The Politics of Democratic Stability - the case of Ghana



The major aspiration of most African states, at least if you believe both academic and journalistic articles, is a properly functioning democracy.


What do we require of democracy?


and its' corollaries: what is democratic failure?  what is democratic deficit? Africa.



Does Ghana really befit its much heralded status as 'a beacon of hope'?


Is Ghana a model or is it one of the lucky few African states that can be categorised as 'exceptionalist states'?





Independence to Post-Independence: Nkrumah to Rawlings and the 4th Republic


Shaped by the litany and the legacy of Coups: Afrifa; Acheampong; Rawlings (twice)


Is there some 'characteriological' argument that says the Ghanaian people are quite peaceable and thus the rolling cycle of violence and political antagonism did not hold the same disruptive forces as with other nations?


Has Ghanaian politics itself as a practice found a way of lessening the traps of ethnic competition that have marred the politics of most other countries?



Gold Coast to Ghana - 1957










Nkrumah and the failings of him and his CPP government

Kwame Nkrumah, who had already established a reputation as an African nationalist in Britain and the United States, was invited to return to Ghana to lead the UGCC in 1947. He soon became dissatisfied with the pace at which the Convention wanted to move, and in 1949 broke away to form the Convention People's Party (CPP). Although the immediate attraction

of the CPP was its demand for 'self-government now', it also proclaimed itself to be socialist and pan-Africanist, and cultivated the support of lower social groups which the UGCC had largely ignored.


The CPP's promise of national independence, secured in 1957, and of the national development which would (it mistakenly believed) follow it, enabled it to win decisive victories in three pre-independence elections. Helped by a buoyant economy with rising export prices, the CPP government quickly expanded the public service in both the economic and the social spheres, and set itself the objective of rapid development through  industrialisation (socialism?)





The National Liberation Movement (NLM) and then as the United Party (UP). Leaders, such as Joseph Danquah and Kofi Busia, remained impeccable advocates of liberal democracy, limited government and civil liberties,


....but political conflict soon revealed Ghanaian roots that were at least as important as imported ideologies. Regions such as Ashanti, and to a lesser extent the North and the Volta Region, feared a concentration of power in Accra, so the lines of political conflict polarised around centre versus periphery as well as state socialism versus liberalism. It was but a short step from regional claims to the claims of the dominant ethnic group within a region, so that politics could be portrayed in 'tribal' terms. Thus the NLM might be seen as articulating the demands of the Asante as a tribe, and not merely Ashanti as an administrative region. But tribalism was never more than part of the story. Political conflict never revolved around monolithic groups, which at other times and places has been a recipe for civil war or

national disintegration



And this might bear out an answer to some of the Qs above - Ghanaian exeptionalism? A tolerant people despite Nkrumah's imposition of control by one-party state?


And the pol-econ failures of state socialism + the turn to political ruthlessness and lack of accountability at any level even within the party (CPP)?


"The reality was that the party structure decayed once there  were no elections to contest. The combined effects of worsening terms of trade after 1960, and the dissipation of public resources in largely unproductive, and often corruptly incurred, public expenditure, led to growing economic hardship and public discontent... the years before 1966 were distinctive in the extent to which state control over the economy was imposed, and to which a single party claimed a monopoly of the truth..."





Col. Afrifa Coup: Feb 1966


the only obvious way of removing the government was through a coup d'etat. This occurred in February 1966. The army had its own grievances, including the loss of resources to the President's Own Guard Regiment and the recent dismissal of two of its most senior officers, but the leaders of the coup were very much in the mould of the liberal democratic opposition




Reasons for coup



This was the time of the National Liberation Council that to  large extent let civil servants run the country with a titular military ruling group. The US Army study points to the suggestion that in Ghana the military were by 1968 with the permitting of the re-mergence of political parties, open to a return to civilian government


"a National Advisory Committee was created, consisting largely of former opposition politicians, to act like a parliament without legislative power"


So the military was liberal and not authoritarian socialist


But in the moves towards restoring democratic govt the NLC ensured that the CPP was not to be involved and endeavoured to promote the chance of a liberal grou, Progress Party under Kofi Busia


Pinkney argue: While the general tone of the most prominent military leaders was that Ghana must not go back to the days of one-party dictatorship, it would be fanciful to imagine that a small group of soldiers and police officers with no popular base could have swayed millions of voters. The PP had to earn its votes by persuading opinion leaders, ultimately the ordinary voters, that its claim to moral probity was a stronger asset than its opponents' claims to experience in government (the rump of the old CPP now called the Nat Alliance of Liberals)


But again this suggests that Ghana could rise above the ethnic cleavages that has messed up so much else of African politics.


But the US army study suggests that there was slightly more aspects of ethnicity at work than seemed on the surface - namely via who voted for which party...but even then it was not significant. Poll was August 1969




This does seem to again support the idea of Ghanaian reasonableness and absence of strong ethnic biases.


Equally there were weakness in NAL party under Gbedemah and in the wake of a financial scandal he retired from politics thereby leaving his party without a strong leader...and soon it mixed in with other smaller parties to form Joseph Appiah's Justice Party.


