January 7, 1955: Gov. Arden-Clarke imposes Peace Preservation Ordinance on Ashanti

The tumultuous years of 1954 through1957 saw a violent political confrontation between the National Liberation Movement (NLM), which was formed on September 19, 1954, and the Convention People’s Party (CPP) government. The causes that gave rise to this movement were rooted in a complex emergence of material and regional interests in the country. The loss of Asante’s historic hegemony over a country it once ruled, in addition to the fact that a large proportion of the country’s major exports (gold, timber, and cocoa) originated in the Ashanti region fueled Asante grievances. Another factor contributing to the conflict in Ashanti was the twenty seats allocated to the region by the Van Lare Commission. Inflaming the discontent among the CPP in Ashanti was Nkrumah’s May 1954 public expulsion of the 81 rebel CPP candidates at a mass rally in Kumasi at the Subin River Valley. The site of the expulsion was significant, for the Central Committee of the CPP were fully aware that the rebellion had come from the CPP Asante candidates and they, therefore, openly sought to teach them a lesson as well as make an example of them. However, the critical factor that galvanized some elements in Ashanti to launch the “Council for Higher Cocoa Prices” was the CPP’s introduction of the Cocoa Duty and Development Funds (amendment) bill in August 1954. Among the organizers of the council was ex- CPP member E. Y. Baffoe.

The chair of the movement was Nana Bafuour Osei Akoto, who was senior linguist to the Asantehene and a major cocoa producer. Akoto read out the “Aims and Objects of the Liberation Movement” to a crowd of over 40,000 people on the inaugural day. In short, the movement demanded that the price of cocoa be increased from 72 shillings to 150 shillings and a federal constitution be introduced to the Gold Coast. It stated that the people and the movement had no confidence in the government of Nkrumah and the CPP.

Nkrumah considered the economic grievances of the Asantes to be unfounded, for in his opinion, such detractors did not consider the new hospital, library, national bank, and other constructions recently built in Kumasi. Furthermore, “the NLM did not seem to realize that the cocoa, which they felt so possessive about, would be worthless without the labor, which came mainly from the Northern Territories, and without the exportation which was carried out in the South.” For Nkrumah, cocoa was a national economic asset that was not the monopoly of one region or one group of people; its economic wealth belonged to the entire nation. This was an uncompromising conviction he advocated throughout his life. Similarly, his concept of government remained wedded to supreme legislative power remaining at the center and “was not broad enough to encompass the demand, within his own country, for Asante autonomy”.