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Ghana The 1979 Coup and the First Rawlings Government
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Ghana's third military coup was planned by a small group of disgruntled officers. On May 15, 1979, less than five weeks before the national elections, Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings and several members of the air force (junior officers and corporals) unsuccessfully tried to overthrow the government. During the court martial of the coup's seven plotters, Rawlings justified his action by claiming that official corruption had eroded public confidence in the government and had tarnished the image of the armed forces. Rawlings also charged that Syrian and Lebanese businessmen living in Ghana had gained control of the country's economy at the expense of the African majority.

    On the night of June 3, 1979, a group of junior officers and enlisted personnel of the Fifth Battalion and the Reconnaissance Regiment in Burma Camp staged a coup and freed Rawlings. These individuals then formed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) to rule the country. The AFRC included a cross section of ranks from private and lance corporal to staff sergeant, airman, lieutenant, and naval commander. Although the scheduled elections occurred as planned on June 18, 1979, the AFRC retained power until September 24, 1979, when President Hilla Limann and the People's National Party (PNP) assumed control of the government.

    Meanwhile, the AFRC purged the senior ranks of the armed forces and executed eight officers, three of whom had been former heads of state (Acheampong, Akuffo, and Afrifa). From July to September 1979, special courts held hearings and sentenced 155 military officers, former officials, and wealthy businessmen to prison terms ranging from six months to ninety-five years. Additionally, the AFRC collected back taxes from numerous government officials and threatened to seize the assets of many others unless they refunded money to the state that they had allegedly embezzled or stolen. The AFRC also charged hundreds of military officers with corruption and sentenced them to long prison terms. Many civil servants fell victim to the purge and lost their jobs as well.

    Data as of November 1994

    NOTE: The information regarding Ghana on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Ghana The 1979 Coup and the First Rawlings Government information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Ghana The 1979 Coup and the First Rawlings Government should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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