May 18, 1888, First fathers of Society of African Missions (SMA) arrive in Elmina

From the island of St. Helena, where they had been waiting, Fr. Planque sent Frs. Eugene Murat and Auguste Moreau as the firs SMA missionaries to the Gold Coast. They arrived at El-Mina on May 18 1880; and to meet them was Mr. Brun, who also helped them settle. Mr. Bonnat was their interpreter during their visits to the chiefs, elders, councilors, sub-chiefs and the people. To their surprise, they found in the home of some old worn statues.

Alongside traces of devotion to St. Anthony, they also discovered that on certain Fridays, a group that called itself “sancta mariafo” would march through town and conclude with some rituals of theirs. There were also a practice, which seemed to imitate the sacrament of Baptism; for seven days after birth, the child would be presented with a crucifix and candle, and sprinkled thrice with water. Indeed, even some called themselves “Catholic” and considered it passed on by their ancestors. These were the smoldering vestiges of the Catholics faith from the Portuguese days, which the new SMA mission on the “Mina” coast hoped to rekindle into a flame for all of Gold Coast.

Barely two month after their arrival in El-Mina, on 6 th August 1880, Fr. Murat died; and his burial was the first public liturgy that his companion, Fr. Moreau, celebrated on the Gold Coast. But, out of the death of Fr. Murat, a new life was born! On Christmas day 1880, a year-old mulatto child was baptized into the church by a visiting colleague, Fr. Boutry. It was the son of the British Acting Administrator at Cape Coast, CS. Salmon, and Esi Rhule. Fr. Moreau was his Godparent. “In baptism the child received the name of the patron of El-Mina's first Catholic church, built in 1482, and the name of the godfather. The child was called George August Salmon”.
Fr. Moreau was joined by Fr. Michon, and they rented a house for a mission house and a school. Mass was celebrated on the verandah and Fr. Moreau prepared a Fante Catechism for religious instruction.

In 1881, at Christmas, five pupils of the school were baptized. These and others who followed to receive baptism became the first catechists (lay apostles) , taking the faith beyond El-Mina and forming communities in preparation for the establishment of missions. One of these was Francis William Haizel Cobbinah, who was active in the evangelization of Cape Coast.

Soon, some adults (parents of the pupils) followed their children to embrace the new faith. Interest in the school grew and the number of children seeking education increased. Fr. Moreau, however, believed that lasting results for their mission required that girls were also trained and instructed in the faith. “Religion, in order to put down solid roots must be practiced at home and prayers learnt at the mother's knee”. Accordingly, he arranged for the assistance of the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles (OLA), to educate the girls.

On 26 th December 1883, the first two sisters arrived at El-Mina. They were accommodated at the “Bridge House”, which also served as school for girls. On 31 st March 1884, the girls' school opened with 26 pupils.

Further reading: 

Asante Catholicism: Religious and Cultural Reproduction Among the Akan of Ghana

By J. Pashington Obeng

May 17, 1894: Kobena Gyan, King of Elmina returns from exile in Sierra Leone after 21 years

On March 12, 1873, at dawn, the whole Elmina government was summoned to the Palaver Hall of the castle. Only five chiefs accompanied Kobena Gyan. They were all asked to take an oath of allegiance to the English. Three acquiesced; but Kobena Gyan and two others, Tando Mensa and Kwamina Ekum, resolutely refused. Hendrik Vroom, an Elmina mulatto now in the British service, reported the king’s statement as follows:


“The castle belonged to the Dutch government, before, and the people of Elmina were freemen; they are no slaves to compel them to do anything. When Governor Pope Hennessy came to take this castle he did not consult me before the English flag was hoisted; if he had considered me as the king he would have done so. On account of the hoisting of the English flag of the castle of Elmina the people have brought me great trouble. They have disgraced me. They themselves told me not to accept the flag. I also refused to accept the flag. Some of the people then changed their minds, and, as I would not do so, went to Gov. Ferguson and begged for ammunition to fight against me. Gov. Ferguson gave the ammunition. Gov. Ferguson then sent his colonial secretary and three other officers with a paper for me to sign. The governor offered me as a bribe a large sum of money to let that transfer go on smoothly end peaceably. I refused the bribe because had I taken it, chiefs would have turned round on me afterwards and said I sold the country for money”


