Author:George Kurian

Page 431

Official country name: Republic of Ghana

Capital: Accra

Geographic description: West African country on the Gulf of Guinea.

Population: 21,029,853 (est. 2005)


The origins of the police forces of the Gold Coast (as Ghana was known in colonial times) lie in efforts by a committee of merchants to protect trading depots and routes. In 1830 colonial merchants hired a number of men as guards and escorts. Following the signing of a treaty between the British and the local chiefs the Gold Coast Militia and Police (GCMP) was established in 1844. It numbered about 120 men. The force was disbanded in 1860 and superseded by a corps of about ninety men, known as the Queen's Messengers. The paramilitary duties of GCMP were assumed by the regular military units. During the Ashanti Wars, the Queen's Messengers were combined with the Hausa Constabulary, who were imported from Lagos, into the Gold Coast Armed Police Force. At the end of the wars, in 1876, the British converted this armed force into the Gold Coast Constabulary, which existed until 1901. In that year the constabulary was split into two. The paramilitary functions were transferred to the Gold Coast regiment and the police functions were vested in the Gold Coast Police Force. The British established a protectorate over northern territories in 1901 for which a Northern Territories Constabulary was created in 1907. The constabulary was absorbed into the Gold Coast Police Force shortly after World War I; it was a unified force that existed basically unchanged until Ghana gained independence in March 1957.

During the 1950s the British instituted various reforms in the police administration to modernize, enlarge, centralize, control, and better equip the force. The main effort, though, focused on the Africanization of the force. Ghanaians had been superior police officers during the early colonial period, yet, around 1900 and 1910, the British began to restrict their access to higher positions in all branches of the administration. This racebased discrimination against qualified Ghanaians was one the main thrusts of the nationalist agitation. In 1951, 64 out of 80 superior police officers were expatriates; by 1958 only 11 expatriates remained out of 128 superior officers. In 1958 President Kwame Nkrumah appointed the first Ghanaian commissioner of police, E. R. T. Madjitey. By the early 1960s the only

Page 432

expatriates still with the force were a few technical advisers and instructors. In other ways, the force was modernized and transformed. A woman's branch was formed in 1952, a police reserve was established in 1956, and Ghana joined Interpol in 1958.

The regime of President Nkrumah was a turbulent period for the Ghana Police Force. There was mutual dislike between the president and the police top brass. This distrust deepened after an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the president's life by a police constable. The police force was disarmed; the commissioner and nine senior police officers were sacked; eight others were detained; the Border Guards unit was detached from the Police Force and placed under the military; and the size of the force was reduced from 13,247 in 1964 to 10,709 in 1965.

The plot to overthrow Nkrumah was first hatched by two senior police officials, who managed to recruit a number of coconspirators in the police and army. When the coup was successful and Nkrumah was overthrown in February 1966, the police rounded up Nkrumah's party leaders and placed them in protective custody. Police involvement in a coup against a duly elected civilian administration was a first for Africa, and it has not been repeated since in any African country except for the 1981 coup in the Gambia, which had no military. Various police officers were named as regional and district administrators by the immediate post-Nkrumah administration and they were more readily accepted by the public than their military counterparts. The size of the police force rose to 17,692 in 1966, to 19,895 in 1968. The Border Guards unit was restored to police control, though it was once again taken away and made an autonomous unit in 1972.

Resources and equipment of the police were increased. A 1968 study mission, under the auspices of the Office of Public Safety of the U.S. Agency for International Development, found the communications, transport, and forensic resources of the police force in bad shape. It found that higher police officials were devoting more time to their administrative duties than to crime fighting and law enforcement. On the basis of the report, the U.S. government provided transport and communications supplies and training for...

To continue reading