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Ghana became an independent state

March 6th, 1957, the Gold Coast gained it's independence from Great


Independence Square celebrations - Accra, Ghana

Ghana - Political History

Ghana lies at the heart of a region which has been leading sub-Saharan

African culture since the first millennium BC in metal-working, mining,

sculpture and agriculture.

Modern Ghana takes its name from the ancient kingdom of Ghana, some 800 km.

(500 miles) to the north of present day Accra, which flourished up to the

eleventh century AD. One of the great sudanic states which dominate African

history, the kingdom of Ghana controlled the gold trade between the mining

areas to the south and the Saharan trade routes to the north. Ancient Ghana

was also the focus for the export trade in Saharan copper and salt.

The coming of Europeans altered the trading patterns, and the focus of

economic power shifted to the West African coastline. The Portuguese came

first, seeking the source of the African gold. It lay too far inland for

them to reach; but on the Gold Coast they found a region where gold could be

obtained, exported along established trade paths from the interior. Their

fort at Elmina ("the mine") was the first in a series of forts along the

Gold Coast designed to repel the other European seafarers who followed in

their wake, all struggling for their share of the profitable Gold Coast


In due course, however, slaves replaced gold as the most lucrative trade

along the coast, with the European slave buyers using the forts and

adjoining buildings for their own accommodation and protection, as well as

for storing the goods, mainly guns and gunpowder, which they would barter

for slaves. Some of the forts were also used for keeping newly acquired

slaves pending the arrival of the ships sent to collect them.

But while Europeans quarrelled over access to the coastal trade, and despite

the appalling depredations of the slave traders, which left whole regions

destroyed and depopulated, the shape of modern Ghana was being laid down. At

the end of the 17th century, there were a number of small states on the Gold

Coast; by 1750, these had merged, by conquest or diplomacy, into two: the

Asante empire, and the Fante empire. By the 19th century, the Asantes were

seeking mastery of the coast, and especially access to the trading post of

Elmina. By this time the British had won control of the coastal trade from

the other European nations, and their interests could not tolerate further

Asante expansion - more so since the Asante Empire was known for its

sophisticated administrative efficiency and would have been difficult or

impossible to best at trade. Nevertheless it took a series of military

campaigns over some 50 years before the British were finally able to force

the Asantes to give up sovereignty over their southern possessions. In a

final campaign in 1874 the British attempted, without success, to seize

Asante; they were however able to take Kumasi (capital of the Asante empire)

and exact a huge ransom for it in gold; and the vast Asante empire shrunk to

the Asante and Brong-Ahafo regions of modern Ghana.

Meanwhile, the Fantes too had been uniting and organizing, and in 1868

formed themselves into a confederacy under a king-president with a 15,000

strong army, a civil service and a constitution. In 1871 the British

arrested the Fante leaders for "treason". They were however freed a month

later, but the confederacy never recovered from the blow. In 1874 the

British formally established the British Crown Colony of the Gold Coast,

"legalizing" a colonial policy which had in fact been in force since the

signing of the bond between the coastal Chiefs and the British in 1844,

despite the fact that the Chiefs never ceded sovereignty to the British

under the bond, though some of them allowed British intervention in judicial


The Asante and Fante traditions of education and organization, and their

urge for autonomy, remained throughout the years of British colonial rule.

The Gold Coast was regarded as the showpiece of Britain's colonies: the

richest, the best educated, the first to have an elected majority in the

legislature and with the best organized native authorities. The Gold Coast

riots in 1948, which marked the start of the people's agitation for

independence, were instrumental in changing British policy and drove home

the point that colonialism had no future.

But a long struggle still lay ahead - and the man who was the catalyst of

that struggle was Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

Born in 1909, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah trained as a teacher at Achimota College in

Ghana and then in the United States and Britain, where he obtained his


He became prominent as a leader of West African organizations in London and

was invited to return to Ghana as general secretary of the United Gold Coast

Convention. In 1949 he broke away to from the Convention People's Party with

the slogan "Self-Government Now".

In February 1951 the party swept to victory in the polls and became the

leaders of Govermnent business in the colony's first African government. The

Gold Coast had become the first British colony in Africa to achieve


On 6 March 1957 Ghana achieved independence - again, the first British

colony in Africa to do so - with Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as its first

Prime Minister. On 1st July,1960 Ghana became a republic with Kwame Nkrumah

as its first President.

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