Over many years of colonial rule, the struggle for independence took a fast turn after the 1948 riots, which was the last straw that broke the camel’s back, igniting the people of Gold Coast to campaign for self-rule and independence.
After the second world war, the people of Gold Coast, present day Ghana, were facing economic hardship. There was high level of unemployment, inadequate educational and health facilities. Also, exploitation from foreign trader, shortages of goods and inflation led to the formation of the Anti-inflation Campaign Committee in 1947 to response to the high prices of goods exported into Gold Coast by foreign firms.
Adding insult to injury, was the shooting of the unarmed ex-servicemen, who were on a peaceful March to the Christianborg Castle to make their grievances known to the Governor, Sir Gerald Creasy.
The ex-servicemen joined the British troop in Burma to fight the World War II and were demanding for pension, jobs, proper housing and other compensation which would improve their standard of living.
On reaching the cross road of the castle, they meet a contingent of policemen under the command of Superintendent Colin Imray who ordered them to halt. As the ex-servicemen continued to march forward, Imray ordered his men to fire at them, but the policemen refused. However, they fired into air, making Superintendent Imray to take a gun and shoot into the procession, leading to the death of three former soldiers; Sergent Nii Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey and five others wounded.
The news spread like wildfire in Accra. The crossroad shooting angered the people who resulted to series of riots, anti-government protest, looting and disorder in other major towns. Stores and businesses owned by Europeans and Asians were looted. The rioters broke into the Ussher fort prison and set free the inmates.
The United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) was blamed for the riots and it’s leaders Dr. J.B. Danquah, Dr.Kwame Nkrumah, Akuffo Dado, Williams Odorkor, Arko Agjei and Obetsebi Lamptey who became known as the ‘Big Six were arrested and detained in isolated areas in March 12, 1948.
The 1948 disturbances led to the establishment of three-member Commission, established to investigate the causes of the riots and make recommendations to avoid such situation reoccuring. The Commission was under the chairmanship of of Andrew Allen Watson, an English lawyer and the other two members were, Dr. Keith Murray, Rector of Lincoln Colllege and Andrew Dalgleish of the Britain TUC (Trade Union Congress).
The Commission made a number of recommendations aimed at redressing the grievances of the people. Some of the recommendations were that, the political system of Gold Caost should include greater number of the people facilities of higher education should be expanded, the establishment of local councils and regional assemblies which should be given control over health, communication, social service and education among others. The Commission also recommended the makeup of a new constitution which would enable the people to have enough participation in the political administration.
The Coussey Committee was set up by the British in 1949 as a result of the Watson Commission’s recommendations, leading to the Coussey Constitution of 1951 framed. The “Big Six” of UGCC except Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, were part of the Coussey Committee.
The British Colonial Officialdom described the Committee’s report as ” a remarkable document, a political and literary achievement the like of which had never before come out of Africa”.
However, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Accra Evening News criticised the recommendations. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah referred to the report as a “Trojan gift horse” and as “bogus” and “fradulent” and that, there is the need for “Posutive Action”.
Inspite of these, others saw the recommendations as a step to self-govermance. The Ghana Statesman, expressed that the Commission’s report ” will go down in history as the real turning point in British relations with the people of Gold Coast”.
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah had broke away from the UGCC over disagreements on ideologies, timing, organisational structures among others and formed his own party, Convention People’s Party in June 1949 with the motto “self-government NOW”. He had socialist ideology and wanted a party for the masses whilst the UGCC was for libreral democracy and wanted an elite party.
The 1951 Constitution led to the 1951 election. In 1952, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah became the Prime Minister and spearheaded in the action for changes in the Constitution. This resulted to the formation of the 1954 Constitution which did not guaranteed the attainment of self-rule.
But subsequently, before the 1956 election, the British government stated that it would be ” ready ro accept a motion of independence within the Commonwealth passed by a reasonable majority in a newly elected legislature”.
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah won the election under the ticket of CPP and on August 3, 1956, he sent the motion for independence to the new parliament. The motion we passed by 72 votes of all members with no one being against.
On February 7, 1957, the Ghana Independence Act had Royal Assent.
Finally, the colony was granted independence on 6th of March, 1957 under the new name, Ghana.