Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ghana's Foreign Policy at Independence and Implications for the 1966 Coup D'etat

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ghana's Foreign Policy at Independence and Implications for the 1966 Coup D'etat

Article excerpt


Ghana's attainment of political independence in 1957 marked a significant milestone, not just for the people of the Gold Coast, as the colony was until then known, but also for the entire people of Africa and those in the Diaspora. It helped to intensify the struggle by the people of Africa for the complete emancipation of the continent from colonial domination and equally launched an irrevocable march towards the vision of the pan-African leaders of the time. The leaders envisioned the political unification of the entire African continent, the cessation of the exploitation of the continent's resources, accelerated economic development and the redemption of the image of the African people.

Some of these expectations for Africa in general and Ghana in particular were captured in the intriguing message of the then Prime Minister, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, during the country's independence celebrations.

And across the parapet, I see the vision of African unity and independence, her body besmeared with the blood of her sons and daughters, in their struggle to set her free from the shackles of imperialism. And I can see and hear springing up of cities of Ghana, becoming the metropolis of science, learning, scientific agriculture, industry and philosophy.' (1)

While this declaration set an important springboard for Ghana to pursue the agenda of African liberation, continental unity and economic development, the government of Kwame Nkrumah was confronted with a rather complex international system with repercussions for both internal politics and Ghana's external relations. The crucial point was reached in 1966 when his government was overthrown and the country had to undergo drastic changes in its foreign policy as well as domestic priorities.

These issues provide the basis to reflect on the following: the main principles that underpinned the country's foreign policy; the objectives the nation sought to obtain and the instruments for achieving them; the actors and factors that shaped and impinged on Ghana's external relations; the opportunities and achievements arising from Nkrumah's foreign policy pursuits and external relations; the challenges that confronted the Nkrumah regime and the strategies it adopted to overcome them; the repercussions for the Nkrumah government; and the consequences arising from the 1966 coup d'etat for Ghana.

In this regard, the study sets as its objectives an examination of the main thrusts of Ghana's foreign policy from its formative stages in the immediate post-independence era, looking at her role in the pan-African movement, independence struggle and continental unification, evaluates both the internal and external political developments that shaped the direction of Ghana's foreign policy and external relations, for instance, the impact of the external environment on decision-making and foreign policy, examines the developments, immediate and remote as well as external and internal, that led to the military coup d'etat in 1966 and then concludes with the lessons learnt.

The argument in this study is that the vision that underpinned Kwame Nkrumah's radicalism conflicted with the immediate preoccupations of most of his peers in addition to a hostile international environment that impinged negatively on his priorities and programs for the African continent and its people.

Before delving into these issues, it is instructive to examine some of the important elements of the foreign policy environment, the peculiar characteristics of the international system that Ghana, and for that matter, the rest of Africa had to confront and how these affected the policy choices of the principal actors in the immediate independence era.

The Foreign Policy Environment

Foreign policy constitutes a critical component of a country's conduct of public policy as it relates to other actors (both state and non-state) in the larger international system or the external environment. …

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