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GHANA    alt



Capital: Accra
Area: 238 537 km
Population: 17 832 000
Currency: 1 US$ = 2290 Cedi
GDP: 156/1 051$
HDI : 132/475

Languages: English, Ewe, Gaadanghe, Akan, Dagbandi, Mamprussi, Ga, Twi

Ethnic groups: Ashanti (center), Fanti (coast) , Nzima & Ahanta (southwest), Ga (Accra), Moshi-Dogamba & Gompa (north)

Religions: Christian 60%, Animist 20 %, Muslim 20%

H of S: Jerry Rawlings 81

1996 data

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The Dogomba and Mamprussi states flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries in the north while Akan speakers, the Ashanti and the Fanti, migrated from the savanna and formed a series of small states below the forest line.

In the 16th century the Portuguese established trading settlements on the coast and the region became a major supplier of gold to Europe hence the name Gold Coast. During the 16th century, the developing slave trade whetted the interest of several European nations. The Dutch, the British and the Danes forced the Portuguese out, built forts and competed to trade with the Ashanti Empire who controlled trade going through their capital Kumasi. In 1821, 14 years after the abolition of the slave trade, the British private settlements were taken over by the Crown as were the Danish forts in 1850 and the Dutch settlements in 1871. The coastal area, by then entirely under British control, was designated a crown colony in 1874. A series of Ashanti-British wars continued sporadically until the Ashanti and the northern territories were annexed to the colony in 1901. After WW II, part of the German Togoland was added in 1922 and the first elections for a legislative council were held in 1925.

In 1957, the British Parliament passed the Ghana Independence Act, and the National Assembly of the Gold Coast adopted the name of Ghana and proclaimed its independence with the Marxist Kwame Nkrumah as Prime Minister. Ghana became a republic in 1960 with Nkrumah as president and opposition parties were outlawed in 1964.Two years later Nkrumah was ousted in a military coup and the Soviet and Chinese technicians, whom he had brought in, were expelled from the country.

Ghana was ruled by the National Liberation Council until power was transferred in 1969 to a civilian government headed by Kofi A. Busia who was ousted by another army coup in 1972, this one headed by Colonel Ignatius K. Acheampong who suspended the constitution, banned political activity, and curbed freedom of the press and union activities. Acheampong was forced to resign in 1978, giving way to General Frederick W. Akuffo, who ruled for less than a year before he was overthrown by Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings who stepped down in favor of an elected civilian president, Hilla Limann.

When economic conditions worsened, Limann was deposed in a second coup led by Rawlings in 1981. His regime had to suppress many coup attempts until a referendum reestablished a constitutional government in 92. Rawlings, running as a civilian, won the presidency in multiparty elections that year and was reelected in December 1996.

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Bolgatanga

My Ghana experience started with a long bus ride from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Kumasi in the south. The big Ghanaian STC bus covered the 750 km distance in 14 hours which is quite fast considering that we stopped once to go through the border formalities, twice to eat to and a number of times to satisfy the ubiquitous road pirates.

Bolgatanga is a small Ganaian town near the Burkina Faso border.

On the bus I met Dantodsi Dosseh a baker from Cotonou and two Texans, Doug and Steve who were going to Kumasi like me.


 

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Kumasi

I enjoyed Kumasi but somehow I took only photo there, this one of the old Kumasi fort which has been transformed into a Military Museum. I guess I wasn't in a picture taking mood. It's a pity because there were lots of good subjects, the national cultural center, the big market and nearby motor parks, the Presbyterian Guesthouse where I stayed, the busy city center and more importantly two fellow backpackers, French Émilie Pierret and German Telse Frank. I can't understand why I did not take a picture of them they were both charming and lovely...


 

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Takoradi

I took a night train from Kumasi to Takoradi and left my bag at the hotel Zenith whose inner courtyard Inn shown here. Then I took a taxi to nearby Sekondi to visit Fort Orange.

Forts and castles along Ghana's coast have played an important part in her history. Competition between European traders led to the construction of over 60 forts and trading posts along a 500 km stretch of what was called The Gold Coast. The Portuguese came first (1470 to 1600), but they were followed by the Dutch, the French, the British, the Swedish and the Danish who all built forts, sometimes within sight and gun range of each other in the 17th century. All this activity was concentrated here because of the proximity of gold mines and because access to the interior was not hindered by lagoons and mangrove swamps as it was in other areas of the Guinea coast..


 

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Sekondi

Fort Oranje was built by the Dutch in 1690 on the foundations of a trading post opened in 1642. The British soon build a similar Fort only a few hundred yards away in an effort to draw the gold trade away from the Dutch but nothing is left of it today as it was razed by the French in 1779. In the end, fort Oranje was taken over by the British along with the rest of the coastal area which was declared a crown colony in 1874.


 

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Sekondi

Fort Oranje is now used as a light house and living quarters by the port authorities. It is badly in need of restoration and the people living there visibly resent the intrusion of curious tourists. I was allowed in by a friendly young man but chased out with a loud stream of invective by an angry harridan. It is a pity to let it crumble for it could be turned into an additional tourist attraction for the region.


