National Reconciliation Commission

October 17, 2006

Reparations for victims of human rights abuses

ACCRA, 17 October 2006 (IRIN) – The administration of President John Kufuor has begun paying reparations to about 2,000 Ghanaians who suffered human rights abuses under former governments. 

Individual payments, which began on Monday, range from about US $217 to US $3,300 depending on the extent of abuse or violation, according to the attorney general’s office.

The US $1.5 million in payments were recommended by the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), which was formed five years ago to address human rights violations committed under various governments since Ghana gained independence from Britain in 1957. 

Most abuses, such as arbitrary imprisonment, confiscation of property, disappearances, executions and torture happened under military rule when Ghana had a reputation as one of the most coup-prone countries in West Africa.

“The payments are by no means payment for human rights violations because money, like any other form of compensation, can never restore victims to the status quo ante,” said Attorney General and Justice Minister Joe Ghartey.

“Besides, it is impossible to quantify in money’s worth, losses, as well as the physical, emotional, mental and psychological agony that victims and families have been through,” he said.

The commission’s hearings focused heavily on Jerry Rawlings and his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Rawlings seized power in 1979, turned over control of Ghana to a civilian leader and then took over again in 1981 with the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC). Under Rawlings, two former military leaders were tried and executed.

Rawlings won presidential elections in 1992 and 1996. Kufuor was elected in the two subsequent presidential elections, presiding over a country whose new image is one of relative economic prosperity and stability in West Africa.

The government has published claimant forms in national newspapers as well as the names of the first 250 people who are to receive reparations to help facilitate the payment process, which is scheduled to end in December.

A survey conducted by the Centre for Democratic Governance (CDD), a local think-tank dedicated to the promotion of good governance and democracy, revealed that some victims expected higher payments. 

“Victims are indexing their compensations to be equal to whatever they lost at current banking rates. So naturally, the highest payment of 30 million cedis ($3,300) does not in any way make up financially for a man who lost three cars, 2.5 million cedis and was jailed eight years in 1983,” said Daniel Armah-Attoh, CDD’s research programme officer.

However, according to Armah-Attoh, education and sensitisation are needed to address inflated expectations. 

“We have to let people know that we are not paying 100 percent for all the abuses and suffering that victims of human rights abuses went through. That is absolutely crucial,” he said.

“Certainly, for the victims it has been a long and difficult wait. But now they can lay claim to something tangible that is symbolic of the fact that the state now recognises the pain and suffering that they endured in the past,” Armah-Attoh said.

The New Patriotic Party Retains Power

December 1, 2004

In December 2004, eight political parties contested parliamentary elections and four parties, including the NPP and NDC, contested presidential elections. This election was reported to have a remarkable turnout of 85.12% according to the Election Commission. Despite a few incidents of intimidation and minor irregularities, domestic and international observers judged the elections generally free and fair. There were several isolated incidents of election-related violence, but the election was generally peaceful in most of Ghana.

John Agyekum Kufuor was re-elected president with 52.45% of the vote against three other presidential candidates, including former Vice-President John Atta Mills of the NDC. Thirty constituencies were created in the period between the 2000 and 2004 elections, resulting in a 230-member Parliament.

President John Kufuor Takes Over

December 28, 2000

The December 2000 elections ushered in the first democratic presidential change of power in Ghana’s history when John A. Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) defeated the NDC’s John Atta Mills – who was Rawling’s Vice President and hand-picked successor. Kufuor defeated Mills by winning 56.73% of the vote. The elections were declared free and fair by domestic and international monitors. After several by-elections were held to fill vacated seats, the NPP majority stood at 103 of the 200 seats in Parliament, while the NDC held 89 and independent and small party members held eight.

President Jerry Rawlings

January 7, 1993

The constitution entered into force on January 7, 1993, to found the Fourth Republic. Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings was inaugurated as President and members of Parliament swore their oaths of office. In 1996, the opposition fully contested the presidential and parliamentary elections, which were described as peaceful, free, and transparent by domestic and international observers. In that election, President Rawlings was re-elected with 57% of the popular vote. In addition, Rawlings’ NDC party won 133 of the Parliament’s 200 seats, just one seat short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution.

