Friday, February 27, 2009

Ghana 101

Ghana History, Part Four: Ghana Today

Since the mid 90's, Ghana has achieved a certain political stability that has allowed the country to once again focus on develop- ment and economic growth. It ranks as one of the most stable, safe countries in Africa, and is enjoying a boom in the tourist industry. Ghana is sometimes called "Africa in One Country" or something like that, implying that much of the best of the continent can be found there. There is grassland, savannah, tropical rainforests, great beaches, lakes, and marvelous wildlife. It is a smart first stop if one wishes to learn about Africa.

On the other hand Ghana is not quite a tropical paradise. Well off by West Africa standards, it ranks 142 out of 179 in the Human Development Index, published annually by the United Nations-- meaning that out of 179 nations, 141 are doing better than Ghana with life expectancy, literacy, educational attainment and per capita GDP. By comparison, our old home, Liberia, ranks 176 and other West African neighbors also score lower-- Niger 174, Burkina Faso 173, and Mali 168.
According to the CIA, Ghana has roughly twice the per capita output of the poorest countries in West Africa. Yet Ghana remains heavily dependent on international financial and technical assistance. The domestic economy continues to revolve around agriculture, which accounts for about 35% of GDP and employs about 55% of the work force, mainly small landholders. Ghana signed a Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact in 2006, which aims to assist in transforming Ghana's agricultural sector.

The administration of John Kufuor achieved some success in stabilizing the macroeconomy, helped initially by high gold and cocoa prices, through the introduction of tighter monetary, fiscal and exchange rate policies. Ghana’s economic prospects were given a further boost with the announcement in June 2007 of significant oil finds off the coast.

Ghana’s current IMF agreed 3-year Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) finished in October 2006. Loans attached to it amounted to around US$258 million. The government has stated its intention to sign up to the IMF's policy support instrument and implement its own growth and poverty reduction strategy. In July 2004 Ghana reached Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) completion point. Ghana’s debt has been massively reduced as a result of this. Sound macro-economic management along with high prices for gold and cocoa helped sustain GDP growth in 2008. Only time will tell what the recent election of John Atta Mills will bring.

So Ghana remains a study in contrasts. It is an emerging African nation, and perhaps that sums up Ghana best. It is on the move, but it is moving in one of the poorest regions of the poorest continent on Earth. It is weak or unknown in most Western minds, but a model of economic power and strength in West Africa. Many people in Ghana need assistance regarding basic necessities, yet they remain remarkably resilient and resourceful. The nations today remains an example of how far Africa has come in fifty years, and a hopeful vision of the future for her neighbors.

Washing laundry by hand-- still the method of the majority, usually costs a day or two a week-- or more, depending on the size of the family.

Clean water is an issue through Africa-- and Ghana.

Accra street market. Its a day by day effort.

Yet another school in the interior. No supplies. A blackboard, some chalk, a few kids, and a teacher under a palm branch roof.

Kids in uniform, free from class.

The city of Takoradi. Clothes hanging on walls to dry.

"I see you! Do you see me?"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Just a Moment... Just a Moment...

Hi Folks. I'm supposed to be posting about "Ghana Today," but I don't feel like it. I'll give the "Reedside view of today's Ghana" soon, but I'm thinking a rest from all that learning is in order. I've posted some nice Ghana pictures just the same; they were published on the net by others who've visited. Of these beautiful Ghana images, I boast nothing but the good fortune of running across them.

Meanwhile, the Reeds are fully embedded in a long Grand Rapids winter. In fact, as I hunt and peck, we are in the grips of another frigid storm with temps in the 20sF and six inches of blowing, drifting snow expected. We are also in the midst of a long wait to return to new responsibilities in West Africa and a new home in Accra. Hannah and Noah are in no hurry to leave new friends and activities, but Renita and I are champing at the bit to get started. The delay is due to the fact that Renita is applying for US citizenship and the process takes a few months. We can't leave until she gets it.

Its a bit of a bummer. My colleagues, the CRWRC West Africa Ministry Team, are meeting right now in Jos, Nigeria and I would normally be there. And in Liberia, a team of people from four West African countries and the US and Canada are meeting with LEAD and the University of Liberia to discuss future partnerships. The LEAD conference is also taking place. with the Vice President of Liberia offering the keynote. Renita is missing it, as she is very much a part of what is happening there. So on this snowy Saturday, we are a little sad.

Time to bake cookies.

The view from our front porch. I'm really noticing that stop sign-- a metaphor for our lives.