 

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Sekondi

The majority of southern Ghanaians are Christian as the Animists and Muslims are concentrated in the north. The same applies to the neighbouring countries for the Muslim invasions (8th to 13th centuries), did not reach the coastal areas which were later subjected to European influence. This impressive structure is a Methodist church not far from the fort.


 

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Elmina

The big Elmina Castle we see today evolved over a period of three centuries from the initial Sa Jorge fort built by the Portuguese in 1482 to defend their monopoly on the gold trade from the Spanish. The Spanish threat was eliminated in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI's decree delimiting Portugal's and Spain's zones of influence respectively east and west of an arbitrary longitude.


 

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Elmina

The other European powers did not feel constrained by the papal order and their ships began to encroach upon Portugal's monopoly. A fort building race was on previewing the recent Cold War's armament race. Around 1600, fort Sa Jorge was reinforced and more than doubled in size by the addition of this large courtyard.

By this time, development of the slave trade intensified competition particularly from the Dutch who were late to engage in it. (The Dutch Calvinists did not discover passages of the scriptures justifying slavery until they needed large numbers of slaves to work the plantations way had conquered from the Portuguese.)


 

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Elmina

The Portuguese reinforcement of the fort proved inadequate when the Dutch managed to install heavy guns on the nearby and St Jago hill from which they proceeded to destroy its northern defenses in 1637. The Portuguese capitulation of their Elmira stronghold to the Dutch, soon led to the loss of their entire Atlantic Empire of which they nevertheless later managed to regain Brazil and Angola. It is interesting to note that the Dutch built their profitable Eastern Empire also at the expense of the Portuguese who lost all their holdings to them except Macao and Gao.

The victorious Dutch lost no time to further reinforce the northern defenses of Elmira and to build a strong redoubt on top of St Jago Hill to prevent a repeat performance of their successful strategy. It was later expanded to become the Coenraadsburg Fort shown in this picture.


 

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Elmina

The the Dutch held on to Elmina and further reinforced its landward side during the 19th century wars between their Ashanti allies from Kumasi and the British based in Cape Coast who were supported by the Fanti tribes.


 

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Elmina

Finally, negotiations led to the abandonment of Dutch holdings in the Gold Coast to the British in exchange of lands in northern Sumatra and other considerations and, on the sixth of April 1972, the Dutch flag was replaced by the Union Jack over Elmina Castle seen here from the east.


 

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Cape Coast

British involvement in the gold Coast came in the early 16th century when the slave trade had ever had replaced gold as the major attraction. The British first built a trading post at Kormantin (50 kms east of Elmira), which they replaced by a fort in 1640 that they soon lost to the Dutch who rebuilt it under the name of New Amsterdam. With the fort building race in full swing the British concentrated their efforts in reinforcing the Carolusburg fort they had taken from the Dutch and which became the Cape Coast Castle shown here.


 

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Cape Coast

By now the gold trade had declined and it was a slave trade that fuelled the competition between European powers and financed all this frantic building activity. In Cape Coast, the slaves brought in from the interior were stored in underground chambers, located under the row of guns seen here, until the time came to ship the merchandise. Then they were led out in chains through the black "Gate of No Return" to the beach to be ferried out to the slave ships anchored offshore.


 

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Cape Coast

The slave trade must have been hugely profitable to warrant the investment of such formidable establishments by private companies. The Gold Coast had become the Slave Coast. Slaves were shipped in great numbers from many other parts of Africa but nowhere else can be seen such tangible proofs of that infamous trade.


 

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Cape Coast

It is difficult for us to imagine how violent and cruel the 18th century was in the heyday of the slave trade. Today everyone else but the Serbs are appalled by the ethnic cleansing practiced in Bosnia and Kosovo.

I see that as proof that humankind is progressing towards civilization. The concept of "crimes against humanity" is new. It certainly had no meaning when slave meat was a commodity to be traded and fought over. Nor did the horrendous expression "ethnic cleansing" mean anything in 1755 when the British deported the French from Acadia and gave their lands to settlers their own ethnic origin! American Blacks and Cajuns are the heritage of those crimes.


 

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Accra

Finally I got to Accra where I was expected by Thomas Assare, a bright young man who showed me the sights. Naturally we could not miss visiting Kwame Nkrumah's Mausoleum just behind us.


 

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Accra

The Gold Coast's climates, hot and humid in the south or hot and arid in the north, were not appreciated by potential British settlers who preferred the more pleasant climate of the Kenyan plateau. That factor and the British policy of administering through local authorities resulted in the presence of very few Europeans when the country gained its independence in 1957, the first country to do so in Africa.

The British handed Nkrumah an elaborate administrative structure, symbolised here by these High Court buildings, but they could not grant him the experience and judgment required to manage the country efficiently.


 

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Accra

Nkrumah's prestige as a champion of decolonization grew in Africa but the opted for grandiose projects heralded by a leftist rhetoric and and the country's economy declined until he was deposed by a military coup while he was away visiting Hanoi in 1966. This great Independence Arch and the nearby huge Soviet style Independence Square are very impressive but they did little to satisfy the real needs of the Ghanaian people.


 

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Bush

Finally it was time to move on. I took a bus to Ho and from there, a "trotro" minibus to Kpalimé in Togo which we are approaching on this dirt road.


 

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