The Rise, and Fall of Major Akwasi Amankwah Afrifa in Ghana Politics (1966-1979)

Feature Article The Rise, and Fall of Major Akwasi Amankwah Afrifa in Ghana Politics (1966-1979)

It was early Thursday morning, 5:45 a.m. February 24, 1966, when then 29-year-old Brigade Major, Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa, made an announcement on Radio Ghana. He asked Ghanaians to stay by their radios for an important radio-announcement at 6 a.m.

Major Afrifa and his men had captured the Accra Airport, the Castle at Osu, and the GBC radio transmission station in Accra early that morning. He was waiting for Colonel Kotoka, the coup leader, to announce to Ghanaians that the Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP-government had been overthrown in a military coup d'état.

Spontaneous and wild jubilations erupted across the length and breadth of Ghana, following the Police-cum-Military takeover of administration of the country.

Ghana Police had swiftly, arrested most of Nkrumah’s Cabinet Ministers, CPP-executives, before dawn, prior to the radio announcement of the coup d'état.

Ghanaian Workers, Traders, University Students, and Lecturers; the Clergy, and even some CPP-members, could not hide their joy and excitements.

The jubilant Ghanaians were no fools; they had become weary of Nkrumah’s misrule, and the subsequent economic hardships. “Ghanaians were fed-up with Nkrumah’s rule.”- Major General Ankrah

General Ankrah was the brain behind the 1966 coup in Ghana. Ankrah had recruited his school mate at Accra Academy, Mr. J.W.K Harlley, and Colonel Kotoka into the coup plot. It was the retired-General Ankrah who, in 1965, while developing an “Order of Battle” for President Nkrumah, had positioned Colonel Kotoka for a Brigade commander. Only Brigade commanders could move troops. Colonel Kotoka was able to move troops from Tamale, to Accra, because he was a Brigade commander.

Ankrah totally dismissed any suggestions by the Nkrumah-apologists that the American CIA was involved in the coup plot.

During the coup act, Soviet-intelligence materials were seized by the military. The US wanted to have access to those materials. The U.S had to pay money to the NLC for the confiscated materials. If the U.S had played an active role in the coup, they would not have made payments for the seized documents. The propagandists have used the monetary payment as evidence that the Americans were directly involved in Ghana’s 1966 coup d'état.

Again, On March 24 1966, General Ankrah had to write a lengthy-letter to President Lyndon Johnson of the USA, to explain and convince him, on the decision taken by the Ghana Armed forces to topple the Nkrumah’s C.P.P-government.

Afrifa backed by Mr. Harlley became Ghana’s head of state, when they orchestrated the resignation of General Ankrah, on April 2, 1969 following a bribery allegation.

Afrifa handed power to the Progress Party government on October 1st 1969.

Afrifa was seen as young, Overambitious, Unpredictable, Troublesome, and Difficult to control.

So, after the January 13,1972 military coup, General Afrifa was arrested and detained, for a whole year.

General Afrifa was again arrested after the June 4, 1979 military coup, and was detained for 3 weeks.


Two former military Heads of State, Gen Fred Akuffo and L. Gen. Okatakyie Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa, were yesterday executed in public by firing squad at the Teshie Shooting Range in Accra. Also, executed were Real Admiral Joy Amedume, former Navy Commander, Air Vice-Marshall George Yaw Boakye, former Force Commander, Major Gen. Robert Ebenezer Abosey Kotie, former C.D.S. all members of the erstwhile SMC, and Colonel Roger Felli, former. Commissioner for Foreign Affairs. All the six were tried and found guilty under AFRC special courts Decree, and were condemned to death by firing squad. Their offenses included the acquisition, or obtaining of loan, property, material, promise, favor or advantage whatsoever by abuses or exploits by virtue of their official position in the public service.

Illegal or dishonest acquisition of property, and intentional or reckless misapplication or cause or damage to public property.

Additionally, they were found guilty of gross negligence or dishonest applying public property and intentional or reckless dissipation of public property.

All these offences are specified in section three of the AFRC Special Courts Decree.

The shooting, which started at about 9:30 a.m., brings to eight the number of army officers so far executed by the ruling AFRC.

On Saturday Mr. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong also, a former Head of State, and Maj. Gen. E.K. Utuka, former Border Guards Commander were executed by firing squad.

Culled from the Daily Graphic June 27, 1979. Story by Albert Sam.

Afrifa was 43 years old, when he was killed. “Afrifa was the principal target for execution; the five other Generals were executed as a ploy.”

There were two factions within the AFRC that wanted Afrifa dead. The “Free African movement” led by Captain Boakye Gyan; they never forgave Afrifa for overthrowing their idol, Mr. Kwame Nkrumah.

The other faction in the AFRC, believed that it was Afrifa who had masterminded the failed 1967 coup d'état that resulted in the death of Colonel E.K. Kotoka. (General Ankrah believed, he was the main target of the Afrifa-associated April 17,1967 insurrection, and not Kotoka. Ankrah escaped from the Osu castle through an escape-hatch, and swam to safety when 2ndLt. Osei-Poku besieged the Osu castle).

Lt Arthur and his men, captured Kotoka at his office, killed, and dumped his body by the roadside, near the Accra Airport.

On the eve of their executions by firing squad, Lieutenants Arthur and Yeboah pleaded with General Ankrah for leniency. They alleged that Colonel Afrifa had promised to offer them protection.

So, Afrifa was killed for his role in Nkrumah’s overthrow, as well as a payback for his purported role in Colonel Kotoka’s death.

Here are some Quotations from Okatakyie Afrifa.

“I knew by August 1962 that the political situation was hopeless, and that Nkrumah had failed Ghana as a leader. I was prepared to face the gallows; my name written in history as the one who stopped Nkrumah, and saved Ghana, from further misrule.”

“We’ve lived in Britain before, and therefore, didn’t like this dictatorship. There was no freedom of the press or of the individual- things we know are fundamental human rights. Nkrumah introduced party politics into the army. He took a man with no training as an officer, Mr. Hassan, appointed him a brigadier general and put him in charge of military intelligence. Hence, we had a situation in which mess corporals were watching commanding officers and reporting them. What greater insult to our intelligence and patriotism?” That was Colonel Akwasi Afrifa, explaining the Ghana situation during an interview with the London Observer on March 13, 1966.

“Let generations yet unborn be warned of the terror of one-man rule, and the misery of dictatorship.

In 1964 Ghana was on the verge of famine; commerce came to a standstill. I am no economist, but it was clear that every single vital commodity was either in short supply or was being sold at cut-throat prices. This was what we saw in Ghana, our beloved country, as a result of one-man rule.

That we should plan to remove this man by unconstitutional means was a difficult task.

He was a ruthless man who would not have stopped at anything if we had failed.

We do not want a repetition of this very action in our history” (Afrifa 1966: 117)

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024