The birthplaces of the Heads of State
and Prime Ministers of Ghana

1957-66 Kwame Nkrumah

Dr.K.Nkrumah (1909-1972)  became the first prime minister of independent Ghana on 6 March 1957, becoming president of the republic on 1 July 1960. He was overthrown by a military coup on 24 February 1966.

Nkrumah was born in the village of Nkroful in the Western Region. After the coup he was exiled, and lived in Conakry, Guinea. He died in Bucharest, Romania in 1972 while being treated for skin cancer.

The name of the village of Nkroful could be a corruption of Kurow Foro, meaning 'New Town'.

1966-69 Joseph Ankrah

Maj.-Gen.J.A.Ankrah (1915-1992) was the leader of the coup that deposed Nkrumah, and he became chairman of the National Liberation Council. He was born in Accra, where he died from natural causes.

Folk stories concerning the name Accra say that it may be a reference to the numerous anthills seen in the countryside around Accra. The Akan word nkran means the 'black ant'.

1969-70 Akwasi Afrifa

Brig.A.A.Afrifa (
1936-1979), who had played a significant part in the 1966 coup, replaced Ankrah as chairman of the NLC in April 1969. A new constitution was formed and the ban on party politics lifted to pave the way for a return to democracy. He became Acting President in September 1969.

Afrifa was born in Mampong-Ashanti. He was executed by firing squad in Accra at the beginning of Jerry Rawling's regime.

Mampong means great town (oman = town; pɔn = great).

1969-72 Kofi Busia

Dr.K.A.Busia (1913-1978) was elected Prime Minister as leader of the Progress Party, under Afrifa as Chairman of the Presidential Commission. His government was overthrown by military coup in 1972.

Busia was born in Wenchi in the Brong-Ahafo Region. After the coup he went into exile in the UK, where he died of a heart attack in Oxford. 

There are at least two accounts of the origin of the name Wenchi. One derives from a common claim to aboriginal occupation, namely that the original inhabitants came from 'a hole in the gound'. The legend states that a pig-like animal known as a ‘wankyee’ made the burrow from which they emerged. Another local tradition relates that the Takyimanhene (king of Techiman), who claimed to have occupied the land earlier, instructed the people to 'settle behind him'. The local expression for this, waw m’akyi became corrupted into Wankyi, anglicised to Wenchi.

1970-70 Nii Amaa Ollennu

R.N.A.Ollenu (1906-1986) took over the chairmanship of the Presidential Commission from Afrifa during his time as Speaker of Parliament (1969-72), but was Acting President only from 7 -31 August, pending the decision of the electoral college.

1970-72 Edward Akufo-Addo

E.A.Akufo-Addo (1906-1979) was one of the Big Six who were involved in the achievement of independence in 1957. He was the elected president until the military coup of Acheampong.

He was born in Dodowa, now in the Greater Accra Region, and died in Accra of natural causes.

'Dodowa' is the name of a small river which rises in the Akwapim ridge and flows across the Accra Plain to the coast.

1972-78 Ignatius Acheampong

Col. I.K.Acheampong (1931-1979), later General, led a military coup to overthrow the Busia government, becoming Chairman of the National Redemption Council (1972), and the Supreme Military Council (1975). He was removed from power by a 'palace coup', kept under house arrest, and subsequently executed after the Rawlings coup. 
Acheampong was born in Kumasi, and died in Accra.

There are two differing accounts of the meaning of 'Kumasi'. One is given by R.S.Rattray, who states: "The derivation is from 'kum', to kill, and 'ase', under, beneath, i.e. 'under the kill (tree)', from a large tree under which executions used to take place, when the town was the head-quarters of the Ashanti paramount chief." ("Ashanti Proverbs", Oxford, 1916, proverb 285).

1978-79 Frederick Akuffo
Lt.Gen.F.W.K.Akuffo (1937-79) was a member of the SMC over which Acheampong presided, and led an internal coup to remove him from power. However, dissatisfaction within the junior ranks of the army led to another coup the following year, and Akuffo was among those executed. He was born in Akropong in the Eastern Region.

The name Akropong is derived from the word kurow, meaning 'town', and pɔn, meaning 'great'. The town is one of the 'Amantow Dunson' (17 city states) of Akuapem.

