Country Listing

Ghana Table of Contents



Ghana has a long history of internal division, rooted in antagonisms and conflicts among the country's various ethnic groups. For example, the Asante in the center of the country have long been at odds with southern peoples such as the Ga, Fante, Akwapim, Nzema, and Ewe. In the seventeenth century, the Asante began conquering smaller northern states. The Asante then moved south, where they came into contact with the Fante. Conflicts between these two groups ultimately led to British intervention. For much of the nineteenth century, the British battled the Asante for control of most of the territory which became modern Ghana (see Arrival of the Europeans; The Colonial Era: British Rule of the Gold Coast , ch. 1). Even after the country gained independence in 1957, ethnic divisions continued to trouble Ghanaian society.

Several dissident organizations, however, most of which had been created by exiles during the 1980s, dedicated themselves to deemphasizing ethnicity and to facilitating the growth of nationalism. In April 1982, various members of Ghana's banned political parties established the Campaign for Democracy in Ghana and opened offices in Lagos and London. This group characterized the Rawlings regime as "an instrument of terror" and urged all Ghanaians to "employ all legitimate means to ensure that democracy and constitutional order were restored in the country." In April 1984, J.H. Mensah, who had been the minister of finance Abrefa in the Kofi Busia government (1969-71), formed the Ghana Democratic Movement, which welcomed all Ghanaians who believed in "the restoration of democracy in Ghana."

In precolonial Ghana, political opposition was tolerated only up to point, after which retribution could be serve. During the colonial period, the British jailed outspoken nationalists. Since independence, Ghana's security policy toward dissidents and political opponents has been harsh. During Kwame Nkrumah's presidency (1960-66), security personnel permeated all levels of Ghanaian society. Additionally, the Ghana Young Pioneers, created in June 1960, regularly reported all suspected dissident activities to the authorities. Nkrumah also encouraged rivalries among senior officials to discourage them from taking united action against him. Individuals who fell afoul of Nkrumah usually ended up in jail; more dangerous people received long-term sentences in the maximum security prison at Nsawam.

Since the downfall of Nkrumah, all governments, with the exception of the regime of Hilla Limann (1979-81), have dealt harshly with any individual or organization deemed to be a threat to the established political order. Informants watched military personnel, members of political parties, academics, students, and ordinary citizens for signs of disloyalty, antigovernment activity, or coup-plotting. During the early years of the second Rawlings regime, the authorities also sought to prevent the emergence of prodemocracy groups. In mid-1987, for example, the police arrested members of the New Democratic Movement (NDM) and the Kwame Nkrumah Revolutionary Guards (KNRG), supposedly for plotting to overthrow the government. Gradually, however, Western and domestic pressures persuaded the Ghanaian government to permit political competition and to hold multiparty elections in late 1992.

Data as of November 1994