The king was then asked to take the oath of allegiance and sign a paper before him; he got very vexed and excited, struck the table with his fist and said, “I am not afraid of your power. You may hang me if you like. I will not sign any paper. I and some of the people of Elmina have taken fetish oath to oppose the English government from coming to Elmina and we have not broken that oath yet.” With that show of defiance, Kobena Gyan’s fate was sealed. Along with the other two dissident chiefs, he was arrested, bundled onto the awaiting Seagull, and transported to Cape Coast where he was locked in debtors’ jail. They were sent into exile in Sierra Leone without any charges or a trial. He arrived there on April 30, 1873, a dispirited, broken, and disappointed man. He was deeply worried about his relatives, wives, and children. He remained true to his conviction that Elmina was not to be taken and swapped between European powers at will. In 1877, four years after his deportation, his people, missing their king, petitioned the British for his return. This was granted with the proviso that he return to Elmina as a private citizen. He reasoned that he was exiled as king and rejected the terms. He thus prolonged his exile, returning to Elmina on May 17, 1894, to dieonly 2 years later. His exile lasted twenty-one years.


Additional reading:

T. P. Manus Ulzen, Java Hill: An African Journey 2013 Xlibris

May 15, 1979: Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings arrested after failed military uprising


Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings staged his first military coup as a young revolutionary on 15 May 1979, five weeks before scheduled elections to return the country to civilian rule. When it failed, he was imprisoned, publicly court-martialed and sentenced to death. He was part of an underground movement of military officers who planned unify Africa through a series of coups. They were known as the Free Africa Movement (FAM). After reading a statement in court explaining the social injustices prompting the attempted coup, Rawlings gained the sympathy of the civilian population. 


According to his colleague Lt. Boakye Djan, on 10th May, 1979, Rawlings had informed him about the coup. On the eve of the coup, he was sleeping in his room at 5th Battalion Barracks in Accra when Rawlings came in and said “let’s go for a drink”.  After a few drinks, according to the interview, Rawlings engaged him in a conversation that revealed his (Rawlings) intention to him. The rest of the story is recounted in Djan’s own words…


“Early on Monday morning, May 15, 1979, I was told that Rawlings had led his men and drove straight to the Fifth Battalion to commit me to his cause; in other words, to force my hand. But when he was told that I wasn’t there, he threw his G3 rifle to the ground in frustration. It was a new rifle bought from Spain, a very sensitive rifle. When it hit the ground, it started firing, and people started running helter-skelter. Rawlings had earlier seized a small Recce Ferret, an armored car. When he became desperate, the driver of the Ferret realized that something was wrong and drove the armored car straight into a gutter. Apparently Rawlings had not briefed the driver about the operation. He seized the Ferret at gunpoint and did not bother to brief the driver on what was going on. That was what he wanted to do to me. I was the best man at his wedding, and if he had met me at my post in the morning, I would have been compromised. After the Rawlings fiasco, troops from the Fifth Battalion were mobilized to go after him. He had gone to pitch camp at the Air Force Station. He was sitting down there like a lame duck. He was now cannon fodder as I had forecast. I warned him but he wouldn’t listen. . .

At the time, the Delta-Company of which I (Djan) was the commander, was the point company at the Fifth Battalion. 


So if I had been present when Rawlings’ coup fizzled out, my company would have been the one mobilized to arrest him. And you could well imagine the dilemma this would have caused me.”


