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General News
Ghana Without Nkrumah: The Men In Charge 2/5/2007
Africa Report, April 1966

The officers who brought off the coup d''etat in Ghana are part of the new middle-class to which independence and modernization have given rise, but their principal common denominators appear lo have been military professionalism and a shared belief that the internal political and economic situation was deteriorating precipitously under Nkrumah''s direction.
While the recent military interventions elsewhere in West Africa and the absence of President Nkrumah in Peking may have influenced the timing of the coup, the frustrations and grievances were of long standing, and preparations had been under way for some time. Major (now Lieutenant) General J. A. Ankrah, who was selected to be head of the new government installed on February 24, justified the Army''s seizure of power as a corrective to the faults of Nkrumah and the Convention People''s Party, which he described as "maladministration, mismanagement, the loss of individual freedom, and economic chaos." Professional grievances of the military and police may well, however, have been the dominant motive. In citing the President''s alleged misdeeds, General Ankrah referred to the establishment of a "private army ... in flagrant violation of a constitution which he himself had foisted upon the country, to serve as a counterpoise to the Ghana armed forces." And on March 14, the leader of the coup, Colonel (now Major General) Emmanuel Kotoka, stated more explicitly that Army discontent inspired the takeover that Nkrumah was deposed in part because he wanted to send the Army to fight the Smith regime in Rhodesia. Whether the Army''s disinclination to participate in such a mission reflected a political or a military judgment is less significant than the fact that middle-ranking officers decided that the time had come for new architects of national policy.

Members of the Club
Most of the senior officers in the Ghana Army were drawn from the ranks of senior NCOs in the Gold Coast Regiment of the UK''s Royal West African Frontier Force. Ankrah was commissioned in 1947, and Colonels Kotoka and Ocran in 1954. Although some were commissioned directly from the ranks, many were trained at Mons and Eaton Hall Officer Cadet Schools or the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in the UK. Even after the Ghana Military Academy at Teshie was opened in I960, a few of the best officer candidates continued to be sent to Sandhurst, some to the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun, and a few lo Pakistan. (One source estimates that there were 47 Sandhurst graduates in the Ghana officer corps in 1962.) The top naval candidates still go to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.

Since education is heavily stressed in evaluating officer candidates, the Army had to compete for secondary and university graduates at a time when Africans with these levels of education had numerous other and more remunerative opportunities that offered (until recently at least) higher status than the military enjoyed in Ghanaian society. In a conscious effort to increase the Army''s attractiveness, the Nkrumah government raised the pay and fringe benefits of officers to approximate parity with the civil service. Thus, by 1961 a newly commissioned second lieutenant received £663 a year, and a college graduate entering the civil service £680. A professional esprit de corps was encouraged, and Republic Day (July 1), also declared Armed Services Day, featured a military parade in Black Star Square. Cadet training units were established in some of the more prestigious secondary schools, including Achimota, Adisadel. St. Augustine, Prempeh, and the government school in Tamale, and by September 1962 there were 540 cadets enrolled in them. Improved housing, rapid promotions resulting from expansion, and the introduction of more sophisticated hardware further increased the attractions of a military career.

Education as a prime determinant of officer selection also meant that a large proportion of the officer corps has always come from southern Ghana, where the educational opportunities and the level of achievement are much higher than elsewhere in the country. Of an estimated 28 African officers in the Gold Coast Regiment in late 1956, some 26 came from the coastal area, one from Ashanti, and one from the Northern Territories. Between independence in March 1957 and April 1, 1961, the officer corps had grown from less than 30 Ghanaians (all in the lower ranks) and 220 British to 154 Ghanaian officers and 230 British. When Nkrumah Africanized the corps on September 22, 1961, the number of Ghanaians had risen to a little over 200. By 1966, there were between 550 and 650 Ghanaian officers in all three services.

The attitudes of the officer corps were shaped by a common educational background and economic status, professional élan, and long association with British military personnel, procedures, and organization- In common with other officer corps formed in a highly disciplined colonial tradition, they were a rather conservative group bent on improving their professional capabilities within a military framework. The officers identified with other upper and middle class groups in Ghanaian society, such as their counterparts in the police, civil service, and the professions. But they were more aloof from political currents and direct involvement in policy affairs than the civil servants, who had closer daily contact with the problems and needs of the country. Certainly the Army had little identification with the CPP''s efforts lo restructure the society and the economy. Ghana''s military remained a colonial institution, enlarged and Africanized, but never fully decolonialized.

