• Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

The 1966 coup: What Nkrumah said about his overthrow

On February 24, 1966, Dr Kwame Nkrumah was booted out of his seat, expelled from his nation, and denied all contact with his family until his death

On that day, Ghana’s first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was overthrown while out of the nation on official business.

In one of his numerous publications, the man who became an outcast till his death revealed his feelings about the incident.

“I left Accra on the 21st of February 1966,” Dr. Nkrumah wrote in the days running up to the coup. Most of the top government and party leaders, as well as service heads, greeted me at the airport.”

“I recall the handshakes and professions of well wishes from Harlley, Deku, Yakubu, and others,” Ghana’s first president stated, expressing disappointment in the men who sent him off. These men, while smiling and ingratiating, had treason and betrayal on their minds at all times.”

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah revealed how the coup leaders, Colonel Emmanuel Kwesi Kotoka and Major Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa, persuaded Ghanaian soldiers to join their cause by alleging that Nkrumah had fled the country with a large sum of money and would not return.

“I informed the troops that I planned to send them to fight in Vietnam and Rhodesia, and that I had departed Ghana, taking £8 million with me.”

According to extracts from Nkrumah’s book, ‘Dark Days in Ghana,’ given by ghanaianmuseum.com, “Under the pretext of protecting the welfare of citizens, these individuals usurped control of the country to maintain law and order.”

The assassination of his loyalists during the coup added to Dr. Nkrumah’s grief.

Read the book’s excerpts below;

“On February 21, 1966, I departed Accra. Most of the top government and Party leaders, as well as service heads, greeted me at the airport.

Harlley, Deku, Yakubu, and others gave me handshakes and expressed their best wishes.

These men, while smiling and ingratiating, had treason and betrayal on their minds at all times.

They had even intended to assassinate me on that day, but the plan was scrapped later.

I recall shaking hands with Major-General Barwah, who was assassinated three days later after refusing to surrender to the rebel army fighters.

I had no idea that I would never see him again, or that Zanerigu, the Commander of the Presidential Guard Regiment, Kojo Botsio, Kofi Baako, and other ministers who were there at the airport would be apprehended and imprisoned by renegade soldiers and policemen.

The operation began early in the morning of Wednesday, February 23, 1966, when the garrison in Kumasi, numbering 600 troops, was ordered to deploy southwards to Accra after a week of so-called “manoeuvres.”

Colonel Emmanuel Kwesi Kotoka, Commander of the Second Infantry Brigade Group, and Major Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa of the Second Brigade met and halted the convoy of 35 cars along the road.

I hadn’t confirmed Kotoka’s appointment as commander of the Kumasi garrison because he had only lately been appointed.

Major Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa of the Second Brigade and Commander Kotoka of the Second Infantry Brigade Group.

I hadn’t confirmed Kotoka’s appointment as commander of the Kumasi garrison because he had only lately been appointed.

While Kotoka proceeded to Accra to report on developments to Commissioner of Police John Willie Kofi Harlley and to find a soldier more known than himself to be the nominal leader of the insurrection, Afrifa was left in charge.

Major-General Ankrah was picked, despite the fact that the conspirators had previously thought so little of his abilities that they had not bothered to contact him?

He was, however, one of the few colonial commanders who had held the rank of major and had served in World War I, albeit as a quartermaster.

He had shown some bravery and, at the very least, routine competence in the Congo, and I had awarded him for his efforts, but he was mainly of mediocre calibre.

After independence, he held the position of second in command in the armed forces due to seniority more than skill.

He would not have been assigned to this position if another senior official had died not long before.

I let him go in 1965. His lack of comprehension of what was going on around him undoubtedly helped those manipulating the ‘coup’ choose him as a figurehead.

The troops were subsequently informed that I planned to deploy them to fight in Vietnam and Rhodesia, and that I had fled Ghana with £8 million in my possession.

They were told there was no longer any government in Ghana, and it was their responsibility to take control of the country and preserve law and order.

Russian planes were already landing on a secret airstrip in northern Ghana, according to reports.

A hidden tunnel from Flagstaff House, the presidential home, to Accra airport had also been built, and Russians had been arriving for days.

The troops were convinced that taking Flagstaff House was the only way to save Ghana and escape being forced to fight in Vietnam.

Kotoka and Afrifa appeared on Ghana TV a few days after the military took power, congratulating themselves on their easy victory.

