The Acheampong Regime, 1972-78
On January 13, 1972, the military seized control of the
government for the second time under the leadership of Lieutenant
Colonel I.K. Acheampong. The army justified its action by accusing
the civilian government, headed by Kofi A. Busia, of having failed
to resolve the various problems confronting the Ghanaian armed
The origin of the army's disaffection lay in the 1971-72
austerity budget, according to which defense expenditures were too
large for a country as small as Ghana. The subsequent reductions
affected maintenance and materials. Reductions also increased the
difficulties facing younger army officers. By the early 1970s, the
lack of funds had forced the Ghana Military Academy to reduce the
size of its annual class from about 120 to twenty-five cadets.
Many senior army officers had also complained that the 1966
coup had interrupted the normal promotion cycle. They maintained
that officers who supported Kotoka received quicker promotions,
whereas those whose loyalty was in question were held back. Ewe
officers, who had been shunted aside since the end of the NLC
regime, believed that Acheampong would restore an equitable ethnic
balance to the officer corps. Lastly, the army objected to the
Busia government's decision to broaden the army's mission to
include such nonmilitary functions as engaging in anti-smuggling
patrols, supporting anti-cholera drives, facilitating flood relief
work, and participating in reconstruction work.
To rule Ghana, Acheampong established the National Redemption
Council (NRC) and acted as its chairman. Initially, the NRC
consisted of six army officers and one civilian; however,
Acheampong eventually broadened the NRC's membership to include
officers from all the services. Newcomers included the air force
and navy commanders and the inspector general of the police.
Acheampong dropped the two lower-ranking army officers and the
civilian member. The NRC assumed legislative and executive powers
while the NRC chairman became head of state and commander in chief.
The NRC chairman also was responsible for all NRC appointments and
removals with the advice of not less than two-thirds of the NRC
members. The NRC could remove the chairman by a unanimous decision.
The NRC appointed nine military officers who ranked from major
to colonel to serve as regional commissioners. Customarily, these
commissioners worked in their traditional homelands. The NRC and
the regional commissioners constituted the Executive Council. The
NRC and the Executive Council, which together included about thirty
senior military officers, ruled Ghana.
The NRC militarized Ghanaian society, moreover, by appointing
senior military officers to positions in all major departments,
regional bodies, state corporations, and public boards.
Additionally, Acheampong wanted to change the constitution to end
party politics and to create a union government composed of
civilians, military personnel, and police. Such a system,
Acheampong believed, would create national unity, end tribalism,
and facilitate economic development.
The failure to achieve these goals and the 1975 decision to
transform the NRC into the Supreme Military Council (SMC) marked
the beginning of Acheampong's downfall. The government maintained
that the SMC would restore the military hierarchy that the 1972
coup had destroyed. Over the next two years, the Acheampong regime
gradually lost popular support because of growing corruption,
economic problems, and clashes between the SMC and the general
public, culminating in violent disturbances during the 1978
referendum on union government.
Data as of November 1994