Ghana's history is better documented than that of most other African countries because of its importance in regional and international trade flows. The largest ethnic group in Ghana, the Akan, has dominated society since the fourteenth century. Around 1700, the Ashanti kingdom was founded. This kingdom was highly organised and had a strong army, which controlled the trade in gold and slaves.
Along the coast, which the Portuguese and later the Dutch called the Gold Coast, trading settlements and forts were established. The British arrived in Ghana in the eighteenth century, initially only to trade. However, due to Franco-British rivalry in the region, the British invaded the Ashanti kingdom in 1874 and declared the Gold Coast a British colony.
The first political movements to emerge were led by educated elites. In 1951, the first constitutional elections for a national government were held under the authority of the British coloniser. In 1957, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to gain full independence. The country was led by Kwame Nkrumah, one of the greatest champions of the Pan-African ideal. In 1960, the Republic was proclaimed with Nkrumah as President. However, his policy, based on socialism, began to show more and more authoritarian traits, which resulted in a non-violent military coup in 1966. Up to 1981, seizures of power, whether or not accompanied by violence, occurred regularly. Military and civilian regimes alternated.
In 1981, the young and popular Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings took over power. He put himself in charge of a Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) and ruled by decree. During his first years in office, his military regime laid the groundwork for economic recovery, but in the early 1990s, Westerners within the PNDC gradually gained ground and talks with the IMF and World Bank were opened. In 1992, a democratic constitution (based on the Constitution of the United States) was approved by referendum and presidential elections were held. Rawlings of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) won the elections by a large margin (58%). This made him the first elected president since independence. The parliamentary elections, also held in 1992, were boycotted by the opposition. As a result, the parliament consisted mainly of Rawlings supporters. In 1996, presidential and parliamentary elections were held again, in which Rawlings (57.5%) and the NDC again emerged as winners.
Incumbent President Rawlings was unable to stand in the December 2000 presidential and parliamentary elections. The main candidates were John Atta Mills of the ruling NDC party and John Agyekum Kufuor of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). Ghana has long been recognised as one of the few stable countries in the unstable West African region and both parties were keen to maintain this status. During the successful presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2000, Ghana confirmed this position and took a major step in the democratisation process. The opposition party of Kufuor emerged as the convincing winner.
Presidential and parliamentary elections were held again on 7 December 2004. Apart from a minor incident, the elections were conducted in a very orderly and peaceful manner. The international community, including the EU, described the elections as democratic and transparent. Ghana is rightly an example of successful democratisation for the rest of Africa. The new parliament has 230 members, of which 128 are from the ruling party (NPP), 94 from the main opposition party (NDC), 4 PNC, 3 CPP and 1 independent member.
President Kufuor was sworn in on 7 January 2005 in the presence of many African heads of state and (Western) government representatives.
During the NDC party congress in December 2005, one of its most prominent members, Obed Asamoah, decided to resign and found his own party, Democratic Freedom Party (DFP).
In March 2007, Ghana celebrated 50 years of independence. In December 2007, President Kufuor announced the discovery of gigantic oil reserves and that his country would become an African "tiger".
Presidential elections were held again in December 2008. The opposition candidate, John Atta Mills, became the new president. In July 2009, Barack Obama visited Ghana. In July 2012, President Mills died and was temporarily succeeded by John Mahama.
Mahama won the elections in December 2012. The opposition questions the victory, but the Supreme Court declares it valid in August 2013. In December 2016, opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo wins the presidential election. In January 2017, he succeeded the defeated Mahama as president. In December 2020 Akufo-Addo is re-elected.
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