Ghana is bounded on the north and northwest by Burkina Faso, on the east by Togo, on the south by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the west by Cote d'Ivoire. Formerly a British colony known as the Gold Coast, Ghana was the first nation in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve independence (1957). The country is named after the ancient empire of Ghana, from which the ancestors of the inhabitants of the present country are thought to have migrated. The total land area is 92,100 square miles (238,537) square kilometres).
Ghana is a lowland country, except for range of hills on the eastern border. The sandy coastline is backed by a coastal plain that is crossed by several rivers and streams, generally navigable only by canoe. In the west the rain is broken by heavily forested hills and many streams and rivers. To the north lies an undulating savanna that is drained by the Volta river, which flows south to the sea through a narrow gap in the hills. Lake Volta, in the east, is one of the largest artificial lakes in the world. Ghana's highest point, in the eastern hills, is about 2,900 feet (884 meters) above sea level.
The climate of Ghana is tropical, but temperatures vary with season and elevation.
Except in the north, two rainy seasons occur, from April to June and from September to November. In the north the rainy season begins in March and lasts until September. Annual rainfall ranges from about 40 inches (1,015 millimetres) in the north to about 80 inches (2,300 millimetres) in the south-east. The harmattan, a dry, north wind, blows from December to March lowering the humidity and creating hot days and cool nights in the north. In the south the effects of the harmattan are felt in January. In most areas the highest temperatures occur in March, the lowest in August. The average annual temperature is about 97F (26C). The Capital City is Accra which is located in the Coast od the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic ocean.
Ghana is the first African country south of the Sahara to achieve independence in 1957.
Ghana lies at the heart of a region which has been leading sub-Saharan African culture since the first millennium BC in metal-working, mining, sculpture and agriculture. Modern Ghana takes its name from the ancient kingdom of Ghana, some 800 km. (500 miles) to the north of present-day Accra, which flourished up to the eleventh century AD. One of the great sudanic states which dominate African history, the kingdom of Ghana controlled the gold trade between the mining areas to the south and the Saharan trade routes to the north. Ancient Ghana was also the focus for the export trade in Saharan copper and salt.
The coming of Europeans altered the trading patterns, and the focus of economic power shifted to the West African coast- line. The Portuguese came first, seeking the source of the African gold. It lay too far inland for them to reach; but on the Gold Coast they found a region where gold could be obtained, exported along established trade paths from the interior. Their fort at Elmina ("the mine") was the first in a series of forts along the Gold Coast designed to repel the other European seafarers who followed in their wake, all struggling for their share of the profitable Gold Coast trade. In due course, however, slaves replaced gold as the most lucrative trade along the coast, with the European slave buyers using the forts and adjoining buildings for their own accommodation and protection, as well as for storing the goods, mainly guns and gunpowder, which they would barter for slaves. Some of the forts were also used for keeping newly acquired slaves pending the arrival of the ships sent to collect them.
The history of the various forts, given later in this guide, graphically expresses how the various European trading nations fought for our gold, ivory and later, slaves. But while Europeans quarreled over access to the coastal trade, and despite the appalling depredations of the slave traders, which left whole regions destroyed and depopulated, the shape of modern Ghana was being laid down. At the end of the 17th century, there were a number of small states on the Gold Coast; by 1750, these had merged, by conquest or diplomacy, into two: the Asante empire, and the Fantes. By the 19th century, the Asantes were seeking mastery of the coast, and especially access to the trading post of Elmina. By this time the British had won control of the coastal trade from the other European nations, and their interests could not tolerate further Asante expansion - more so since the Asante Empire was known for its sophisticated administrative efficiency and would have been difficult or impossible to best at trade. Nevertheless it took a series of military campaigns over some 50 years before the British were finally able to force the Asantes to give up sovereignty over their southern possessions. In a final campaign in 1874 the British attempted, without success, to seize Asante; they were however able to take Kumasi and exact a huge ransom for it in gold; and the vast Asante empire shrunk to the Asante and Brong-Ahafo regions of modern Ghana. Meanwhile, the Fantes too had been uniting and organizing, and in 1868 formed themselves into a confederacy under a king-president with a 15,000 strong army, a civil service and a constitution. In 1871 the British arrested the Fante leaders for "treason". They were however freed a month later, but the con- federacy never recovered from the blow. In 1874 the British formally established the British Crown Colony of the Gold Coast, "legalizing" a colonial policy which had in fact been in force since the signing of the bond between the coastal Chiefs and the British in 1844, despite the fact that the Chiefs never ceded sovereignty to the British under the bond, though some of them allowed British intervention in judicial matters. The Asante and Fante traditions of education and organization, and their urge for autonomy, remained throughout the years of British colonial rule. The Gold Coast was regarded as the showpiece of Britain's colonies: the richest, the best educated, the first to have an elected majority in the legislature and with the best organized native authorities. The Gold Coast riots in 1948, which marked the start of the people's agitation for independence, were instrumental in changing British policy and drove home the point that colonialism had no future.
