Kwame Nkrumah was released from prison on the 12th February 1957, where he was serving a three year sentence for civil-disobedience and was asked to form a government by British Governor Charles-Arden-Clarke. Ghana was thus the first African country to gain independence. On 6th March of that year Nkrumah – the noted pan-Africanist - took the helm as Africa’s first independence leader. He stands alongsideNelson Mandela as a symbol of African self-determination.
Ghana entered a period of political and economic turmoil during and after Nkrumah’s presidency, leading to two military coups in 1979 and 1981, both spearheaded by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings. Rawlings sacrificed power promptly after the 1979 coup but being a man driven more by an intense moral code more than a sense of political subtlety, felt compelled to come again in 1981. Rawlings finally held democratic elections in 1992 and was chosen to form a legitimate executive. In 2000 he reached the end of his second term in office but his Vice President, John Atta Mills, lost the election to opposition leader John Kufuor. This was the first transition of democratic power since Ghanaian independence. It has been said that Nkrumah was ‘Democrat turned Dictator’ whilst Rawlings was ‘Dictator turned Democrat.’
The Ghanaian economy is still largely agricultural, the rural sector being responsible for over a third of the national GDP and employing over half of the workforce. Cocoa has long been farmed in Ghana and is one of the country’s most lucrative exports. The country is however rich in natural resources; oil was discovered in Ghana in 2007 and drilling continues. Ghana was ranked the second most stable African state, after Mauritius in 2009 and has a strong political tradition of regional co-operation. It received the honour of being the first African country visited by newly installed American President Barack Obama in 2009 – a privilege thought to be connected to its recent election, deemed both free and fair by international observers.
Ghana’s most iconic contemporary figure is Koffi Anan, former Secretary General of the United Nations.