75 years ago today, the Accra Riots began when three brave men lost their lives – fighting for what was rightfully theirs – their pensions. This was the beginning of the fight and agitation for the political independence of Ghana from the United Kingdom.
It started in January 1948, with a peaceful boycott and protest of increased prices on goods being sold by foreign-owned businesses, particularly the department stores:
- Kingsway, etc. collectively known as the “Association of West-African Merchants” (AWAM).
The peaceful boycott was initiated and sponsored by then Osu Alata Mantse: Nii Kwabena Bonne III, which spread nationwide from Accra to the northern region. He was nicknamed “Boycotthene“.
It was a month long boycott which was supposed to end on the 28th February, by forcing the merchants to reduce their prices. However, this coincided with a march by ex-servicemen who were on their way to the Christiansborg castle to petition the governor Gerald “Crazy” Creasy for their well earned pensions during the World War 2 battle in Burma on behalf of the British crown. They were abruptly stopped by the Gold Coast colonial police from further advancing towards the castle.
The British superintendent of Police Colin Imray ordered his officers to give a warning shot, which was not heeded by the advancing solders. When he instructed the junior police officers to shoot at the crowd, they refused. So he grabbed the gun and shot into the crowd himself. This fatally ended the lives of
- Sgt Adjetey,
- Corporal Attipoe and
- Private Odartey Lamptey.
This action started the unrest and riots of Accra, which involved looting and destroying of shops. Colin Imray was transferred out of the country to South-Africa to evade responsibility and prosecution by the colonial government.
As a result of the killing of the Ga-Dangme ex-servicemen, looting and rioting was so much that a “state of emergency” was declared the next day (1st March, 1948). The event acted as a catalyst to the eventual gaining of political independence of Ghana on 6th March, 1957.
Every year in Ghana, the event is commemorated with enactments near the spot where the famous men fell, across from the independence square in Osu-Accra. However, the big question is, “have conditions in Ghana really changed in 75years”?
Sources: i) GBC TV youtube video; ii) Historic Account Blog of Monday, 19 December 2022, by Ras Tbc Ofoe (Ghanaweb).