Nkrumah's overthrow still leaves Ghana in despair - Kwesi Pratt Jr

50 years on from the overthrow of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Kwesi Pratt Junior remembers the "mindless violence" of the 1966 coup.


Kwesi Pratt Junior remembers the anger he felt listening to the radio, 50 years ago when it was announced Dr Kwame Nkrumah had been overthrown.

The veteran journalist and member of Nkrumah's Convention People's Party was just a young school boy when the coup happened, and 50 years later, he says Ghana has suffered “very severe” setbacks because of the coup.

Speaking to, Pratt shares his memories of the 1966 coup and what it led to.

“My first recollection was my father coming back from town with bullet holes in his car, and I understood very clearly that he had bullet holes in his car because he was a trade union leader. I was struck by the fact that those who claimed to be liberating us from dictatorship and so on, were targeting trade union leaders and were attempting to assassinate people who did not believable in the ideals of the coup.”


With his friends, Pratt went around Accra and saw people alleged to be security people for Nkrumah arrested.

“I saw the blood, the carnage, the pain on their faces.”

He recognized it as “mindless violence. Calculated to intimidate the population into supporting the coup d'etat that had been organized and orchestrated by the Western intelligence agencies.”

He saw soldiers point the nuzzle of the armored vehicles into buildings and open fire.

Pratt said to himself, “this ought to be resisted”.


The coup completely hampered Ghana's development, Pratt said.

“If you look around us, it's all despair, it's all carnage.”

Before the coup, Ghana produced what it needed, from cars to refrigerators, and education was expanding.

But now, with the exploitation of Ghana's natural resources, the country was getting “next to nothing” for the minerals exported from Ghana, Pratt said.

Nkrumah's programme for Ghana to produce what it needed, from clothes to electronics went when he did.


“Today, look around. Everything is imported. We have to import handkerchiefs. If in 2016 when other countries are rushing to the moon, advancing in nanotechnologies, developing nuclear power plants and we can not produce handkerchiefs, where do we stand?”

After the coup the trade union movement was disbanded and starved of financial resources.

“Within the first three years of the coup close to 600,000 jobs were lost. The unemployment situation got exasperated.”

“The 1966 coup has had a debilitating effect on Ghana, on our ability to demonstrate that we are capable of managing our own destiny. More and more we become dependent on others for survival.”

Pratt pointed to declassified files that show the American and British government's were also involved in the coup, adding Nkrumah knew through his political career that the independence movement was going to be subverted by those who wanted to keep the new colonial arrangement.


“These forces of reaction and underdevelopment managed to take power and to keep power for so long.”

The methods used were “ruthless” he said.

Pratt remembers around 1970 parliament had to sit under urgency to pass a law making it a criminal offense to distribute photographs of Nkrumah.

“That was how bad it was.”

Further, after the coup, academics and intellectuals at Ghana's university campuses organised bonfires to burn the books of Nkrumah.


“Burning books is the height of vandalism, and yet it happened. They went to ridiculous extents, the trade union movement has lost some of the most important documents of its history you can never find those documents because they were burnt.

"How is that different from ISIS and what they are doing in the Middle East, destroying historical artifacts and so on. It's the same mentality that we were confronted with in 1966.

"I think we have suffered very severe setbacks as a result of that military intervention.”

With both parents members of the CPP, and his father a trade union leader, Pratt has remained a dedicated Nkrumahist.

“It's been 50 years since and I have not been able to change my ideas about the coup. Every year our stance gets vindicated. When you look around us, look at every sector of the national economy, look at everything that has occurred since 1966.”


And, through Nkrumah's writing, Pratt says it's obvious he knew what was going to happen.

“He knew the country was going to be destroyed, that his legacy was going to be dismantled. He was very angry. Everything that has happened since then vindicates him.”


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