So let's enjoy the pause! Inside, daughter and mother bake cookies. Twelve dozen cookies.

Noah eats cookie dough and hangs out with friends in the cyber Carribbean world of Disney's Pirates site. Or maybe he's playing Stronghold. Or Spore. Or Age of Empires. Or--well, you get it.

Ok, and now for life 5700 miles away. A few Ghana images as we continue this online orientation of our next homeland.

The Accra skyline. A modern city of two million.

Fishing boats along the Accra beaches. Like other West Africans, Ghanaians love their fish.

Another colorful Accra market. I think you can recognize everything, right?

Not bad, eh? A typical Ghanaian beach down the road from Accra.

In the 'burbs, more construction as the city expands.

Sheep in the yard.

The train from Accra to Kumasi.

Kumasi, Ghana. Population 1,500,000.

Traveling through a village, market tables waiting for market day.

Northern Ghana.

Pastoral, ain't it?

Great shot down an interior road.

Keep the goat outa the coco beans! Need I elaborate?

Waterfall near the Togo border.

Oh. Have I mentioned the elephants? They have the right of way.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ghana 101

Ghana History, Part Three: 40 Year Labor Pains

Ghana was the first of the colonies in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence. In 1957, Kwame Nkrumah was named the first prime minister and was later named president of the republic. Africa and the rest of the world followed the creation of the new state with great expectations, and the situation in Ghana inspired nationalist movements all over the continent. Ghana's future was promising with her rich resources, especially in minerals, gemstones, and timber. In addition, Ghana was the leading cocoa exporter in the world and produced one tenth of the world's gold. 25% of the population was literate then(which was high compared to other colonies at the time) and many were educated.

Nkrumah was initially popular, but faced the huge problem of uniting a country of people who for hundreds of years actively competed with, fought with, and even enslaved one another. It did not take long for the Nkrumah regime to begin repressing and imprisoning dissenters. Through the '60's the economic situation to worsened with deepening debt and inflation, and in 1964 a desperate Nkrumah suspended the consititution over the protests of the Western world and turned to the Soviet Union for support. However, the economy was out of control and the people got poorer.

The First Coup/Junta 1966-1969
On February 24th, 1966, a bloodless military coup ended the rule of Nkrumah and his government. Nkrumah was exiled to Guinea. In the following days and weeks all Nkrumah statues in Accra were taken down by the crowds. (Nkrumah died in exile in 1972.) The new military government called itself the National Liberation Council (NLC). All connections to the Soviet Union were severed and technicians from USSR and China were expelled. The west saw this as a new direction in Ghanaian politics and economics.

The Second Republic 1969-1972
In 1969, Multi-party elections were held and a new civilian government was formed by Dr. Kofi Busia and the Progress Party. High prices on the cocoa market gave Busia a good start, but in 1971 the prices dropped again and the economic situation in Ghana worsened. The government devaluates the Cedi-- the Ghanaian dollar-- leading to increased prices and general unrest in the population.

Second Coup/Junta 1972-1979
Forces within the military once again forced a coup in January 1972. The National Redemption Council placed Colonel Ignatius Acheampong as head of the state. But Acheampong lacked experience and economic-political visions. The result was a growth of corruption in all levels of government and society. By 1978, with the economy close to collapse, Acheampong was forced to resign as general William Akuffo was placed as head of the "Supreme Military Council II". Akoffo promised to hold elections later in 1979.(Acheampong is on the left in the picture, Akuffo on the right)

Third Coup: May 15, 1979
A young Flight Lieutenant named Jerry John Rawlings headed an uprising within the army. The coup attempt was unsuccessful as Rawlings was arrested, but soon freed by his supporters.

The Fourth Coup: June 4, 1979
A few days before the planned election Rawlings led a new military coup. The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) took power, but promised to hold democratic elections later the same month. The stated aim of the coup was to ensure free elections and put an end to the corruption and economic chaos, and to prevent the SMC generals from retiring to a life in luxury after having run down the country. In the elections, Dr. Hilla Limann and his People's National Party won, but it was a close call: PNP got 71 of the 140 seats in parliament. Rawlings supported the AFRC in its determination to end corruption and restore order and justice before returning Ghana to democracy. The former leaders from the SMC government were tried and executed together with the three former chief of states: Acheampong, Akuffo and Afrifa. Several hundred government officials and businessmen were sent to prison.

The Third Republic 1979-1981
Four months after the elections, the AFRC turned over power to Hilla Limann (right), the elected president. Rawlings and his soldiers returned to the army. The new government was not successful and widespread corruption continued. It was not able to solve the economic stagnation of Ghana. Jerry Rawlings gained more and more popularity as he continued to demand an end to corruption. But Limann did not learn much from his predecessors, and his reign is doomed.