The Fourth Republic

December 29, 1992

On May 18, 1992, the ban on party politics was lifted in preparation for multi-party elections. The PNDC and its supporters formed a new party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), to contest the elections. Presidential elections were held on November 3 and parliamentary elections on December 29, 1992. Members of the opposition boycotted the parliamentary elections, however, which resulted in a 200-seat Parliament with only 17 opposition party members and two independents.

International Pressure Mounts

April 28, 1992

Under international and domestic pressure for a return to democracy, the PNDC allowed the establishment of a 258-member Consultative Assembly made up of members representing geographic districts as well as established civic or business organizations. The assembly was charged to draw up a draft constitution to establish a Fourth Republic, using PNDC proposals. The PNDC accepted the final product without revision, and it was put to a national referendum on April 28, 1992, in which it received 92% approval.

Mapping a Road to Democracy

July 1, 1984

In 1984, the PNDC created a National Appeals Tribunal to hear appeals from public tribunals; changed the Citizens’ Vetting Committee into the Office of Revenue Collection; and replaced the system of defense committees with Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. They also created a National Commission on Democracy to study ways to establish participatory democracy in Ghana. The commission issued a “Blue Book” in July 1987 outlining modalities for district-level elections, which were held in 1988 and early 1989, for newly created district assemblies. The government appointed one-third of the assembly members.

Decentralizing Government

December 1, 1982

The PNDC proclaimed its intent to allow the people to exercise political power through defense committees in communities and in units of the armed forces and police – Ghana would, however, remain a unitary government. In December 1982, it announced a plan to decentralize government from Accra to the regions, the districts, and local communities, but maintain overall control by appointing secretaries with executive powers and who would chair regional and district councils. Local councils were expected to take over the payment of salaries, with regions and districts assuming more powers from the national government.

Limann’s Fresh Hope Fails and Rawlings Returns

December 31, 1981

The 1979 constitution was modeled on those of Western democracies. It provided for the separation of powers between an elected president and a unicameral Parliament, an independent judiciary headed by a Supreme Court, which protected individual rights, and other autonomous institutions, such as the Electoral Commissioner and the Ombudsman. The new President, Dr. Hilla Limann, was a career diplomat from the north and the candidate of the People’s National Party (PNP), the political heir of Nkrumah’s CPP. Of the 140 members of Parliament, 71 were PNP. The PNP government established the constitutional institutions and generally respected democracy and individual human rights. It failed, however, to halt the continuing decline in the economy; corruption flourished, and the gap between rich and poor widened. On December 31, 1981, Flight Lt. Rawlings and a small group of enlisted and former soldiers launched a coup that succeeded against little opposition in toppling President Limann.

Creating the Third Republic

September 24, 1979

Through a combination of force and exhortation the AFRC attempted to rid Ghanaian society of corruption and profiteering. At the same time, the AFRC accepted, with a few amendments, the draft constitution that had been submitted; permitted the scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections to take place in June and July; promulgated the constitution; and handed over power to the newly elected President and Parliament of the Third Republic on September 24, 1979.

Rawlings and the Provisional National Defense Council

June 4, 1979

Rawlings and his colleagues suspended the 1979 constitution, dismissed the President and cabinet, dissolved the Parliament, and proscribed existing political parties. They established the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), initially composed of seven members with Rawlings as chairman, to exercise executive and legislative powers. The existing judicial system was preserved, but alongside it the PNDC created the National Investigation Committee to root out corruption and other economic offenses; the anonymous Citizens’ Vetting Committee to punish tax evasion; and the Public Tribunals to try various crimes.

Jerry Rawlings Seizes Power

June 4, 1979

On June 4, 1979, Akuffo’s government was deposed in a violent coup by a group of junior and noncommissioned officers – Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) – with Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings as its chairman. The AFRC executed eight senior military officers, including former chiefs of state Acheampong and Akuffo; established secret Special Tribunals that tried dozens of military officers, government officials, and private individuals for corruption, sentenced them to long prison terms and confiscating property.

