The era following Ghana’s independence was characterised by authoritarian rule: Nkrumah introduced a one-party state and promulgating laws legitimizing detention without trial for up to five years. Although Nkrumah’s vision was to develop Ghana into an industrial power, his leadership style precipitated economic crisis that ultimately saw his regime deposed by military coup in 1966. Over the next 26 years, Ghana experienced four more successful military coups as well as two failed attempts, with the last coup attempt staged in 1983.
Ghana’s proclivity for military coups entrenched military centrality, whereby the military perceived itself to be the sole functional organ of state, not as susceptible to or constrained by corruption to the degree of other branches of state, including civil government. For the military, poor economic performance was a clear indicator of mismanagement and ineffective governance.
Poor economic performance was recognised as creating social instability, which was deemed to motivate for and justify military interventions. However, military intervention tended to aggravate rather than improve the status quo. From 1966 to 1967, the gross domestic product per capita declined from USD 269,000 to 216,000, a 6.1% decrease. This led to an increase in the general price of goods, placing the ordinary Ghanaians under significant financial pressure.
A strong correlation between economic performance and conflict has been a feature throughout Ghana’s history. Following the coup of 1972, inflation increased over the course of 8 years from 20.0% to over 100.0%, tipping the economy into hyperinflation. Following the 1983 coup, GDP per capita dropped to an all-time low of USD 341,000, resulting in an economic meltdown. The military-civilian government ushered in after the 1966 coup used inflation targeting as a fiscal measure to normalise markets. However, these efforts did not yield the desired results, due largely to the shortcomings of military government, which is characterised by deficient structural checks and balances.
Notwithstanding the challenges noted above, Ghana has successfully held eight democratic elections between 1983 and 2018, with the opposition winning the elections of 2016, (these elections marked 33 years since Ghana’s last military coup). Contemporary Ghana enjoys greater political stability than it did shortly after independence: the country’s political decline after acquiring independence was fairly rapid, with the first coup occurring six years after the inauguration of the first republic. Ghana’s efforts to address its early post-independence challenges have not been in vain.
Ghana’s is currently ranked fifth among Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in terms of regional integration in, which measures surpassing economic supper-power Nigeria which is ranked ninth. By its size Nigeria has economies of scale over Ghana; however, Ghana is more proficient in terms of the ECOWAS regional integration program. In addition, Ghana is the first African country to achieve Millennium Development Goal 1, which is pursuant of the objective of a state reducing by half the abject poverty of its citizens. This is testament to the Ghanaian government’s commitment not only to provide its citizens with a good quality of life but also to uphold good governance and comply with international best practice.
The Bank of Ghana has, further, adopted monetary policy that is more transparent and accessible to the lay person. This is commendable for several reasons: transparency promotes accountability and facilitates sound communication as it is manifested in the enjoyed media freedom without major restrictions. Similarly, the government has also reformed its fiscal policy. These efforts have seen growth and development within the country.
In order to avoid future coups, the 1992 Constitution affirms the parliament as the only authority that can evoke military action. Further, it asserts the president as the commander in chief of the armed forces. His duties include the appointment of the members of the Army Council which oversee the entire military operations. However, the president is required to seek parliamentary approval before making any appointments. Such requirements are included to safeguard against unwarranted military appraisal and to prevent dictatorships from emerging.
Political stability and the entrenched rule of law is vital to maintain peace and stimulate economic growth within the country. The 1994 fight between the Konkomba and Nanumba tribes which resulted in over 1,000 deaths and the displacement of 150,000 people should serve as a warning. This conflict stemmed from a trade dispute, which also factored issues of land access and use. Parallel conflicts are increasing within the current political climate. Political intolerance between the two major political parties, the New Patriotic Party and National Democratic Congress, is a constant feature. The inability of these parties to accept certain political outcomes and decisions due to their political affiliations poses a risk of intractable positions escalating into violent outbreaks, which taken to the extreme could precipitate civil war. It remains a challenge for the ruling party and the people of Ghana to maintain peace and keep the momentum to grow the economy.
The history of conflict and political instability in Ghana reveals that for a time political turmoil was the order of the day. The transition from British rule to self-government was not smooth, characterised by several coups that point to considerable levels of contestation for power. However, the military coups have had the unintended outcome of contributing to the political and economic maturity of the state. Ghana has since overcome political, economic and social deficits associated with coups to emerge as a significant player and trading partner in Africa.
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