The 1966 Coup Kotoka & Barwah; Excerpts from the Dark Days in Ghana


Today marks 51 years since the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah Ghana’s first democratically elected President, freedom fighter and leader of Ghana’s independence struggle.

In what was a catastrophe for the forward advancement of the black race in the liberation struggle against neocolonialism and imperialism a section of Ghanaian soldiers led by Kotoka staged a coup d’etat in the absence of then President Nkrumah. These are excerpts from Nkrumah’s book “Dark Days In Ghana”.

Several days after the military seizure of power, Kotoka and Afrifa appeared on Ghana TV congratulating themselves on their easy success. One remark stood out unmistakable and clear: “And you know, we didn’t find any Russians at all— not one! Nor could we find any trace of that tunnel.” This was followed by peals of laughter at the poor soldiers who had believed their story. The first object of the military operation was to force the surrender of Major-General Barwah, Army Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, who was in command of the Ghana Army in the absence from the country of the Chief of Defence Staff. General Aferi. At the same time, Brigadier Hasan, Head of Military Intelligence, and Colonel Zanerigu. Commander of the Presidential Guard Regiment, and Owusu-Sekyere, former head of the C.I.D. and in charge of the Special Branch, were to be arrested. This stage of the operation was badly bungled. Hasan was arrested, but Zanerigu, when confronted, escaped through a window of his house and drove to Flagstaff House to warn the Presidential Guard Regiment. Barwah could not be intimidated. Woken from his sleep in the early hours of the morning of the 24th by the arrival of Kotoka and some 25 men, he courageously refused either to join the traitors or to surrender. Thereupon, Kotoka shot him dead at point-black range in cold blood in the presence of his wife and children. The seven security officers who were stationed at Barwah’s house were also murdered on the spot on Kotoka’s orders. Kotoka subsequently boasted of his killing of Barwah but said because he was protected by a “juju” he was able to catch the bullets which Barwah fired in his defence and to throw them back at him. When the counter coup of April 1967 took place Kotoka’s “magic” could not save him. Unlike Barwah, he surrendered without protest or struggle to those who had captured him at his headquarters. His “juju” did not prevent him being shot in his turn. Barwah’s murder was one of the most disgraceful and ghastly crimes ever committed in Ghana’s history. In an attempt to wipe the blood from their hands the so-called ‗N.L.C.‘ gave Barwah and the security officers a military burial a few days later. What a mockery, and what hypocrisy! Yet these terrible, cold-blooded murders were only the first of many which occurred on 24th February and during subsequent days. They set the tone, as it were, of the whole operation which was characterised throughout by cowardice, bloodshed and criminal stupidity. #DarkDaysInGhana