A Military Coup of a Military Coup?

July 9, 1978

The steady erosion in Acheampong’s power led to his arrest in July 1978 by his chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Frederick Akuffo, who replaced him as head of state and leader of what became known as the SMC-2. Akuffo abandoned UNIGOV and established a plan to return to constitutional and democratic government. A Constitutional Assembly was established, and political party activity was revived. Akuffo was unable to solve Ghana’s economic problems, however, or to reduce the rampant corruption in which senior military officers played a major role.

General Acheampong Unable to Deliver

September 9, 1977

Unable to deliver on its promises, the NRC/SMC became increasingly marked by mismanagement and rampant corruption. In 1977, General Acheampong brought forward the concept of union government (UNIGOV), which would make Ghana a non-party state. Perceiving this as a ploy by Acheampong to retain power, professional groups and students launched strikes and demonstrations against the government in 1977 and 1978.

High Ideals for Military Government

September 9, 1975

The coup leaders, led by Col. I.K. Acheampong, formed the National Redemption Council (NRC) to which they admitted other officers, the head of the police, and one civilian. The NRC promised improvements in the quality of life for all Ghanaians and based its programs on nationalism, economic development, and self-reliance. In 1975, government reorganization resulted in the NRC’s replacement by the Supreme Military Council (SMC), also headed by now-General Acheampong.

Another Military Coup

January 13, 1972

Faced with mounting economic problems, Prime Minister Busia’s government undertook a drastic devaluation of the currency in December 1971. The government’s inability to control the subsequent inflationary pressures stimulated further discontent, and military officers seized power in a bloodless coup on January 13, 1972.

Second Republic

August 31, 1970

Ghana’s government returned to civilian authority under the Second Republic in October 1969 after a parliamentary election in which the Progress Party, led by Kofi A. Busia, won 105 of the 140 seats. Until mid-1970, a presidential commission led by Brigadier A.A. Afrifa held the powers of the chief of state. In a special election on August 31, 1970, former Chief Justice Edward Akufo-Addo was chosen President, and Dr. Busia became Prime Minister.

Government by the National Liberation Council

February 24, 1966

The leaders of the February 24, 1966 coup established the new government around the National Liberation Council (NLC) and pledged an early return to a duly constituted civilian government. Members of the judiciary and civil service remained at their posts and committees of civil servants were established to handle the administration of the country.

Nkrumah is Overthrown

February 24, 1966

On February 24, 1966, the Ghanaian Army and police overthrew Nkrumah’s regime. Nkrumah and all his ministers were dismissed, the CPP and National Assembly were dissolved, and the constitution was suspended. The new regime cited Nkrumah’s flagrant abuse of individual rights and liberties, his regime’s corrupt, oppressive, and dictatorial practices, and the rapidly deteriorating economy as the principal reasons for its action.

Reorganizing the Territory

September 9, 1960

In subsequent reorganizations, the country was divided into 10 regions, which currently are subdivided into 138 districts. The original Gold Coast Colony now comprises the Western, Central, Eastern, and Greater Accra Regions, with a small portion at the mouth of the Volta River assigned to the Volta Region; the Ashanti area was divided into the Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo Regions; the Northern Territories into the Northern, Upper East, and Upper West Regions; and British Togoland essentially is the same area as the Volta Region.

Introducing Authoritarian Rule and a One-Party State

August 1, 1960

The CPP’s control was challenged and criticized, and Prime Minister Nkrumah used the Preventive Detention Act (1958), which provided for detention without trial for up to 5 years (later extended to 10 years). On July 1, 1960, a new constitution was adopted, changing Ghana from a parliamentary system with a prime minister to a republican form of government headed by a powerful president. In August 1960, Nkrumah was given authority to scrutinize newspapers and other publications before publication. This political evolution continued into early 1964, when a constitutional referendum changed the country to a one-party state.