But perhaps the theme of politics was not of fragmentation by party/ethnic reinforcing cleavage but of party (CPP=bad) versus nation (Busia govt = good)






Shift from industrial development to regional and local rural development


"Local businesses found that the expulsion of entrepreneurs from other African states and the Middle East meant the loss of essential supplies, lawyers disliked the disregarding of judicial rulings, and students and other intellectuals were critical of any appeasement of apartheid. The government was thus already in a weak political position at a time when world economic conditions were turning against Ghana. A balance-of-trade surplus of 28 million cedis in 1968 had turned into a deficit of 65.1 million cedis by 1972 and the terms of trade deteriorated sharply after 1971 The government was forced to devalue the cedi, thus creating hardship among the working population, and to curtail some of the amenities previously enjoyed by army officers. The latter decision was sufficient to provoke another military coup, led by (the then) Colonel Ignatius Acheampong." (Pinkney)


US study supports this analysis.



and cocoa prices - critical to the economy - were threatened by competition and internal regulation of the prices that did not match market reality.


and the defense budgets were tightened.....and then sensing a threat from the army, the Busia govt changed the army leadership to those more favourable to the government


and thus the Acheampong coup. Acheampong was commander of the First Brigade in Accra. Jan 13th 1972 coup.


The coup created the end of the 2nd Republic and the emergence of the  National Redemption Council 1972-79 - later known as the 'Supreme Military Council

General Acheampong, envisaged a type of government other than 'the party type of government that brings in its trail division, hatred, sectional and tribal interest'. There were also elements of populism in the economic sphere which earned the government immediate support. Busia's devaluation of the cedi was reversed, some foreign debts were repudiated, Nkrumah's reputation was rehabilitated, and an ambitious 'Operation Feed Yourself scheme was launched with a view to making Ghana self-sufficient in food.


What was distinctive about the Acheampong government was its attempt to establish a permanent no-party state in which corporate groups, including the army, would be represented in government alongside non-party representatives chosen by voters.


Pinkney has an interesting explanation of the failure of democracy in terms of party structure and power:


Political parties in Ghana  have been both too strong and too weak for the effective functioning of democracy. They have been too strong in the sense that, in the absence of strong countervailing institutions, parties can win votes relatively easily through bribery, intimidation and the exploitation of local and personal conflicts, if they have the necessary financial backing and key individuals in the right places.


This is in contrast to party politics in most Western countries, where the power of a potentially dominant party is checked by other parties, whose supporters may have an ingrained loyalty and may not be 'bought off easily, and partly by other institutions such as the state bureaucracy, labour, business, religious and voluntary groups, which all play a major role in determining the distribution of resources, largely irrespective of which party is in power.


At the same time parties in Ghana are weak in the sense that they lack a large core of committed supporters to sustain them in times of economic difficulties, and are therefore more likely to resort to bribery, patronage and coercion to retain power. Party support is, for the most part,  'instrumental' in the sense of being based on the expectation of tangible benefits, rather than 'solidaristic' in the sense of being built on the loyalty of groups such as social classes or religious denominations.


So... Keep them out of politics, and the true wishes of the people would be articulated, whether through Acheampong's corporate groups or Rawlings's District Assemblies and Committees for the Defence of the Revolution.


Explicate this!


US study:


and they had a referendum on the Union idea! which they won but it did not stop criticism.


Juoy 1978 Acheampong ousted by Akuffo due o continuing economic problems tat Acheampong's leadershp had failed to get to grips with.


New constitution 1978 and General Election June 1979






Executions of Afrifa, Acheampong, Akuffo


But still elections and return to civilian rule by Sept 1979 under Hilla Limann - the 3rd Republic! The People's National Party (man opposition: Popular front Party)


Armed Forces Revolutionary Council still kept an eye on proceedings though Limann government ordered them to dissolve


Cotinuing economic problems and...



The new Third Republic enjoyed an impeccable human rights record throughout its existence; a lively opposition operated in Parliament and on one occasion even defeated the government's budget proposals. Why, then, did 1979, like 1969, prove to be a false democratic dawn?


Limann's adversary, Rawlings, was closer at hand, despite attempts to give him a diplomatic posting. The de-stabilising influence of Rawlings was aggravated by the government's inability to tackle the country's continued economic weaknesses. An impeccable human rights record proved to be of little value in preserving a democratic regime if it could not provide its citizens with basic necessities, especially when Rawlings had acquired a reputation as the man who was on the side of the poor. And it was Rawlings who appeared to be a more plausible alternative leader than any civilian politician.


A coup on new year's eve 1981 brought Rawlings back to power, and the populist element in Ghanaian politics returned to the ascendancy


Rawlings shared Acheampong's distaste for competitive party politics, which were seen as an elitist activity that exploited the masses rather than offering them democratic choice.