But a long struggle still lay ahead - and the man who was the catalyst of that struggle was Dr. Kwame Nkrumah Born in 1909, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah trained as a teacher at Achimota College in Ghana and then in the United States and Britain, where he obtained his degrees. He became prominent as a leader of West African organizations in London and was invited to return to Ghana as general secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention. In 1949 he broke away to from the Convention People's Party with the slogan Self-Government Now. In February 1951 the party swept to victory in the polls and became the leaders of Government business in the colony's first African government. The Gold Coast had become the first British colony in Africa to achieve self-government. On 6 March 1957 Ghana achieved independence - again, the first British colony in Africa to do so - with Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as its first Prime Minister. On 1st July 1960 it became a republic with Kwame Nkrumah as its first President. Ghana spearheaded the political advancement of Africa and Dr. Nkrumah laid the foundations for the unity later expressed in the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). He was a firm supporter of the Commonwealth and the Non-Aligned movement.
On 24th February 1966, the Ghana armed forces and the police overthrew the government of Dr. Nkrumah. A National Liberation Council (NLC), headed by Lt. General Joseph Arthur Ankrah, was formed to administer the country. General Ankrah was removed from office in April 1969 and Lt. General Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa became the Chairman of the NLC, which later gave way to a three-man Presidential Commission with General Afrifa as chairman. The Commission paved the way for a general election in 1969 which brought into power the Progress Party government, with Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia as Prime Minister and Mr. Edward Akufo Addo as president.
The Ghana armed forces again took over the reins of government on 13th January 1972, and Colonel (later General) Ignatius Kutu Acheampong became the Head of State and Chairman of the National Redemption Council (NRC). The name of the NRC was later changed to the Supreme Military Council (SMC). General Acheampong was replaced by General F.W.K. Akuffo in a palace coup in July 1978. The SMC was overthrown on 4th June 1979, in a mass revolt of junior officers and men of the Ghana armed forces. Following the uprising, an Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was set up under the chairmanship of Flt.Lt. Jerry John Rawlings. The AFRC carried out a house-cleaning exercise in the armed forces and society at large, while restoring a sense of moral responsibility and the principle of accountability and probity in public life. The AFRC was in office for only three months and, in pursuance of a programme already set in motion before the uprising, allowed general elections to be held. On 24th September 1979, the AFRC handed over power to the civilian administration of Dr. Hilla Limann, leader of the People's National Party which had won the elections. The Limann administration was overthrown on 31st December 1981 in another coup by Mr (Flt.Lt) Rawlings who had left the military after the handover to the PNP. Mr. Rawlings became the Chairman of a nine-member Provisional National Defence Ruling Council, (PNDC) with Secretaries of State in charge of the various ministries being responsible to the PNDC.
The National Commission for Democracy (NCD) was set up and charged with formulating a programme for the more effective realisation of true democracy. The Government also provided for the establishment of elected District Assemblies to bring local government to the grassroots.
In 1990, the NCD, organised forums in all the 10 regions of the country at which Ghanaians of all walks of life advanced their views as to what form of government they wanted. These views were collated and analysed by the NCD whose final report indicated that the people wanted a multi-party system of government. This led to the appointment of a Committee of Experts to draw up constitutional proposals for the consideration of a Consultative Assembly. The Assembly prepared a draft constitution based on proposals submitted to it by the PNDC, as well as the previous constitutions of 1957,1969 and 1979, and the report of the Committee of Experts. The final draft constitution was unanimously approved by the people in a referendum on April 28,1992. Among other things, the Constitution provides for an Executive President elected by universal adult suffrage for a term of four years and eligible for re-election for only one additional term. In the presidential elections held on November 3, 1992, Mr. Rawlings who stood on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), garnered 58.8% of the 3,989,020 votes cast to beat to second place his closest rival Prof. Albert Adu Boahen representing the New Patriotic Party who polled 30.4% of the votes. Other contestants for the presidency were former president Dr. Hilla limann of the People's National Convention (6.7%), Mr. Kwabena Darko of the National Independence Party (2.8%) and Lt-Gen. Emmanuel Erskine representing the People's Heritage Party (1.7%). In the parliamentary elections held on December 29,1992, the Progressive Alliance made up of the National Democratic Congress, the National Convention Party and the Egle Party won 198 seats out of a total of 200, within the Alliance the NDC won 189 seats, the NCP had 8, the Egle Party 2, and Independents 2. Four parties - the NPP, PNC, NIP and PHP - boycotted the parliamentary elections, disatisfied with the proposed election strategy.
The Fourth Republic was inaugurated on January 7,1993 with the swearing-in of Flt. Lt. Rawlings as President and his running mate, Mr.K.N. Arkaah as Vice President. The newly elected Parliament was opened on the same day and elected, with Mr. Justice D.F. Annan as Speaker. Mr. Rawlings served two consecutive terms as president of the republic of Ghana. In the 2000 election, NPP with its Flag bearer, Mr. John Agyekum Kufuor, won a landslide victory over the NDC in the second round of voting. H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor is currently in the fourth year of a four year term of office.