A Stable Beginning

June 9, 1957

After independence, the CPP government under Nkrumah sought to develop Ghana as a modern, semi-industrialized, unitary socialist state. The government emphasized political and economic organization, endeavoring to increase stability and productivity through labor, youth, farmers, cooperatives, and other organizations integrated with the CPP. The government, according to Nkrumah, acted only as “the agent of the CPP” in seeking to accomplish these goals.

Achieving Independence

March 6, 1957

In May 1956, Nkrumah’s Gold Coast government issued a white paper containing proposals for Gold Coast independence. The British Government stated it would agree to a firm date for independence if a reasonable majority for such a step were obtained in the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly after a general election. The 1956 election returned the CPP to power with 71 of the 104 seats in the Legislative Assembly. Ghana became an independent state on March 6, 1957, when the United Kingdom relinquished its control over the Colony of the Gold Coast and Ashanti, the Northern Territories Protectorate, and British Togoland.

Addition of German Togoland Following World War I

January 1, 1957

British Togoland, the fourth territorial element eventually to form the nation, was part of a former German colony administered by the United Kingdom from Accra as a League of Nations mandate after 1922. In December 1946, British Togoland became a UN Trust Territory, and in 1957, following a 1956 plebiscite, the United Nations agreed that the territory would become part of Ghana when the Gold Coast achieved independence.

Kwame Nkrumah Takes Power

April 29, 1954

A new constitution, approved on April 29, 1954, established a cabinet comprising African ministers drawn from an all-African legislature chosen by direct election. In the elections that followed, the Convention People’s Party (CPP), led by Kwame Nkrumah, won the majority of seats in the new Legislative Assembly. Kwame Nkrumah became Prime Minister.

Road to Independence After World War II

April 9, 1951

The four territorial divisions were administered separately until 1946, when the British Government ruled them as a single unit. In 1951, a constitution was promulgated that called for a greatly enlarged legislature composed principally of members elected by popular vote directly or indirectly. An executive council was responsible for formulating policy, with most African members drawn from the legislature and including three ex officio members appointed by the governor.


The Big 6

The Big 6

(L-R) Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey, Mr. Ako Adjei, 

Mr. Edward Akuffo-Addo, Dr. J. B. Danquah, Mr. William Ofori Atta

These were the six brave men and leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention (U.G.C.C.) who were arrested and detained under the Emergency Regulation in 1948 during disturbances in the Gold Coast. They were and are gallant men who spearheaded the transition of Ghana from colonialism to Independence on that memorable day the 6th of March, 1957.

Britain Takes Control

September 9, 1821

In 1821, the British Government took control of the British trading forts on the Gold Coast. In 1844, Fanti chiefs in the area signed an agreement with the British that became the legal stepping stone to colonial status for the coastal area. From 1826 to 1900, the British fought a series of campaigns against the Ashantis (specifically the 1st Ashanti War 1863-64 and the 2nd Ashanti War 1873-74), whose kingdom was located inland. In 1902, they succeeded in establishing firm control over the Ashanti region and making the northern territories a protectorate.


Osu Castle, Accra

Osu Castle, Accra

James Fort, Accra

James Fort, Accra

Canons at Cape Coast Castle

Canons at Cape Coast Castle



Building the Portuguese Military Factory of El Mina

June 15, 1482

The first contact between Europe and the Gold Coast dates from 1470, when a party of Portuguese landed. In 1482, the Portuguese built Elmina Castle (São Jorge da Mina) as a permanent trading base. Thomas Windham made the first recorded English trading voyage to the coast in 1553. During the next three centuries, the English, Danes, Dutch, Germans, and Portuguese controlled various parts of the coastal areas.


Elmina Castle

Elmina Castle



Migrants From an Ancient Kingdom

January 9, 1471

The history of the Gold Coast before the last quarter of the 15th century is derived primarily from oral tradition that refers to migrations from the ancient kingdoms of the western Soudan (the area of Mauritania and Mali). The Gold Coast was renamed Ghana upon independence in 1957 because of indications that present-day inhabitants descended from migrants who moved south from the ancient kingdom of Ghana.


Old Ghana

Old Ghana Empire