Next month marks the 61st anniversary of Ghana’s independence from colonial rule. On 6 March 1957, the former Gold Coast emerged from the shadow of the British Empire. But the “extraordinary role” of its citizens, most of whom have now died, has been largely overlooked, writes Anglo-Ghanaian author and historian R. Peprah-Gyamfi
One day in September 2015, as I contemplated the approaching 60th anniversary of Ghana's independence, it occurred to me that I should write a historical novel about the extraordinary role of ordinary citizens in the country's independence movement.
For those unfamiliar with Ghana’s independence, it will come as no surprise to learn that its journey to self-rule was a long and complex one. The process was frustrated by the country’s two main movements which disagreed about the speed and timing of independence. The United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), on the one hand, advocated a softly-softly, conservative approach. The Convention People’s Party (CPP), on the other hand, demanded more immediate action. Unlike the UGCC, which was made-up of the educated elite, the CPP was the outspoken mouthpiece of the everyman with the radical leader Kwame Nkrumah at its helm.
With the political differences in mind, I decided to tell the story through the fictional eyes of Panin and Kakra, identical twins whose political positions look very different.
Kakra, who had been forcefully conscripted into the Royal West African Frontier Force to fight for Empire and King in East Africa and Burma during WWII, is in the “action now” camp. He joins the CPP on his return from Burma and sets about educating the masses with the CPP’s message, “Self-Government NOW!”
Panin, conversely, is more cautious. He shares the view of the UGCC that Ghana’s mainly illiterate population, made up of several ethnic groups with differing languages, traditions, cultures and religious beliefs is not ready for self-rule.
Their respective journeys, though taken alone and divided, reach the same destination when the Colonial administration grants the Gold Coast independence on 6 March 1957.
What followed wasn’t plain sailing; Ghana went on to experience 30 years of political instability. But despite its shortfalls, things are working – and working well. Multi-party democracy is thriving and civil liberties – including religious tolerance and freedom of speech – remain a top priority. Even Ghana’s free press is outranking much of the western world; it ranks 26th on the Reporters Without Borders 2017 Press Freedom Ranking, far ahead of France (39th), the UK (40th) and the USA (43rd).
Not everything is rosy, of course. Poverty, inadequate health care and a lack of jobs are among the country’s biggest challenges. But in comparison with the rest of the world, Ghana is holding its own with societal and political stability to be proud of.
Not bad after only 60 years.
Twins Divided (Perseverance Books) is out now, priced £9.99 in paperback, from Amazon UK. Further information about Ghana’s independence can be found at www.peprah-gyamfi.com