The Fifth Coup
December 31, 1981: Jerry Rawlings once again took over through a military coup. The Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) established Rawlings as chairman. The parliament is dissolved and all politcal opposition is strictly

forbidden. After a decade of maintaining a tight hold on power, fending off take-over attempts, assassination attempts, Rawlings sees the economy of Ghana improving significantly. Ghana had the highest growth rate in Africa. In 1990, Rawlings formed the National Commission for Democracy to work out plans for the political future of Ghana. In 1992, A new democratic constitution was passed. Political prisoners are freed and parties are allowed. Free press and human rights organizations emerges in Ghana.

The Fourth Republic 1992 to Now
Multi-party elections are held in Ghana, and Rawlings won the presidency outright with nearly 60% of the votes. Independent observers declared the elections free and fair. During the 90's the political climate between government and opposition slowly improved. Economic growth continued in Ghana, which was praised by the IMF. Rawlings was re-elected in 1996. NDC remained the biggest party in parliament, but John Kufuor's New Patriotic Party also enjoyed strong representation. The opposition and all observers approved these elections as well. The West continued to be supportive and optimistic about the situation in Ghana, even though economic progress was slowing.
Jerry Rawlings' presidency ended in 2000 as he bowed to constitutionally mandated term limits. Vice president John Atta Mills was a presidential candidate, but John Kufour (left) from NPP who took the victory and became the new president. He initiated a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate human right abuses during the many years of military rule.

Ghana celebrated 50 years of independence as the first sub-saharan African nation in March 2007.

2008 Elections
After having lost Ghana's two previous elections to outgoing President John Kufuor, opposition candidate John Atta Mills won in a second round of the presidential election. Atta Mills was victorious over his rival, Nana Akufo-Addo from the ruling NPP party. The smooth trasition of power was praised by international observers.

John Atta Mills, the new President of Ghana.

Next Time: Ghana Today

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ghana 101

Ghana History, Part Two: The Slave Coast, The Gold Coast

Continuing our story: the land that we now call Ghana was dominated by several African groups prior to the European era of exploration. But in 1471, The Portuguese arrived in the region, and in 1482 they build the first of several fortresses-- the one pictured above called Elimina-- on the coast.
The Ga people were living in their capital of "Great Accra" about 15 km inland, but soon built "Small Accra" directly on the coast as a base for trade with the Portuguese. In time, the British, Dutch, French and others arrived. They were all attracted by gold, ivory and timber. By 1650, the first Danish ship arrives at the coast. The Danes were the last of the Europeans to arrive, who competed and sometimes fought each other, for trade rights with the Africans. In 1661, the Danes built the fort they named "Christiansborg" (sometimes known as Osu Castle) in Osu (modern-day Accra). It became the home of the Danish governor and later the center of Danish slave trade. Tody, the fort is the residence and office of Ghana's president.

The Slave Trade
Within a short time the commodity of choice was no longer ivory or timber-- it was human life. Slaves, desired for plantation work in the Americas, became even more valuable than gold. England, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, France, Sweden and Denmark all vied for the human trafficking market, which became highly organized and efficient. With its slaves, gold and accessible coastline, "Ghana" became the center of all European activity in West Africa for 350 years.

By the 1700s, several of the southern kingdoms were deeply involved in the slave trade while others had been virtually wiped out-- their people stolen for slavery. The Akwamu, Fante and Asante enjoyed significant benefit from the trade. Through their European connections the Asante received weapons and used them to conquer more land and fight other kingdoms. The Asante capital of Kumasi became highly developed more advanced than many European cities.

The Europeans traded weapons and manufactured goods for the slaves, which were transported across the Atlantic Ocean to work on plantations in "the new world". The trips took five weeks. More than two thirds of the slaves died during capture attempt, in the dungeons of the forts, or during transport. It is estimated that more than 12 million slaves were transported across the Atlantic.
In March, 1792, Denmark decided to stop the so-called "trade with Negroes" to the Caribbean colonies. The King and politicians were under pressure from the growing anti-slave lobby, but the decision was based on economic, not moral, calculations: Denmark simply no longer made enough profit on the trade.