Fortunately for Djan, he was not there. So a detachment of troops from the Fifth Battalion and the Recce Regiment led by Major Seidu Mahama was mobilized to arrest Rawlings. It was said that Major Mahama seized Rawlings’ pistol, hit him on the head with it, and told him: You don’t stage coups with a pistol.  - Rawlings court-martial 1979

Adapted from New African Magazine 2003

May 13, 1871: Smallpox epidemic breaks out in Cape Coast and surrounding territories

The first major smallpox epidemic broke out in Cape Coast and the interior. The Europeans had some immunity to this as it was endemic in Europe so adult survivors of childhood disease were often immune. The Asante Army which defeated the British and their coastal allies at Jukwa, 17 miles from Cape Coast, in 1873 under famed general Amankwa Tia, were eventually defeated by smallpox, which took a heavier toll on the non-immune Asante troops, causing their hasty withdrawal and turning the tide of history. Smallpox became a serious military liability to the Asante army often anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 men in close quarters.

Further reading:

Philip D. Curtin, 1998 - Disease and Empire: The Health of European Troops in the conquest of Africa

May 12, 1931: Prempeh I (Kwaku Dua Asamu III) dies in Kumasi

Asantehene (King) Prempeh I's original throne name was Prince Kwaku Dua III Asamu of the Kingdom of Ashanti. Prempeh I's mother, Asantehemaa (Queenmother) Yaa Akyaa, was queen mother of the Kingdom of Ashanti from 1880 to 1917. Through strategic political marriages she built the military power to secure the Golden Stool for her son Prince Prempeh.

In 1888 Prince Prempeh ascended to throne, enthroned 16-year-old King Asantehene Prempeh I of the Kingdom of Ashanti, as king of the Kingdom of Ashanti King Asantehene Prempeh I assumed the throne name Kwaku Dua III as King Asantehene Prempeh I's kingship was beset by difficulties from the very onset of his reign. King Asantehene Prempeh I of the Kingdom of Ashanti began the defending of Asante from Britain and when Prempeh I was asked by Britain to accept a protectorate over his state Kingdom of Ashanti, King Asantehene Prempeh I rejected it and stated in his reply that Britain had miscalculated.[3]

King Asantehene Prempeh I began an active campaign of the Asante sovereignty. The British offered to take the Kingdom of Ashanti under their protection, but King Asantehene Prempeh I of the Kingdom of Ashanti refused each request.

In December 1895, the British left Cape Coast with an expeditionary force. It arrived in Kumasi in January 1896 under the command of Robert Baden-Powell. The Asantehene directed the Ashanti to not resist, as he feared a genocide. Shortly thereafter, Governor William Maxwell arrived in Kumasi as well.

Britain annexed the territories of the Ashanti and the Fanti. Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh was deposed and arrested, and he and other Ashanti leaders were sent into exile in the Seychelles, via Elmina and Freetown, Sierra Leone, where Prince Kofi Nti, son of Kofi Karikari was sent from Trinidad to act as his secretary. The Asante Union was dissolved. The British formally declared the state of the Ashanti Kingdom and the coastal regions to be the Gold Coastcolony. A British Resident was permanently placed in the city of Kumasi, and soon after a British fort was built there.


Further reading:

April Ghana History Moments In Review

May 9, 1863: Asante defeat the British at the Battle of Bobikuma

After the British government resumed responsibility for the administration of the coastal forts in 1843, relations with the Asante gradually deteriorated. In addition to assaults on Asante traders, the asantehen Kwaku Dua I believed that the British and their Fante allies no longer treated him with respect. When British Governor Richard Pine refused to return an Asante chief Kwaku Gyanin who had flouted Asante law by failing to surrender a gold nugget above a specified size to the king, fled south of the Pra with a few followers and a runaway slave. The asantehen, prepared for war. In April 1863 they invaded the coast and burned thirty villages. Pine responded by deploying six companies along the Pra River, the border between states allied with the British and the Asante. The deployed force built a network of stockades and a bridge, but it returned home without engaging the enemy after an early retreat which was utilized by the Asante General Owusu Koko who routed the British led forces at Bobikuma. He inexplicably retired to Akim Swedru. It is thought he did so because of the impending rains and the possibility of disease overwhelming his army. Had he proceeded to the coast, history would have taken a different twist.

