Sunday, May 4, 2008


Book: Ghana: 50 Years of Independence
Author: Joseph Godson Amamoo
Pages: 617
Reviewer: Caroline Boateng

“GHANA, 50 Years of Independence” written by Joseph Godson Amamoo, is a comprehensive review of the politics, the society, the culture and the economy of Ghana since independence.
Written in easy, current language, the book amplifies the key progressions of the country through the labyrinth of national development with its first renowned President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, to the present, that is, 50 years on.
With rich anecdotes, he tells of individuals, events, places, industry, key achievements and harrowing experiences of the country.
A combination of historical facts, narrations of personal experiences, comments and opinion give the reader a complete and rich picture of the country, Ghana.
Mr Amamoo clearly distinguishes facts from his opinion in the book by often using the words “the author views with...”, or “thinks...” before the opinion or comment is given. This culminates in a rich and in-depth review, which is one of the hallmarks of the book.
Although the book dates back to the time of independence and ends 50 years after, historical facts prior to independence and colonisation can be found.
He devotes the first chapter to the pre-independence era, the Bond of 1844, the Yaa Asantewaa War of 1900, the great expeditions by the Germans, Britons, and Portuguese resulting in treaties that made protectorates of some territories in the country, while others came under agreements of trusteeship, and finally colonisation.
The book debunks long-held notions of Dr Nkrumah’s anti-capitalist and anti-white posture.
“This submission of mine that Nkrumah was not necessarily anti-capitalist is supported by the fact, inter alia, that some of his close associates e.g., Paa Grant and Krobo Edusei (Interior Minister for several years) were dyed-in-the wool capitalists”, it says.
It further adds that Dr Nkrumah’s closest economic and financial adviser, as well as his confidant, Mr Aryeh Kumi, was an “unashamed capitalist, often seen in public with Nkrumah throughout his tenure as president”.
Admittedly, the president’s national and international campaign against colonialism, racism and apartheid created the impression that he was anti-white, but that, the author points out, was completely wrong and inaccurate.
He says Dr Nkrumah’s constant diatribes against the Western countries were not because he was anti-white but because they were the colonial powers on the African continent at that time.
Mr Amamoo points out some associates and advisers of the President, who were White and with his own personal experience concludes the matter.
He recounts how in his bid to marry a white woman and meeting with some resistance at the Foreign Ministry, he broached the matter to President Nkrumah, who acquiesced with the words “In this world, it is the person that counts and not his or her skin colour”.
Highlights of Nkrumah’s presidency, the cohesion of development programmes, his drive and achievements in education, industry and the infrastructure of the young independent country are captured with insightful personal comments on what propelled him.
Mr Amamoo recounts major and some significant minor events of all the military regimes and the civilian governments of the country.
As an insider who was participating actively in the government of Dr Kwame Nkrumah and also the National Liberation Council (NLC) regime, he gives an experiential commentary, but at the same time dispassionately brings out some excesses.
Having lived through all civilian governments and the military regimes, participating in some of them, particularly the first civilian rule of Dr Nkrumah as an ambassador, and subsequently as the Editor of the Ghanaian Times during the NLC rule, Mr Amamoo becomes an astute commentator who gives an expert’s opinion on the various types of governance of the country.
He describes the NLC as pro-West and the efforts by that military regime at major economic and social reforms that included a liberalised economy and the reduction of the role of the state in the economy.
Major accomplishments that characterised the government of Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia, the President of the Second Republic, the author says, were the programmes of rural development, social infrastructure and the provision of services that were “outstanding and a model for subsequent governments”.
The National Redemption Council (NRC) military regime led by Lt Col I. K. Acheampong, is seen as an unwanted and unwarranted intrusion of the Busia government on January 13, 1972.
Acheampong is described as a disgruntled and unhappy military officer, whose delayed promotion egged him on to his coup that was “a monstrous travesty of truth, justice and constitutional reforms”.
Despite that, his efforts at instilling discipline in the public service of the country, his programme to make the country self-sufficient in food supply and less reliant on foreign imports are some of the achievements of the regime.
The reorganisation of the NRC and transition to the Supreme Military Council (SMC) that was expected to soften public hostility and discontent for the regime did not happen, the author says.
The change from SMC I to SMC II that saw Acheampong resigning as the head of state and commander-in-chief of the Ghana armed forces, ushered in the Gen. Fred Akuffo administration and paved the way for a new civilian government.
The Akuffo administration at its inception discontinued with Acheampong’s unpopular Union Government (UNIGOV) programme and rather instituted a programme of preparing the country for elections and a return to civilian rule.
The coup of May 15, 1979 which ousted the SMC II under Gen. Fred Akuffo interrupted political association and party preparation for popular adult suffrage for civilian rule.
The author says that the coup of June 4, 1979 was the completion of the abortive May 1979 coup of Flt Lt Rawlings, and characterises the latter as a reign of terror.
Disenchantment with frequent military regime birthed high expectations to the Dr Hilla Limann’s government of September 24, 1979.
Whereas Dr Busia’s democratic regime and penchant for constitutional order and the rule of law for many was not assertive enough to deal with the economic and social challenges that contributed to its demise, Dr Limann’s fall is attributed to his “acts of omission and commission and by it prevarication and procrastination” in dealing with economic, social and national security issues.
The return of Rawlings to disrupt the Limann government and his transition to a civilian government, is given detailed analysis.
Mr Amamoo gives considerable space to the National Patriotic Party (NPP) of President J. A. Kufuor.
He also dedicates a chapter captioned “Africa’s Man of Peace” to him.
“Ghana: 50 Years of Independence” is a huge resource volume with the pictures and biographies of people who have shaped the history of the country.
It overflows with information and sometimes the reader gets lost in the maze of bits of information that all add up to the book’s comprehensiveness.

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