Officially called the Republic of Ghana and previously known as the Gold Coast, it was renamed Ghana upon independence in 1957. This African country borders Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south. A lot of the history of Ghana comes from oral tradition over the ages, giving an idea of how its civilization flourished.
Prior to 1470 the history of Ghana is gained primarily from oral tradition that refers to migrations from the ancient kingdoms of the western Sahel which is now a part of present-day Mauritania and Mali. Myths told by various tribes in the outlying areas form the basis of the Ghanaian history of that time.
The first contact with the foreigners was the Europeans made by the Fante nation of the Gold Coast. It was when a party of Portuguese landed and met with the King of Elmina in 1470. The Portuguese built Elmina Castle, referred to as in Portuguese as 'Castelo da Mina', as a permanent trading base in 1482. Thomas Windham in 1553 made the first recorded English trading voyage to the coast. For the next three centuries the Ghanaian history was controlled by the English, Danes, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish and Germans through various coastal areas.
The Ashanti-Fante War broke out in 1806 tribal kingdoms maintaining varying alliances with the colonial powers and each other. This sparkled a long series of wars, as the Ashanti tried to minimize European power in the region. The British Government took control of the British trading forts on the Gold Coast in 1821 starting a long era of British powers in Ghana's history.
In 1946 the move towards regional de-colonization began and the area's first constitution was promulgated in 1951. The British Togoland became a United Nations Trust Territory in December 1946. This followed by the United Nations agreeing that the territory would become part of Ghana when the Gold Coast achieved independence. The Convention People's Party (CPP), led by Kwame Nkrumah, won the majority of seats in the new Legislative Assembly in the elections that followed. The Gold Coast government of Prime Minister Nkrumah finally issued a white paper containing proposals for Gold Coast independence in May 1956.
Ghana became the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence with Kwame Nkrumah as the first president. This African anti-colonial leader was also the founder of the modern Ghanaian state and the first African head of state to espouse the Pan-Africanism. Nkrumah was later overthrown by a CIA-backed coup, resulting in the subsequent rise of the power of Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings in 1981.
The Ghanaian constitution was suspended due to the changes made by Rawlings and the political parties were banned in 1981. A new constitution, establishing multiparty politics, was approved in 1992, and Rawlings elected the new president in the free election held that year and also in 1996. The current president is John Kufuor, now in his second term and will also mark Ghana's Golden Jubilee celebration of the 50th years of it's of independence in 2008.
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