The new law only addressed the import of slaves to the Caribbean islands. It was not a general ban on slavery. Furthermore the law is not to be effective until 1803. Result: In the following ten years the slave traders intensified their efforts to make as much profit as possible on human lives.
Later in 1792, Britain passed a law similar to the Danish - not to take effect until 1807. Both countries laws stopped only the import of slaves to the colonies, not a decision to actually abolish slavery itself. Within the following years all the European countries and America drafted similar laws, but slavery and the trade with people continued to be legal.

Meanwhile, Osei Bonsu ascended the Asante throne. He was king of land reaching beyond the borders of present-day Ghana – and sought to expand the Asante kingdom. In 1806, the Asante kingdom invaded kingdoms to the south and war broke out with the Fante confederation which was supported by Britain. The ever expanding Asante were threatening British commercial interests in the region.

Slavery Ends, British Domination Begins

British ban on slave trade from the Gold Coast became effective in 1807. The British dominated the region and decided to change business from slavery into exploiting cocoa, gold, timber and palm oil. 1824, the Ashantene, Osei Bonsu, dies. The British sought a chance to break Asante control of the Gold Coast trade and the first Anglo-Asante war began. By 1826, the Asante were forced to give up their claims to areas on the coast.

Slavery was officially abolished in all British colonies, and all British-owned slaves were freed in 1833. Fourteen years later the Danish crown abolished slavery in Danish colonies. Eventually, Denmark sold all its remaining forts and possessions on the Gold Coast to Great Britain for 10,000 pounds, thus Great Britain dominated the region completely. Only the Asante kingdom resisted British control. The British efforts to control the Gold Coast and especially the gold trade resulted in the another British-Asante war. Asante history recorded a victory, but they only managed to hold back the enemy for a few more years.

The Gold Coast: A British Crown Colony

In 1874, the Gold Coast was officially proclaimed a British crown colony. Originally the colony was only a 100 km wide strip along the coast, but the British continued to harrass the Asante kingdom and their wealth of gold. The British attacked again and burned down the Capital of Kumasi. (Echoes of the War of 1812) The kings palace was found empty, but the British grabbed all values they could find. (More 1812 echoes)

1884-1885 saw the infamous Berlin Conference, in which King Leopold of Belgium called the the European countries together to draw up and impose new borders on Africa. Thousands of kingdoms throughout Africa were instantly squeezed into approximately 50 European colonies. No consideration was made regarding existing people groups, kingdoms, cultures and languages. Present-day Ghana was placed under British control, with the exception of the eastern region being part of German Togoland. Britain maintained control over the Asante kingdom. As a symbolic act the British sent the young Asante king (Nana Ageyman Prempeh I) into exile.

In 1990, Britain plotted to further humiliate the Asante: The colonial governor Frederick Hodgson demanded that the Asante hand over their Golden Stool, a revered religious and national symbol for the Asante. But the Asante had foreseen this demand and created a fake stool to be given to the British. However the provocation was too much for the Asante: they revolted. An attack on the British fort in Kumasi was led by the legendary Asante woman Yaa Asantewaa.

The Asante were crushed in two years; what was left of the Asante kingdom surrendered to the pressure from England. The kingdom was annexed into the British colony and the area north of the kingdom became a British Protectorate. After World War I the German areas in the East went under British control. Nationalist movements began to rise in the region.

Mining Gold: The old way...

The Road to Independent Ghana

Independence was just a matter of time, and the British leadership probably knew it. The period of Imperial Colonialism was dying throughout the world. In the Gold Coast, legislative elections were held for the first time in 1925. The Asante were allowed to have restricted "autonomy" through the Ashanti Confederacy Council ten years later. After World War II, the USA and USSR lobbied for African Independence. Ghana's Legislative Council held a majority of black Africans, and the British gradually bowed to the pressure for African political representation. 1947, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) was one of many new political parties striving for independence. Kwame Nkrumah, the future first prime minister of Ghana, was party secretary for UGCC.
February 28, 1948: Riots exploded in Accra when police fired at an anti-colonial demonstration. 29 were killed and hundreds wounded. The following year, dissatisfied with the efforts of UGCC, Kwame Nkrumah resigned and founded the Convention People's Party (CPP). CCP quickly became the major player on the nationalist political scene. In 1950, Nkrumah called for a national strike. He was jailed for his demands for independence. The following year, Nkrumah was released from jail after CPP wins the first election for the Legislative Assembly. In 1952, Nkrumah became the first African prime minister and government leader, but still shared the power with the British governor Sir Charles Arden-Clarke. Nkrumah is re-elected in for the post in 1954 and 1956. The movement toward total independence was inexorable.

...Mining gold the new way.

The Elmina Fort today, Accra, Ghana

Ghana Gold.