“And you know, we didn’t discover any Russians at all— not one!” one statement jumped out unmistakably and clearly. We also couldn’t uncover any evidence of that tunnel.” This was followed by outbursts of laughter directed at the soldiers who had bought into their story.

The military operation’s primary goal was to force the surrender of Major-General Barwah, Army Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, who was in charge of the Ghana Army while the Chief of Defence Staff was away. Aferi, General

Brigadier Hasan, Head of Military Intelligence, Colonel Zanerigu, Commander of the Presidential Guard Regiment, and Owusu-Sekyere, former head of the C.I.D. and in charge of the Special Branch, were all scheduled to be arrested at the same time.

This part of the operation went horribly wrong. When confronted, Hasan was apprehended, but Zanerigu escaped through a window of his house and drove to Flagstaff House to tell the Presidential Guard Regiment.

Barwah was not easily intimidated. He was roused from his slumber in the early hours of the 24th by the arrival of Kotoka and approximately 25 men, and he stood firm in his refusal to join the traitors or surrender.

Then, in front of his wife and children, Kotoka shot him dead at point-blank range in cold blood.

On Kotoka’s orders, the seven security officers stationed at Barwah’s house were also killed on the spot.

Kotoka later boasted about killing Barwah, but claimed that since he was protected by a “juju,” he was able to catch and return the bullets fired in his defense by Barwah.

When the counter-coup took place in April 1967, Kotoka’s “magic” failed to save him.

He surrendered to those who had kidnapped him at his headquarters without protest or effort, unlike Barwah.

His “juju” didn’t save him from being shot when it was his turn. Barwah’s assassination was one of the most heinous and heinous acts in Ghana’s history.

The so-called N.L.C.’ gave Barwah and the security personnel a military burial a few days later in an attempt to wash the blood from their hands.

What a farce, and what a sham! However, these heinous, cold-blooded murders were merely the first of many that took place on February 24th and ensuing days.

They established the tone for the entire operation, which was marked by cowardice, bloodshed, and criminal idiocy throughout.

On Harlley’s orders, the Accra police had collected up most of the ministers and other major political people by 6 a.m. on the 24th, and violence had erupted at Flagstaff House between members of the Presidential Guard Regiment and rebel army troops.

When the alarm was raised, around thirty members of the Guard Regiment were present in Flagstaff House.

Others quickly joined them, sneaking in through a rear door to reinforce their colleagues.

Despite being outmanned, they held off a rebel unit trying to take the Ghana radio station, which was only a short distance from Flagstaff House.

Only eight of the 124 people assigned to this mission were able to complete it.

They took the radio station without difficulty, and at 6 a.m., Kotoka arrived to announce that the army and police had taken control of Ghana’s government.

The announcement was made too soon. At 7 a.m., resistance was mounting at Flagstaff House, as the defenders, numbering less than a hundred, fought back vehemently against 600 rebel troops.

By this point, a battalion from Accra, led by Ocran, had joined them, unsure of what was going on.

As a result, the rebels gained control of the airport, cable office, radio station, and all of Accra’s approach routes.

The 2nd Battalion was ordered to go into action at Flagstaff House after Kotoka established a joint headquarters with the police at Police Headquarters.

The Guard Regiment battled on, despite their terrible situation.

The defenders had retired behind the second gate, with the exterior walls of Flagstaff House open. Despite this, they refused to give up.

They ultimately caved up after the rebels threatened to blow up the family dwelling at Flagstaff House, where my wife and three young children were hiding.

The ferocious battle at Flagstaff House at the time contrasted sharply with Kotoka’s bodyguard’s failure to secure his headquarters during the April 1967 counter-coup.

Flagstaff House had become a stronghold from which he commanded the army.

However, when it was attacked by a tiny detachment of 25 men, the garrison surrendered promptly, as did the garrison of the Broadcasting Station, which was also only attacked by a force of similar size.

The castle at Osu, from whence the “N.L.C.” administered their administration, was once again captured by a tiny party of soldiers, this time numbering no more than 50.

Ankrah the Chairman of the “N.L.C.” was the first of the “N.L.C.defenders “‘s to flee, leaping over the Castle wall, falling into the sea, and wading down the beach.”

Dr Kwame Nkrumah was deposed in a coup led by Kotoka in 1966

Excerpt from “Dark Days in Ghana”, originally published by Zed Books in 1968.

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