The 13 January 1972 Coup and Military Experimentation in Political Governance*

Today marks 46 years after the coup d’état that became known as Acheampong’s coup and led to the creation of the National Redemption Council (NRC) and, subsequently, the Supreme Military Councils (SMCs). On such an occasion, it is appropriate to go down the country’s political memory lane in order to sustain the study of the country’s political-military history and make use of that history by learning some lessons.

On 13 January 1972, Col Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, then commanding the First Infantry Brigade of the Ghana Armed Forces in an acting or temporary status, led a bloodless coup against the government of Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia, and President Edward Akufo-Addo, a former chief justice, under a quasi-Westminster parliamentary system, or a semi-presidential system.

This happened to be the second successful military coup by the Ghana Armed Forces in modern-day Ghana, six years after the first coup. The first military coup occurred on 24 February 1966 when Col EK Kotoka, Commander 2 Inf Bde, Kumasi, and his Brigade Major, Maj AA Afrifa, overthrew the government of President Kwame Nkrumah, leader of the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) that had won Ghana’s independence in 1957 as an independent self-governing member of the British Commonwealth, the United Nations and the wider international community. Col Kotoka however invited Lt Gen Joseph A Ankrah to serve as chairman of the National Liberation Council (NLC).

The paper seeks to underline instructive lessons in extra-legal seizures of power by Col IK Acheampong in 1972 Ghana, and the dynamics and significant initiatives of the regime, as well as challenges of military involvement in politics, including of political transition.

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