pursue a socialist policy, had new industries, roads and schools built. But the state-controlled economy and Nkrumah’s contacts with Eastern Europe prompted the Western world to withdraw its support for the country. The economy was also hit hard by falling cocoa prices. Nkrumah’s government was also marked by corruption and intolerance of the opposition


Another constitutional amendment was implemented and thus Ghana became a one-party state under Nkrumah’s Socialist Party, the United People’s Party (CPP).


Kwame Nkrumahs was ousted by a group of soldiers due to dissatisfaction with his policies and with the economic situation. The one-party constitution was annulled and the CPP was dissolved. The coup plotters began to introduce a market-adapted economy and support from Western countries returned


A new constitution was written and general elections were held. Economic mismanagement continued and intensified under the civilian government


The government was ousted by a coup in January led by Colonel Ignatius Acheampong
After Acheampong took over the country’s government, the economy continued to deteriorate due to poor harvests and higher oil prices. Corrupt military enriched itself while the shortage of goods became worse

1978 Acheampong, promised a return to civilian rule, was ousted in a palace coup in July


In June, two weeks before the planned general election, a new coup was carried out under the leadership of JJ Rawlings. The selection is carried out under the control of Rawlings. The People’s National Party (PNP) led by Hilla Limann won. Before handing over power to Limann, Rawlings had three former military leaders, including Acheampong, executed and imprisoned hundreds of officers and officials. Embezzled money was seized and withheld taxes were collected


Limann’s tenure was marked by an even worse economy and internal power struggle within the PNP. On New Year’s Eve, the Rawlings regained power. All political bodies were dissolved, the constitution was repealed and the parties were banned. The country was ruled by a military-dominated Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), led by Rawlings. At the local level, so-called national defense committees, later called revolution committees, were appointed


Presidential elections were held in November. Because the opposition was divided, the Rawlings won with just over 58 percent of the vote. Foreign observers believed that everything had gone right, but the opposition claimed cheating and boycotted the parliamentary elections in December of that year. As a result, the NDC and its allies won all 200 seats except two, which went to independent candidates.


In January, Rawlings officially took office as the country’s president and the governing body was dissolved


In February, ethnic fighting broke out in northern Ghana and some 1,000 people were killed and more than 150,000 fled the area before a peace deal was reached. Occasional outbreaks of violence occurred throughout the 1990s


In the early 1990s, rapid democratization began and economic maladministration declined. Growth increased and the country received a lot of support from donors from the West. In the election, the opposition offered strong opposition to the government. NDC gets its own majority, but the market liberal New Patriotic Party (NPP) got 61 out of 200 seats
JJ Rawlings was re-elected president

Ghana Brief History

About the author