1979-79 Jerry Rawlings

Flt-Lt.J.J.K.Rawlings (b.1947) was born in Accra, the son of a Scottish father and a Ghanaian mother. Following an unsuccessful coup in May 1979, he was freed from prison by Junior officers and led a violent coup the following month. Three former heads of state and five other senior military officers were executed. The declared intent was to cleanse the government from corruption, which had not so far been delivered by previous regimes, not to perpetuate military rule. Thus procedures were put in hand to hold a democratic election and a new president was elected.

A second theory about the meaning of Accra, also based on the Akan word nkan, is that it may be a description of the Ga people in the days of inter-tribal wars, who were so numerous that they covered the battle fields like the innumerable hordes of black ants.

1979-81 Hilla Limann

Dr.H.Limann (1934-98), was the first northerner to lead Ghana. Unfortunately he had serious health problems and was not seen to be able to solve the problems of the country. His government was overthrown by another Rawlings-led coup after only two years.

Limann was born in the village of Gwollu, Upper West Region, and was given the name Hilla Babini. Owing to family hardship he was brought up and put through school by his uncle, Heli Limann, whose surname he took in gratitude. In 1992 when Rawlings was returning the country to democracy, Limann stood against him, but lost the election. He died of natural causes.
Gwollu wall - picture courtesy of Kasana Museum

The name of Limann has strong and respected associations with Gwollu. The current Paramount Chief of the Gwollu Traditional Area is called Kuoro Buktie Limann. The settlement once had a double circular wall built around it in the 19th century, according to one account by a man named Koro Limann, as a defence against slave raiders. A preserved section of the mud wall can still be seen.

1981-2001 Jerry Rawlings

On New Year's Eve 1981 Flt-Lt.J.J.K.Rawlings (b.1947) deposed Limann in yet another coup and set up the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) government. By the end of the decade pressure was mounting to return the country to democratic rule, so Rawlings restored the constitution, retired from the armed forces, set up his own party, the National Democratic Congress, and in both 1992 and 1996 stood for election and won.

The constitution only allowed for two terms of office. In the hand-over of power to a democratically-elected successor (J.Kufuor) a truly significant event occurred. In the words of Dr. Kofi Ellison, "For the first time in the history of independent Africa ... a president has relinquished power because the Constitution says he must" (email to the Ghana Cyber Group, March 5, 2001).

Rawlings was born in Accra, the son of a Scotsman, James Ramsey John, and a Togolese woman, Victoria Agbotui, who was born in Keta.

2001-09 John Kufuor

John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor (b.1938) was born in a village called Dabaa on the west side of Kumasi. He served two terms as president and leader of the New Patriotic Party.

Another possible origin for the name Kumasi is given by GhanaWeb, which recounts this tradition: "Getting to the end of the 17th century Anokye Komfuo [or Okomfo Anokye - fetish priest and co-founder of the Ashanti Kingdom] planted three 'kum' trees at different places: one at Kwaaman .. The Kum tree at Kwaaman flourished and became a very big tree under which the King and his people often sat and so Kwaaman became Kum-ase meaning 'under Kum'."

J.G.Christaller identifies the 'okum' tree with the alternative 'okuo' ("Dictionary of the Asante & Fante Language", Basel 1881), and F.R.Irvine gives the Red Silk Cotton tree (Bombax Buonopozense) as a possible species to which this local name refers ("Woody Plants of Ghana", OUP, 1961)

2009-12 John Mills

Prof. John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills (1944-2012) was born in Tarkwa in the Western Region. Before entering politics he pursued a distinguished academic career in Law. In 2000 he became the presidential candidate for the NDC, having been vice-president to President Rawlings, but failed to win the following two elections. After Kufuor's two terms of office, he was voted in by a narrow margin with a second round of voting. Mills died from throat cancer in hospital in Accra, and was mourned nationally. He was the first president to die while in office.

2012-16 John Mahama

John Dramani Mahama, (b.1958) was vice-president to President Mills, and was sworn into the office of president after the death of Mills, only 6 months before the next election was due. He was born in Damongo in the Northern Region. In December 2012 the NDC party won the election by a narrow margin, returning Mahama to office.

2017 Nana Akufo-Addo

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (b.1944) returned the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to power with 53.85% of the 10,429,303 votes cast, giving the party a 9.45% lead. At the age of 72, he brings to the post considerable experience in business, law and politics, having served as Cabinet Minister, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, and as Foreign Minister in the Kufuor government. He was born in central Accra.