Facts & Figures
President: John Dramani Mahama (2012)
Land area: 88,811 sq mi (230,020 sq km); total area: 92,456 sq mi (239,460 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 25,758,108 (growth rate: 2.19%); birth rate: 31.4/1000; infant mortality rate: 38.52/1000; life expectancy: 65.75
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Accra, 2.573 million
Other large cities: Kumasi, 2.019 million (2011)
Monetary unit: Cedi
- Ghana Main Page
- Military Rule Gives Way to Civilian Government and Stability
A West African country bordering on the Gulf of Guinea, Ghana is bounded by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. It compares in size to Oregon, and its largest river is the Volta.
Several major civilizations flourished in the general region of what is now Ghana. The ancient empire of Ghana (located 500 mi northwest of the contemporary state) reigned until the 13th century. The Akan peoples established the next major civilization, beginning in the 13th century, and then the Ashanti empire flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Called the Gold Coast, the area was first seen by Portuguese traders in 1470. They were followed by the English (1553), the Dutch (1595), and the Swedes (1640). British rule over the Gold Coast began in 1820, but it was not until after quelling the severe resistance of the Ashanti in 1901 that it was firmly established. British Togoland, formerly a colony of Germany, was incorporated into Ghana by referendum in 1956. Created as an independent country on March 6, 1957, Ghana, as the result of a plebiscite, became a republic on July 1, 1960.
Premier Kwame Nkrumah attempted to take leadership of the Pan-African Movement, holding the All-African People's Congress in his capital, Accra, in 1958 and organizing the Union of African States with Guinea and Mali in 1961. But he oriented his country toward the Soviet Union and China and built an autocratic rule over all aspects of Ghanaian life. In Feb. 1966, while Nkrumah was visiting Beijing and Hanoi, he was deposed by a military coup led by Gen. Emmanuel K. Kotoka.
Military Rule Gives Way to Civilian Government and Stability
A series of military coups followed, and on June 4, 1979, Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings overthrew Lt. Gen. Frederick Akuffo's military rule. Rawlings permitted the election of a civilian president to go ahead as scheduled the following month, and Hilla Limann, candidate of the People's National Party, took office. Rawlings's three-month rule was one of Ghana's bloodiest periods, with executions of numerous government officials and business leaders. Two years later Rawlings staged another coup, charging the civilian government with corruption. As chairman of the Provisional National Defense Council, Rawlings scrapped the constitution, instituted an austerity program, and reduced budget deficits over the next decade. He then returned the country to civilian rule and won the presidency in multiparty elections in 1992 and again in 1996. Since then, Ghana has been widely viewed as one of Africa's most stable democracies. In Jan. 2001, John Agyekum Kufuor was elected president. In 2002, he set up a National Reconciliation Commission to review human rights abuses during the country's military rule. He was reelected in Dec. 2004.
In presidential elections in December 2008, Nana Akufo-Addo, of the governing New Patriotic Party, won just over 49% of the vote, and John Atta Mills, of the main opposition party, National Democratic Congress, took almost 48%. In the runoff election, necessary because neither candidate received 50% of the vote, Atta Mills eked out victory, with 50.23%. It was the closest election in Ghana's history.
President Atta died in July 2012. His four years in office were marked by stability and an increase in oil production. Vice President John Dramani Mahama was sworn in shortly after Atta's death. Mahama won the presidential election held in December, taking 50.7% of the vote. He prevailed over Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party.