The 24th of February 1966
The End of the Nkrumah Myth
I first arrived in Ghana aboard a BA flight from London - we came via Rome. This was the first and only time that I travelled by air either into or out of West Africa.
The date was October 1962. My father was to serve in Ghana heading an overseas development team.
Ghana was a wonderful colourful country with friendly people and for an eighteen year old English girl a paradise for sicial contacts! It did not take long before we knew most of our own community and a wide range of people from Ghanaian Society and the Embassy Crowd.
For the next few years we lived in Accra and travelled backwards and forwards to Accra by ship - using the excellent Elder Dempster Line as our form of transport.
It was during my father's last term of office that Nkruhma, in his wisdom, decided to throw the Britiash out of Ghana! I remember well the day we were called to the British High Commissioner's residence, given a glass of dry sherry and told that the High Commission staff and others were being withdrawn - the High Commissioner himself was leaving that evening - that we were to remain and that he wished us good luck!
It was October
At this time the economic state of Ghana had deteriated and there was little to see on the shop shelves. No milk (which had always been imported in steralised form), no meat, no vegtables and no fish (fish was being taken by the Russian trawlers and none brought into the country!
We lived on weaveled spaghetti and rancid margerine flavoured with garlic (which we grew in the garden).
Our standard drink, other than beer, was Ghana Gin (not bad!) with a mixer made by boiling caraway seeds with water (It tasted a bit like Kummel!)
The night of 23 February 1966 saw us soaking up a lovely starry night and retiring to bed at our normal time of just before midnight.
We lived in a house built on stilts with an open balcony around it - the area in front of the bedrooms being screened in to stop insects bothering us at night - we had airconditioning in our rooms but presered not to use it and left our main doors to the opne areas open to let in the soft breeze which would then be taken up by the large ceiling fans and kept our romms remarkably cool!
I was awoken at about 3 a.m. to what appeared to be a tremendous blast - i saw a red and yellow flash and heard the heavy thud of a projectile landing in our garden.
My parents were awoken at the same time and all feeling rather disturbed mustered ourselves togather in our hallway - the only place in the hosue without windows!
It occurred to us that perhaps we were the prime target being British and having had anti-British propagander and publicity shoved down our throats for so many months!
After relaising that the shooting was not coming to an end quickly we decided - in very british manner that, if we were going to be shot we should get dressed. As our clthing was in our bedrooms which were by this time peppered with bullet holes - we waited until the shootin calmed down and then crawled down the passage and colleted what itmes we could find without standing up and making ourselves too conspicuious. I couldn't find my eyeliner - my father found his shirts too high up to reach and my mother had to make do with the clothes she had worn the evening before!
We sat huddled in the corridor waiting to have a soldier come through the door and haul us out to be shot!
Nothing happened except sporadic shooting for some time and we then decided to make some tea - everything aseems better if you are British if you have had your morning tea!
Groaping our way along the back of the house we found out night watchman quivering with fear, hiding under the stairway behind the kitchen. We turned on the radio to hear - classical music!!!! This could not be Ghana Radio as Nkruhma had banned the broadcasting of anything but Ghanain music months previous to this! The the announcement came - there had been a military coup - the myth of the Osegyefo, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, was over.
In the early morning hours, Ghana's armed forces, with the cooperation of the National Police, took over government in "Operation Cold Chop", a well organized coup d'etat. The first announcement made from Radio Ghana said that the coup was led by Colonel Emmanual Kwasi Kotoka of the 2nd Infantry Brigade. Kotoka, an outstanding soldier, was a national hero, honored for valor and bravery while serving as part of Ghana's United Nations 1960 and 1961 Congo contingent. A National Liberation Council was formed to run the affairs of state. Parliament was dissolved. Nkrumah's ruling political organization, the Convention People's Party (C.P.P.), was banned and Nkrumah himself was dismissed as President of Ghana's First Republic.
So ended our worries about being shot and killed!
The rest of our day was spent baracading ourselves in as we still did not know what our position would be. We sat under our dining room table sipping gin and playing cards!
That evening, exhausted by the events of the day we finally retired to bed. My father remained in the drawing room to attend to locking up the house. He heard a heavy vehicle coimg down the long driveway - a lorry stopped outside the front steps. Out of the lorry imerged an army officer with a pistol closely followed by a number of men with heavy rifles. Not knowing what was best to say or do my father opened the glass door and walked out onto the balcony. The officer and his men were approaching up the steep steps to the balcony. "Can I help you?", my father said - rather too horrified to think of anything more appropriate!
The army were not coming to get us but were looking for a former Minister who lived in our road - having been given directions the lorry left and we were able to rest once again.
The next few days were uneasy as the situation setled down and people tried to get back to living a normal life.
The months ahead were not easy - the economic situation did not recover quickly and when we finally said a sad farewell to Ghana in October of that year it was to a country that looked forward to some years ahead before recovery.
Members of the National Liberation Coucil who replaced Nkrumah
The Lind Pages
Ghana - photographs
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