Ghana, after eight years of military rule, now enters its second week under a civilian government.
Ghana, after eight years of military rule, now enters its second week under a civilian government. Last Monday (24 September), President Hilla Limann accepted office from Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, the 32-year-old chairman of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council which in June overthrew the military administration of General Fred Akuffo.
SYNOPSIS: In 1957, Ghana -- then known as the Gold Coast -- became the first of Britain's African colonies to become independent. The first leader, Kwame Nkrumah, tried to create, almost overnight, an industrial state. But, after failures, corruption and ??? ??? ???, he was ??? by the military in 1966. They remained in power for three years before handing over to a civilian government, headed by Dr Kofi Busia. Two years later, amid political strains caused by a struggling economy, he was ousted by Colonel Ignatius Acheampong; under whom corruption flourished and the economy further worsened. Last July, Acheampong's second in command, General Fred Akuffo, forced his resignation. Akuffo announced a return to civilian rule -- but speculation that senior officers would be allowed to keep corrupt gains met with strong opposition among junior ranks.
In June this year, in a coup led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, Akuffo was ousted. The Armed Revolutionary Council has carried out a purge of corrupt elements - both among the armed forces and civilians. Two weeks after Rawlings took power, elections were held. The date for a return to civilian rule was postponed until after the purges...which included the execution of three former heads of state, including Acheampong and Akuffo. Ghana's new president is Mr Hilla Limann.
The biggest of the problems is economic. Ghana is one the brink of bankruptcy -- it has no foreign exchange reserves and is weighted down with huge foreign debts. Food prices, and inflation have spiralled. Between February and March, staple food prices rose by over a third.
Another problem is that over the years development in the countryside has fallen behind that in the cities. A drift to towns has left a labour shortage in rural areas...where, experts say, Ghana can now expect to make the quickest economic growth.
President Hillman's party has already established that agriculture shall form what he terms 'the bedrock' of Ghana's economic policy. Though most large towns have adequate amenities, like electricity, development in rural areas has lagged behind. Farmers, especially those in the now depressed cocoa industry the mainstay of Ghana's exports, can expect to receive greater support.
After eight years of military rule, most of Ghana's eleven million people have welcomed the recent purges. But now, their civilian government has to face the difficult legacy of dealing with runaway inflation and food shortages.