In the light of Ghana''s history of ethnic and regional conflict, it is important to note the broad national composition of the Ghanaian coup group and the National Liberation Council. The chief plotters among the military were an Ewe (Colonel Kotoka), an Ashanti (Major A. A. Afrifa), and a Fanti (Colonel A. K. Ocran), and among the police two Ewe (Police Commissioner J. K. Harley and Deputy Commissioner A. K. Deku). They selected a Ga (General Ankrah) as leader of the new government. Ethnic identification seems equally irrelevant in the make-up of the overlapping NLC, which includes three Ewes, two Ga, one Fanti, one Ashanti, and one officer from northern Ghana. Parity between (he military and the police is the one kind of arithmetic that appears to have been used in determining the composition of the provisional governing body. Some significance may also be attached to the fact that the coup was engineered by younger, middle-rank officers.
MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL LIBERATION COUNCIL (NLC)
Name Age Ethnic Group Original Position Post-coup Rank Army

Major-General J. A. Ankrah 50 Ga Former Army Chief of Staff (forcibly retired 7/65) Promoted

Lt.-Gen. Colonel Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka 39 Ewe Commander of 2nd Brigade, Kumasi (coup leader) promoted

Maj.-Gen. Colonel Albert Kwesi Ocran 36 Fanti Commander of 1st Brigade, Accra Promoted Brigadier

Major A. A. Afrifa 39 Ashanti Staff Officer, 2nd Brigade, Kumasi (chief coup planner) promoted Colonel

Police J. K. Harley 46 Ewe Commissioner of Police

B. A. Yakubu 40 Northerner Deputy Commissioner of Police

J. E. 0. Nunoo 49 Ga Assistant Commissioner of Police

A. K. Deku (appointed to NIC March 1) 43 Ewe Deputy Commissioner of Police (Criminal Investigation Division)


From Harmony to Discord
Ghana embarked on independence with a harmonious relationship between its small army and the Convention People''s Party. From 1957 to 1961, there were no difficulties with civilian control of the military. British officers held the command positions, and the inculcation of British tradition forbidding military excursions into the civilian sphere proceeded without interference.

Until the Kulungugu assassination attempt of August 1962, Nkrumah showed his considerable interest in the development of the armed forces by dropping in at the Ghana Military Academy from time to time to see how the cadets were being trained. He served as his own Minister of Defense from mid-1956, prior to independence, until early 1960; in September 1961, he assigned the portfolio to Kofi Baako, perhaps his most trusted lieutenant, who retained the title of minister until the coup d''etat. After August 1965, however, Nkrumah again took over the defense portfolio, in fact if not in name, by transferring almost all responsibility for military affairs from the ministry to a secretariat in the Office of the President.

In the immediate post-independence period, Nkrumah observed, and appeared to agree with the dictum of his British Chief of Defense Staff: "Keep the Army out of politics, and politics out of the Army." As the ideological militancy of the party intensified between 1960 and 1962, however, an increasing commitment to the principle that "the party is supreme" altered the political environment in which the military operated. General H. T. Alexander, the British Chief of Ghana''s Defense Staff from 1960 to September 1961, relates in his memoirs that Nkrumah - like Sekou Touré, Modibo Keita, and more recently Julius Nyerere - came to believe that the armed forces owed loyalty to the party as well as to the state, because the party was equivalent to the state. Alexander had argued against this thesis, successfully it seems, but after his dismissal and the assumption of command positions by Ghanaian officers, Nkrumah was inclined to attempt to tie the Army more closely to the regime.

The civil-military relationship underwent considerable change as a consequence of the total Africanization of the officer corps. Without the neutral British buffer, Ghanaian officers had to persuade and dissuade Nkrumah directly. A number of experiences during 1960-62 lowered their opinion of politicians and brought them into direct conflict with government decisions. One problem arose over the participation of Ghanaian Army and police contingents in the United Nations emergency force in Congo-Leopoldville between 1960 and 1962. The Ghanaian commanders on this thankless mission were pulled between the conflicting demands of UN policy, Nkrumah''s diplomats in Leopoldville, and the Congolese Government. Senior officers could accept Nkrumah''s support of Prime Minister Lumumba (though they considered him erratic and irresponsible) as a policy decision outside their professional realm, but they were troubled and handicapped by the activities of Ghanaian diplomats, who seemed to assume that the Ghanaian military contingent was a tactical political instrument. After the Mobutu takeover in September I960, Ghanaian foreign policy and the conduct of the diplomats increasingly antagonized the Congolese: there were beatings, arbitrary arrests, and even murders of Ghanaian military and police personnel. The effectiveness of both the Army and police contingents was sharply reduced, and the police contingent was finally compelled to leave the Congo.

