Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

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

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

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

Article excerpt


Ghana attained independence under its first prime minister and subsequently president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in 1957. His radicalism, coup d'état led with his vision of complete political emancipation and unification of Africa set him on collusion course with mostly moderate African leaders. By the early 1960s, President Nkrumah had embraced socialism, governed Ghana as a one-party state by 1964, and had established very cordial diplomatic relations with mostly Communist and Eastern European countries. Occurring under the rather tense Cold War political environment, the result was the erection of an ideological wedge between Ghana and the liberal democracies of Europe and North America. On 24 February 1966, Dr. Nkrumah was ousted from office with the causes attributed to internal and external forces, thus his autocratic tendencies at home coup d'état led with his anti-Western rhetoric and policies. Conspiracy theories emerged that implicated the military, the police, opposition parties and civil society groups on one hand, and on the other, external forces led by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States. This study examines President Nkrumah's legacy, reasons for his removal from office, the repercussions for the Ghanaian state and concludes that his departure constitutes an irreplaceable loss to the pan-African agenda.


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'état 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'état in 1966 and then concludes with the lessons learnt. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.