Today marks exactly 54 years since first President of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was unconstitutionally overthrown through a military and police coup de’tat on February 24, 1966 – a coup which was reportedly tagged ‘Operation Cold Chop’.
In the early hours of February 24, 1966, Leaders of the coup which included Major A.A. Afrifa, Colonel E.K. Kotoka, Lieutenant General (retired) J.A. Ankra, and Police Inspector General J.W.K. Harlley, executed their dethronement plan while Nkrumah was then on a peace mission in Southeast Asia.
Col. Kotoka and the others then reportedly announced on state radio that, ” Kwame Nkrumah is overthrown, and the myth surrounding him is broken” and then went ahead to justify their takeover by citing several reasons including; Nkrumah’s alleged alliance with the Soviet Union and China, corrupt and abusive behaviors, the absence of democratic practices in the nation, Nkrumah’s Preventive Detection Act (PDA), the deteriorating economy of Ghana and the alleged abuse of human rights.
Dr. Nkrumah had been invited by President Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, on February 21, 1966, to help find a solution to the Vietnam War.
By then Ghana had no Vice President and so the country was left under the control of a three-man Presidential Commission
Although Nkrumah was well appreciated for his active involvement in helping Ghana attain independence from colonial rule, many citizens including Nkrumah’s former minister of foreign affairs Dr. Alex Quaison-Sackey, seemed to have agreed with the aforementioned accusations leveled against him by his detractors.
Although the presidential guard tried a resistance, they were overtaken by the huge number of citizens who were on board the ‘coup ship’.
Nkrumah’s statue outside the Parliament House, was pulled down and smashed into pieces.
There were several indications across the country that, the coup was one many wanted and were happy to witness.
Nkrumah’s detainees were freed and instead, the prisons were filled with new political prisoners.
During a stop-over in Peking for deliberations on relevant topics at the time, first Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Premier Chou En-lai informed Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of the coup. He was reportedly received the news in great sadness and disbelief.
Nkrumah sought political exile in Conakry, Guinea where President Ahmed Sékou Touré, the first President of Guinea, appointed him as co-president of Guinea.
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah died aged 62,on 27 April 1972 after a long battle with prostate cancer.