During the summer of 1961, the military''s sensibilities were touched from another quarter. While traveling through Eastern Europe on a series of state visits to Communist countries, Nkrumah sent a message to General Alexander directing him to select 400 cadets immediately for officer training in the USSR. Alarmed senior officers attempted to dissuade Nkrumah from the Soviet cadet program, pointing to the professional disadvantages of mixed British and Soviet training and to the danger of possible Soviet indoctrination of a part of the officer corps. Above all, the order was impossible to carry out, given the small number of qualified candidates. When General Alexander was sacked, the problem was inherited by the newly-promoted Chief of Defense Staff, Major General S.J.A. Otu.

Eventually, 70 young men who had been rejected for training at the Ghana Military Academy were sent to Moscow. The manifest dissatisfaction of these ill-prepared youths with their training and life in Russia, together with Soviet evasiveness in responding to requests for information on their welfare and progress, led to the recall of the trainees after one year. At the insistence of President Nkrumah, as well as General Otu, the men were carefully screened and put through a second year at the Ghana Military Academy.

By 1962, there had been other differences of opinion between the civilian and military leadership. The shortening of the officer course at the Military Academy in order to produce more graduates may have offended the military''s sense of professional standards. There was also direct government interference in the selection of personnel to receive military training abroad. At the 13th meeting of the State Control Commission in May 1962, Nkrumah cited the need for reductions in defense expenditures and suggested that free military hardware might be obtained from Communist countries. Whether this idea was broached to the military directly on this occasion is not known, but the Army persistently opposed the introduction of Soviet weapons (including the one known shipment received with much secrecy in March 1961) on grounds that it would be uneconomic and inefficient to mix the arsenal.

In June 1962, the government took a step in the direction of a civic action program with the opening of an Armed Forces Bureau intended to engage the officer corps in discussions of current affairs and the military''s role in economic development. At the Bureau''s first meeting, Defense Minister Baako exhorted: "I want to see bridges constructed by the armed forces, new settlements built by the Workers Brigade, under the guidance of the Army, and large farms cultivated by the armed forces working together with the Workers Brigade and other state organizations." The military appears to have greeted the new pronouncement with little enthusiasm. The army engineers built bridges and the Air Force helped with famine relief in the north, but the military resisted a sustained role in civic action, explicitly on grounds that its technical capacity was limited and implicitly on grounds that such work would reduce its ability to maintain required professional standards as a military force.

The bombing attempt on President Nkrumah''s life at Kulungugu in August 1962 exacerbated factionalism within the government and party and focused new attention on the question of who was "loyal" and who was not. The military found it increasingly necessary to join with other groups in the chorus of periodic professions of fealty to Nkrumah, Life Chairman of the CPP and their Commander in Chief.

The attempt to bring the military into closer identification with the party reached a new high in June 1964, with the issuance of a government directive indicating that members of the armed forces should join the Convention People''s Party. Unit commanders, some of whom had previously collected CPP membership cards from their enlisted men on grounds that the Army had no place in politics, were now instructed to pass out party application forms and enroll their men in the CPP. Officers reacted to the move with uncertainty both as to its seriousness and its motive. Some thought it was prompted by the party''s needs for membership fees; others believed it reflected the government''s concern for the loyalty of the armed forces-a more likely motive. In any case, the directive may never have been fully carried out, just as the announced lectures for officers on Nkrumahism had not yet materialized by 1965.
The Decision for Africanization
Nkrumah''s military policies reflected a complex balancing of interests. He wanted a military force that would serve as a symbol of nationhood, an institution of national integration, a backstop to the police in maintaining internal security (though in fact the military played an active internal security role only on two occasions), and a reinforcement for Ghana''s prestige in African forums. The Congo crisis, involving both of the major world powers, convinced Nkrumah of the need for Africa to develop a military establishment sufficiently large and modern to support a Joint African Military High Command capable of dealing with African crises without outside help.

By the time of the recent coup, the Army had grown to nine battalions of about 14,000 men (including the now-disbanded Presidential Guard), and the well-equipped Navy and Air Force to about 1,000 men each. The growth was reflected in a steadily rising trend in the percentage of the national budget devoted to military appropriations. The evolution of Nkrumah''s thinking on Africanization of the officer corps paralleled the shift in his policy on expansion -measured and cautious until mid-1960, then abruptly eager and purposeful.