May 9, 1967: Coup plotters Lts. Arthur and Yeboah executed at Teshie Range

The government suppressed a military rebellion led by Lt. Samuel Arthur and Lt. Moses Yeboah in Accra on April 17, 1967, resulting in the deaths of two government soldiers, Lt. General Kotoka, a member of the ruling Military Junta, the National Liberation Council (NLC) and Capt. Avevor, the Quartermaster at the armoury of the first Recce Regiment.

Lt. Arthur and Lt. Yeboah were sentenced to death on May 5, 1967, and the officers were executed on May 9, 1967. The abortive coup was known as “Operation Guitar Boy” because on seizing Broadcasting House, they played the popular hit song “Guitar Boy” by Nigerian music icon, Sir Victor Uwaifo.

Do you know why Arthur’s coup failed?  After taking over Broadcasting House, he went to his girlfriend’s house, in an armored reconnaissance car called a Ferret. He went to find out whether she’d recognized his voice when he’d made his coup announcement! By the time he got to Burma Camp, officers had gathered in the mess discussing what was happening. One of them told him that they had assembled to hear his instructions. He wanted to go in armed, but was politely reminded that one didn’t go to the mess armed. Instead of saying that mess rules were suspended for the time being, he meekly put his sub-machine gun somewhere and entered the mess. He was promptly put under arrest and put in a guardroom. Meanwhile, the other officers in Accra disarmed his men and put them in the cooler. Later, Arthur was court-martialed and executed, together with his co-conspirator, Lieutenant Moses Yeboah.

Adapted from CONVERSATIONS WITH MY STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS- “Remembering Generals Ankrah and Mobutu Seseseko” by Cameron Duodu (2018).

May 4, 1894: George Ekem Ferguson signs the first Treaty of Friendship between the British and the Wala

On May 4, 1894 George Ekem Ferguson signed a treaty of friendship and trade with Wa Na Saidu Takora and the country of Dagarti otherwise known as Dagaba, was there by regarded as within the British sphere of influence. A year later or most of the day, the same Wa Na signed a treaty of protection with Lieutenant Baud representing the French government. The British reasserted and strengthened their claims to the “Country of Dagarti” By a treaty of friendship and protection on January 9, 1897. The principals were Lieutenant F.B. Henderson and Na Saidu. On 12 June 1897, however Na Saidu entered into yet another treaty with Captain Hugot, representing French interests. After a flurry of diplomatic activity and military posturing such us to make an armed engagement between French and British troops seem inevitable of the end of 1897, the French finally abandoned their claims to Wa. These territories became part of an ill defined British military command known as the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast. These territories were formally constituted a protectorate by an Order of Council on September 26, 1901, which placed them under the jurisdiction of the government of the Gold Coast Colony. The Wala had lost their independence.

May 1, 1961: Nkrumah and the "New Guard" take complete control of the CPP

In May 1961 Adamafio replaced Gbedemah as Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. That September, charges of dereliction of duty and corruption were brought against several of the old guard, including Komla Gbedemah, Kojo Botsio, Krobo Edusei and A. E. Inkumsah. On May 1, Nkrumah aligned with the Adamafio wing took full control of the Convention Peoples Party (CPP), assuming the offices of General-Secretary, Life Chairman and Chairman of the Central Committee. This marked the beginning of the implementation of the socialist agenda of rapid industrialization but this attempt to purge the party of corruption and pusrue Nkrumah’sdevelopment goals came at a great political cost.

Further reading: Coups, Rivals and the Modern State - Beth Rabinowitz.

