May 25, 1963: Ghana becomes a charter member of the Organization of African Unity(OAU)

Soon after achieving independence, a number of African states expressed a growing desire for more unity within the continent. Not everyone was agreed on how this unity could be achieved, however, and two opinionated groups emerged in this respect: 

The Casablanca bloc, led by Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, wanted a federation of all African countries. Aside from Ghana, it comprised also AlgeriaGuineaMoroccoEgyptMali and Libya. Founded in 1961, its members were described as "progressive states".

The Monrovian bloc, led by Senghor of Senegal, felt that unity should be achieved gradually, through economic cooperation. It did not support the notion of a political federation. Its other members were NigeriaLiberiaEthiopia and most of the former French colonies.

Some of the initial discussions took place at SanniquellieLiberia. The dispute was eventually resolved when Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I invited the two groups to Addis Ababa, where the OAU and its headquarters were subsequently established. The Charter of the Organisation was signed by 32 independent African states.

The Organisation of African Unity (OAUFrenchOrganisation de l'unité africaine (OUA)) was established on 25 May 1963 in Addis AbabaEthiopia with 32 signatory governments. It was disbanded on 9 July 2002 by its last chairpersonSouth African President Thabo Mbeki, and replaced by the African Union (AU).

May 24, 1898: The Aborigines Rights Protection Society delegation leaves for London to protest Lands Bill.

The Gold Coast Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society (ARPS) was formed in 1897 in the port city of Cape Coast, a hub of intellectual and political activism in colonial Ghana. The ARPS remained the voice of colonized Africans until its demise in the 1930s. The idea of forming the society had been incubated as early as 1895, but was shelved until May 17, 1897, when a meeting organized by the African intelligentsia in Cape Coast to protest the proposed Lands Bill of 1894 to 1897 culminated in the formation of the society. Thus, the main catalyst for the formation of the ARPS was the African intelligentsia’s protest against the Lands Bill. Had the Lands Bill been passed, it would have allowed the colonial government to take over so-called waste or public lands.

The Gold Coast ARPS then sent a delegation to London in order to advocate for the dismissal of the Lands Bill of 1897 in front of Joseph Chamberlain, the Secretary of State of Britain at the time. A notable aspect of the delegation is that it included not only members of the Gold Coast elite, but also "prominent merchants". It was through their meeting with Joseph Chamberlain that the Gold Coast ARPS was able to get support for the denunciation of the Lands Bill of 1897 and the assurance that "native law would remain and prevail with regard to devolution of land". The Gold Coast ARPS eventually fell out of fashion in exchange for newer nationalist movements, such as the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA) in 1920.

Jacob Wilson Sey, reputed to be the Gold Coast's first millionaire and President of the APRS, led the delegation.

May 24, 1887: Overland Telegraph arrives at the Gold Coast

The Eastern Telegraph Company set up the African Direct Telegraph Company in 1885 to provide a link between England and her West African Colonies.

One cable ran from Bathurst, Gambia to St Vincent, Cape Verde Islands to connect into the Western Telegraph Company cables to Carcavelos, Portugal and from there to England via the Eastern network. This cable was manufactured and laid by the India Rubber, Gutta Percha and Telegraph Works Company using CS’s Dacia and Buccaneer.

The Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company manufactured and laid the other cable using CS’s Scotia and Britannia (2). The cable ran from Bathurst, Gambia - Freetown, Sierra Leone - Accra, Gold Coast - Lagos - Brass - Bonny, all in Nigeria. CS Britannia extended this cable in 1893 from Bonny to Calabar and Duala in the German Cameroons.

Overland Telegraph arrived in the Gold Coast on May 24, 1887.

May 22, 1847: George McLean, First President of Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast Dies

Captain George Maclean 1830-1847: Regarded as the seminal builder of the Gold Coast Colony which preceded modern Ghana, Captain George Maclean was born on 24th February 1801 and was an officer in the Royal African Company Corps. George is reported to have accompanied Colonel Lumley to the Gold Coast as military secretary.

Shortly after the Battle of Dodowa in 1826, the British government decided to withdraw from the Gold Coast, without seeming to retreat as they had determined before then that earlier Ashanti invasions to the coast made the forts too costly to maintain. However, British merchants on the coast were determined to stay. George Mclean was hired by the Committee of Merchants as President, not Governor as he did not represent the British Crown (though he presented himself as Governor of His Britannic Majesty's Settlements on the Gold Coast and received a rebuke from the Colonial Office for this).

From the British point of view, the period between 1830 and 1848 was the most shining part of his career in the Gold Coast as he was able to extend the limits of British influence. This was the time when Britain had soured on the colony. He was able to negotiate a deal with the Ashantis on 27th April 1831. He tackled with remarkable success the prevalent problems of slavery, panyarring and appointed a judicial assessor in 1843. Commander Hill succeeded him after his death on 22 May 1847.

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).