The transitional year, 1960, was the "year of independence." It witnessed the accession to sovereignty of a host of new African states, the eruption of the Congo crisis, and intensified rivalry for pan-African leadership. In Ghana itself, the efforts to step up the rate of economic modernization and rejuvenate the waning radicalism of the CPP generated growing impatience with the slow rate of Africanization of the armed forces. In his recent book, African Tightrope (reviewed on page 58, this issue), General Alexander noted the mounting pressures on Nkrumah from the CPP to authorize more rapid Africanization; these same demands were echoed by backbench MPs in the National Assembly in mid-1961.
GHANAIAN MILITARY EXPENDITURES
(in Ghanaian pounds: EG = $2.80)

Year Defense Expenditures Total Expenditures % of Defense Total

1954-55 1,061,530 79,860,268 1.3

1955-56 1,657,076 62,207,060 2.7

1956-57 2,880,860 61,352,469 4.7

1957-58 3,396,643 63,762,879 5.3

1958-59 3,236,716 79,883,964 4.1

1959-60 3,350,399 89,042,683 3.8

1960-61 5,087,121 113,604,108 4.5

1961-62 (15 months) 8,599,495 154,963,584 5.6

1962-63 8,561,261 114,148,521 7.5

1963-54 (15 months) 11,600,000 192,145,680 6.0

1965 (est.)*

(recurrent) (10,795,250) (100,343,370) (10.8)

(development) (5,918,500) (99,656,630) (5.9)

(Total) (16,714,750) (200,000,000) (8.4)
Sources: Ghana Annual Estimates, 196344, Part I, The Consolidated Fund, Vol. XVI; Ghana Annual Estimates, 1965, Part I, The Consolidated Fund, Vol. XVII

* May not include expenditures for President''s Own Guard Regiment, which General Ankrah estimated at more than £500,000.

As indicated earlier, Nkrumah finally ordered the total Africanization of the officer corps on September 22, 1961, shortly after he had returned from a summer-long tour of Communist countries to deal with the strike at Sekondi-Takoradi (see "The Winter of Discontent," p. 10). Nkrumah''s observations in Communist countries, his new commitment to nonalignment at the September 1961 Belgrade conference, and his violent differences with Britain over Congo policy may all have hastened his decision, which was in effect a new declaration of independence from London. General Alexander reports that Nkrumah told him that the difference over Conge policy was the reason for the order, but Alexander believes that the prime factor was the increasing embarrassment Nkrumah experienced in posing as a leading anti-imperialist while maintaining British officers in the top military positions. Certainly fellow members of the Casablanca group would have been less interested in participating in an African High Command in which Ghana would be represented by expatriate officers. Perhaps the key factor in the suddenness of the decision and the timing was Alexander''; recommendation against intervening ii the politically volatile Sekondi-Takoradi strike with British-led military units.

To carry out the Africanization order Ghanaian officers were promoted a: much as two ranks and thrust into command positions. The transition was eased somewhat by the retention of 120 of the< 200 British officers in training and advisory positions and by continuing military assistance agreements with the UK and Canada. Thus, while the sudden Africanization may have retarded the expansion of the Army and other services in some degree, its longer term effects were minimal. Indeed, General Alexander had drafted a plan for complete Africanization to take effect just a year later.

The Search for Counterweights
Alerted as early as 1958 by isolated instances of individual military personnel involvement with opposition coup plots, Nkrumah sought in a number of ways to neutralize the military as a potential political force. First, like many other African leaders, he allowed a certain amount of rivalry between the military and police. For a-time after independence, these forces remained approximately equal in numerical strength, improvements in status ran a generally parallel course, the post of Commissioner of Police was made equal in rank to that of the Chief of Defense Staff, and Nkrumah allowed the police budgetary allocations for certain facilities he denied the larger military-for example, a national radio communications network. The involvement of a police officer in the January 1964 assassination attempt against the President led, however, to the imprisonment of eight senior police and the eventual disarming of the police, leaving the 9,000-man force (1965) a far less effective counterweight. In 1965, security intelligence functions under police control were transferred to the Office of the President, leaving the police with a sense of emasculation.