April 30, 1978: Supreme Military Council empanels Unigov Constitutional Drafting Committee

The ad hoc process to draft a new constitution formally began in May 1978, when the Supreme Military Council (SMC) appointed a 23-member Constitutional Commission to produce an initial draft that endorsed a union government. The push to promote a union government fell by the wayside shortly after its main proponent and SMC leader, General Acheampong, was ousted in a palace coup in July 5, 1978. Following the coup, the new leadership reconstituted the Constitutional Committee with 58 members (though only 52 participated in the subsequent deliberations). Two groups, the Bar Association and the Association of University Teachers, were offered places on the Constitutional Committee but refused to participate. The committee allowed limited public comment during its deliberations. In November 1978, the committee submitted its completed proposal to the SMC.

April 30, 1951: Roy Ankrah wins the British Empire Featherweight Crown

Roy "The Black Flash" Ankrah (25 December 1925 – 28 May 1995) was a Ghanaian professional feather/super feather/lightweight boxer of the 1940s, '50s and '60s who won the Gold Coast flyweight title, Gold Coast bantamweight title, Gold Coast featherweight title, Gold Coast lightweight title, Gold Coast welterweight title, and British Empire super featherweight title on April 30, 1951 by defeating Ronnie Clayton at Empress Hall, Earl’s Court London. His professional fighting weight varied from 121 1⁄2 lb (55.1 kg; 8 st 9.5 lb), i.e. featherweight to 128 3⁄4 lb (58.4 kg; 9 st 2.8 lb), i.e. lightweight. Ankrah turned professional in the Gold Coast in 1941 with an official professional record of 34 wins and 7 defeats. He then made his début in Great Britain in 1950 on the recommendation of Freddie Mills, he recorded 10 further wins before losing to Jimmy Murray on a foul. He later worked with Ghana's boxing squads for the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games.

April 29, 1960: Nkrumah defeats Danquah in first republican election and referendum

Presidential elections were held for the first time in Ghana on 27 April 1960. The elections were held alongside a referendum on creating an executive presidency. The winner of the election would become the country's first President if the new republican constitution was passed (which it did). The results of the Plebiscite were Nkrumah 1,016,076 against J B Danquah 124,623. The results were ratified on April 29, 1960.

After winning the election, and the passing of the new constitution in the simultaneous referendum, Nkrumah was inaugurated on 1 July 1960, replacing Governor-General William Hare as head of state. Danquah was imprisoned the following year under the Preventive Detention Act, but only held for a year. On his release, he was elected President of the Ghana Bar Association. He was imprisoned again in 1964 and died in jail.

Four years later, another referendum strengthened Nkrumah's powers and turned the country into a one-party state (with an official result of 99.91% in support).

April 29, 1958: Ghana - Guinea Union formed

The Union of African States (FrenchUnion des Etats africains), sometimes called the Ghana-Guinea-Mali Union, was a short-lived and loose regional organization formed 1958 linking the West African nations of Ghana and Guinea as the Union of Independent African StatesMali joined in 1960. It disbanded in 1963.

The union planned to develop a common currency and unified foreign policy amongst members; however, none of these proposals were implemented by the countries. The union was the first organization in Africa to bring together former colonies of the British and the French. Although the union was open to all independent states in Africa, no other states joined. The union had a limited impact on politics as there was never any administration or permanent meetings to support the goals of unity. Its legacy was largely limited to longstanding political relationships between Kwame Nkrumah (President and Prime Minister of Ghana 1957–1966), Ahmed Sékou Touré (President of Guinea 1958–1984), and Modibo Keïta (President of Mali 1960–1968). The union again came into the news when Nkrumah was named as the co-president of Guinea after he was deposed as President of Ghana by a military coup in 1966.

Further reading: Peter Guignan: PanAfricanism: A bibliographical essay, I, no.1 Summer 1965 PP 105-107.

