Geography History Map

Ghana is situated in West Africa and is a rectangular-shaped country bounded to the north by Burkina Faso, the east by Togo, the south by the Atlantic Ocean and the west by Côte d'Ivoire. A narrow grassy plain stretches inland from the coast, widening in the east, while the south and west are covered by dense rainforest. To the north are forested hills beyond which is dry savannah and open woodland. In the far north is a plateau averaging 500m (1600ft) in height. In the east, the Akuapim Togo hills run inland from the coast along the Togo border.

The Black and White Volta rivers enter Ghana from Burkina Faso, merging into the largest man-made lake in the world, Lake Volta. Ghana's coastline is dotted with sandy palm-fringed beaches and lagoons.

Ghana, until independence from British colonial rule on March 6, 1957, was known as the Gold Coast. The country is named after one of the ancient Sudanese Empires, which flourished between the 4th and 10th centuries. Three years after independence (1960), Ghana became a Republic with Dr Kwame N'Krumah, leader of the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) as the first President. Under Dr Nkrumah, Ghana made rapid and remarkable progress in education, industrial and infrastructural development and in the provision of social services. At the same time, the country played a leading role in international affairs, particularly in the struggle for the liberation of dependent countries in Africa, and African unity. The country played an active role in a number of international organisations including the United Nations and its specialised agencies : the Commonwealth, the Organisation of African Unity and the Non-Aligned Movement.

However, on February 24, 1966, the Ghana armed Forces, in cooperation with the Police Service, overthrew the CPP Government in a coup led by Colonel Emmanuel Kotoka. A pattern of fledgling civilian governments aborted by the intervention of the armed forces has dogged Ghana for much of the time ever since.

The leading figure in Ghanaian politics today is Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings, who first came to prominence as leader of coups in 1979, and again in 1981. Rawlings initially promoted radical economic and social policies but, as Ghana's fiscal problems worsened during the 1980s, the government turned to the IMF (see Trading Brief). After introducing a new constitution, President Rawlings and the ruling party, the National Democratic Congress, submitted themselves to the verdict of the electorate in 1992, and won both the presidency and a huge majority of legislature seats, although most opposition parties boycotted the election claiming widespread irregularities. The Congress' principal rival is the new Patriotic Party, led by Professor Abu Boahen, who came second behind Rawlings in 1992. The next elections are scheduled for 2001.

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