Following Africanization of the military command in 1961, Nkrumah found it expedient to refrain from discouraging rivalry among the three services. There was, naturally enough, a good deal of budgetary competition as the small Air Force and Navy maneuvered to increase their allocations of money at the expense of the senior service, which continued to receive the bulk of military appropriation. After the departure of the British buffer, Nkrumah also maintained leverage by allowing the three service chiefs to appeal to him directly over the head of the Chief of Defense Staff. In one instance, the Navy successfully appealed a Defense Staff veto on a frigate, only to have the purchase later blocked by the Army. Perhaps it is significant that neither the Air Force nor the Navy is today represented in the National Liberation Council.

Neither the Workers Brigade, sometimes mistakenly referred to as a paramilitary group, nor the small Army Volunteer Force was conceived as a counterpoise to the military. Some observers interpreted the establishment of the "Peoples Militia" in late 1965 as a new effort to develop a balancing force, but it is highly improbable that the volunteer militiamen could or would have been trained, much less armed.

The real counterweight to the military in the immediate pre-coup period- and the only one that offered armed resistance to Nkrumah''s overthrow-was the Presidential Guard regiment. This group was originally established by General Alexander as a relief tour from duty in the Congo, and as a post for older soldiers no longer fit for field duty. Its members were drawn from regular army units and at first remained under Army command. Nkrumah transformed it into the President''s Own Guard Regiment (POGR) in the spring of 1963, some months after the Kulungugu assassination attempt, and made plans to expand it to two battalions for security and ceremonial duties. By the time of the coup, the POGR had grown to 50 officers and 1,142 men, armed in part with Soviet weapons and assisted by Soviet security advisors.

At some point, probably during the reorganization of the entire Defense establishment that occurred in July 1965, the POGR was detached from Army command and made directly responsible to President Nkrumah-the "private army" to which Ankrah referred. At the same time, defense affairs were removed from the Defense portfolio and assigned to a new secretariat in the President''s office. The move left the Defense Ministry entrusted only with supervision of the Workers Brigade and possibly-this was never clear-the Army Volunteer Force. According to Major General Ankrah, he and Otu were forcibly "retired" at this time for protesting the detachment of the POGR from Army command.
The Coming Months
The administrative controls, the first economic measures, and the style of leadership practiced thus far indicate that the National Liberation Council is concerned with social order rather than social change. At least initially, the military appears to conceive its new political role as comprising two limited functions -first, the maintenance of social control, and second, the complete dismantling of the political system and selective reshaping of the economic structure built up by the previous regime. Two principal methods-decree, and discrediting by judicial inquiry-are being used to destroy all agencies of political power inherited from the Nkrumah era, including the party itself, the Farmers'' Council, the Young Pioneers, the Moslem Council, and the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute.

The NLC may be unable to sustain the widespread approval that greeted its entrance on the political stage if, as General Ankrah has said, the military decides that it is necessary to rule for as long as two years. The Ghanaian people may be sick of the politics of exhortation, compulsion, and involved ideologies, but the political and economic demands left unfulfilled by the ousted government remain undiminished. Against those demands loom the awesome burden of unpaid debts abroad, and a foreign exchange position strained by current drawings. Although the NLC''s ability to meet the most pressing economic needs will be helped considerably by crash Western aid and more constructive budgeting, the aspirations of Ghanaians to become part of the decision-making process will be only temporarily diverted by increased supplies of food and consumer goods.

The precedent for mass political participation is well established in Ghana, and much of the style of CPP politics will persist, as will many of Nkrumah''s ideas on the imperatives of national unity, economic independence, and the ethical goals of socialism. One may anticipate the appearance of innumerable pressure groups that will initially adopt a non-political guise (given the NLC''s restrictions on political activity), but will nonetheless perform standard political functions and exert the same kinds of claims that they brought to bear with such constancy on the Nkrumah government and the CPP. But the military, unlike the CPP''s politicians, have little experience in the arts of persuasion and the manipulation of contending interests. Moreover, they disdain the kind of symbolic and ritualistic acts which politicians everywhere use in muting conflict and making change acceptable. No libation is poured before General Ankrah speaks.
What will be the attitude of the military and police to the civilian government which they are presently committed to restoring? The coup is a precedent for future intervention if the Army deems its political successors excessively incompetent or hostile to professional military requirements. It would be naive to expect the Army to retire to its barracks and become again only a dutiful and unquestioning servant of the state. In whatever form it chooses to make its influence felt, the Army will color Ghanaian politics for some time to come.

Source:
Jon Kraus


 
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