April 28, 1961: Ghanaian Peacekeepers killed at Port Francqui, Kasai, Congo

One the most troubling UN Peacekeeping Operations for the Ghana Army was the UN Mission in the Congo. Inadequate information on deteriorating political conditions exposed UN troops to extreme hazards. A bloody example is the Port Francqui incident of 28 April 1961. The incident was precipitated by the visit of the Congolese Interior Minister to Port Francqui, in northwestern Kasai province. During a public speech the minister accused the local Congolese National Army (ANC) of being the cause of trouble rather than a deterrent, and denounced them for being anti-Lulua. He also threatened that the UN would disarm them if their attitudes did not change. The minister was under UN escort. The ANC troops were offended by these comments, and believed that the UN shared the same partiality toward the Luluas in the tribal conflict in northern Kasai as the Interior minister. The next evening, ANC forces under the command of Col. Mobutu attacked UN troops stationed at Port Francqui. The ninety-man Ghanaian garrison was clearly unprepared for the attack. Dispersed in six different places in the town, the UN troops were quickly overpowered. According to UN records, 47 UN personnel were killed.

The official report of the incident concluded that the direct cause of the incident was the speech and attitude of the Interior Minister. What is striking about this is that the minister's UN escorts did not make the connection between the minister's threat and the potential for a violent reaction against the UN; nor did they report information on the minister's visit to intelligence-trained officers who could have made the connection and alerted command of the possible threat. As the report suggests, the principal weakness of ONUC that was evident in the Port Francqui incident was that there was 'no system of alert to warn troops against any aggressive action by ANC' in sum, poor procedures leading to no intelligence.



April 27, 1972: Kwame Nkrumah dies in Bucharest, Romania

In distant Bucharest (Romania), April 27, 1972, far from his green and lovely native land and from his own people, Kwame Nkrumah died of an unspecified but apparently incurable illness. His was a lonely death, without ceremony and without drama for a man who had been surrounded by both throughout his political career as President of Ghana and one of Africa’s most famous men. A man with a price on his head, he was unable to return to the country he had led to independence in 1957 and which he had ruled for nearly 13 years. The former Ghanaian leader, who had virtually disappeared from the active political scene since his overthrow by a military coup d’état in February 1966, had since that time been living quietly in the Guinean capital of Conakry……

Press reports shortly after Nkrumah’s death announced that Toure had attached four conditions to the return of the ex-President’s body to Ghana:

1.      Nkrumah’s complete rehabilitation in the eyes of the Ghanaian people (lifting all charges that had been pending against him)

2.     Liberation of all of Nkrumah’s partisans still held in Ghanaian jails

3.     Removal of the threat of arrest which hung over all of Nkrumah’s followers who had chosen to remain with him in exile

4.     An official welcome by the Ghanaian government of Nkrumah’s remains, with all the honors due a deceased chief of state.


Victor D. Du Bois
The Death of Kwame Nkrumah
American Universities Field Staff Reports. West Africa Series, Vol. XIV No.5 (Ghana), June 1972, pp. 1-11

April 18, 1956: Sir Arku Korsah becomes first African Chief Justice of the Gold Coast


Sir Kobina Arku Korsah (3 April 1894, Saltpond – 25 January 1967)[1] became the first African Chief Justice of Ghana (then the Gold Coast) on April 18, 1956.

He was born in Saltpond, Korsah and educated at Mfantsipim SchoolFourah Bay College (BA degree in 1915) Durham University and London University (LLB in 1919).

In 1942, Nana Sir Ofori Atta and Sir Arku Korsah were the first two Ghanaians to be appointed to the Legislative Councilby the then Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Alan Burns. Korsah was one of the 20 founding members of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959. After the Kulungugu attack on President Kwame Nkrumah in August 1962, Sir Arku Korsah presided over the trial of five defendants. At the end of that trial, three of the accused were found not guilty and this displeased the Nkrumah government. Nkrumah sacked Sir Arku as Chief Justice in December 1963.