Rawlings had a sort of socialist streak in him that led to the formation of workers groups to foment mass support but these groups rued to impose rules and regulations over trade and economic daily doings that antagonised people and led to these groups demise


As Pinkney notes: The government had created loosely structured mass organs but it had not destroyed the older elite power bases, even though some individual members of these elites had been removed. As the revolutionary bodies lost popularity with government

and governed alike, searching for new power bases again became a process of elimination. Chiefs were needed to maintain order in rural areas, private business was needed to

implement the free market policies, technocrats were needed in government, in place of ideologues, and a restored military hierarchy, led once again by senior officers, was necessary to enforce unpopular policies and fend off counter coups



Rawlings despite his radical tendencies fostered an Economic recovery programme in 1983 that was to depend on foreign investment and borrowing - a capitalist approach


After 1983, it was a relatively successful orthodoxy. The gross domestic product had been declining at an annual rate of over 4 per cent in the first two years of Provisional National Defence Council rule. From 1984 to 1989 the annual rate of growth averaged over 6 per cent. This relative economic success gave Rawlings a degree of legitimacy




So probably my line is to argue for Ghanaian exceptionalism - they had found a way round the excesses of both coups and ethnicity even thought both were present but constrained.




I wish to look at corruption, political failure and and democratisation and thought I would go about it 'back-to-front' as it were -  that is to say to explore the case of Ghana and how, despite the usual coups in he 60s and 70s here and there and even into the somehow has managed tor return to relative peace and democracy. In other words it has avoided the familiar story of failed states that we looked at last week  e,g, partimonial inspired corruption or corruption via personalist leaderships and so forth.

This will enable us to evaluate what we think democracy is in
Africa and how corrupting processes evolve... as well as structural forms of politics that can reists such corruption.

With this in mind have a look at

the US Army study: Here is a quick-to-open normal text version of the first 60 pages which contains the Preface (which is a very good summary of the run of Ghana's history and politics) and pp.30-57 I wish you to read
the latest edition was in 1995
. There are several sources for it but the normal full-text it is a big file so you may wish to consult the simple 'text' which can be seen in your browser far more quickly - but it is just in plain type-face.

2) *** Whitfield (attached) is excellent on the ways of Ghanaian exceptionalism - that the elections of 2008 are one more chapter demonstrating the democratic stability of Ghana. And this article might be taken to challenge the patrimonialist arguments of potential political failure of Lindgard and of Appiah but support the line of Osei.

Compare Whitfield to:

3a) the Appiah article:  against Whitfield you might wish to look at the at least the first 6 or 7 pages of Appiah's paper for the DfID. Again, not easy but good in that it might contest the above paper. It seems to argue that
Ghana is still too open to patrimonial politics and thereby corruption. The authors draw on Weberian typologies of rational-legal versus traditionalism. "Our research uses Khan’s theory of political settlement to analyse how the organisation of power in neo-patrimonial Ghana has enabled or constrained public sector reforms that seek to create effective legal rational institutions for public service management, anti-corruption, public financial management, public sector auditing..."

3b) and perhaps the Lindberg:
** This article by Lindberg (2003) explores the possibility of corruption by patrimonialism

4) and if you feel brave, try the techie pol sci piece by Osei:
****  This is an excellent article by Osei - very analytical and a bit political science techie. but HAVE A GO  ****
"This article presents new theoretical and empirical insights into democratization in Africa, using the typology developed by John Higley and Michael Burton to understand elite interaction in Ghana. Social network analysis (SNA) is used to test the main proposition of the Higley/Burton theory, namely that a ‘liberal democracy is impossible without a consensually united elite’. Empirical evidence is provided from a unique data set that maps the interaction patterns between Members of Parliament elected to the Ghanaian legislature in 2012. The article shows that MPs in Ghana form a dense and strongly interconnected network bridging ethnic and party cleavages, and that MPs from different parties have developed a measure of trust in one another. These findings not only support Higley and Burton's claim that elite integration is conducive to stable democracy, but also point to new directions in African Studies by demonstrating the capacity of actor-centric approaches to explain processes of democratization in countries that lack the classic structural preconditions for consolidation."

5) Try this for a quick journo article using Whitfield:  ** nice article on Ghana as 'beacon of hope' for the rest of African electoral politics
and compare it with this article about Kenyan electoral politics

6) and since Jerry Rawlings from his first coup in 1979 has had such an overarching impct of Ghaiaian poliitcs it is prbably a good idea to explore how and why he could travel between Military and Civilian rule.
 This seems good on the impact of Rawling's governments: This study examines the impacts of Rawlings’ administration on the politics of Ghana using both qualitative and quantitative analytical tools. Data collected through questionnaires and field interviews were used to examine the impact of Rawlings in the areas of democratic governance, upholding human rights, women empowerment and party politics in Ghana. Additionally, Rawlings’ shortfalls as a leader and how young leaders and the future generations can take a cue from it was examined with the ultimate aim of strengthening African leadership and ingenuity in the wake of the “leadership crisis” in the continent. The study finally makes incisive recommendations on how to advance democratic ideals in Ghana to maintain her position as the beacon of democracy in Africa"

and if you are seriously interested, read Chapter 4 of the US Army Study

**Attached is chapter on Structural adjusment policies which includes a section on how Ghana opened itself up to international economic guidance and with it a more liberal capitalist approach to economic life

Other supporting pieces

and this is what UK HMG thinks of Ghana    and  Here is a UN led range of evaluations of Ghana especially on Human rights and society and link to all papers