The Catalyst for Independence: The 1948 riots

1948 Riots

Stories and facts

On 28th February 1948, the city of Accra in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) witnessed a turning point in its colonial history. What began as a peaceful demonstration by veterans of World War II, demanding promised end-of-war benefits and pay, escalated into a tragic incident that ultimately fueled the drive towards Ghana's independence. The Accra Riots of 1948 marked a significant chapter in the struggle against colonial rule, sparking a series of events that led to the birth of an independent nation.

The ex-servicemen, veterans of the Gold Coast Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Force, organized a peaceful march to Christiansborg Castle, Accra, where they intended to hand in a petition to the colonial governor. Their demand was simple – to receive the benefits and pay they had been promised for their service during World War II.

Before reaching the castle, the veterans were confronted by the colonial police chief, who ordered them to disperse. When they refused, the situation escalated, resulting in a tragic turn of events. The police chief, Superintendent Colin Imray, opened fire on the unarmed demonstrators, instantly killing three veterans: Sergeant Nii Adjetey, Corporal Patrick Attipoe, and Private Odartey Lamptey.

Outraged by the brutal violence and ongoing injustices, the people of Accra erupted in protests. The unrest quickly spread to other towns and cities, with crowds attacking European and Asian businesses and property.

In the midst of the chaos, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), a political organization advocating the end of colonialism, sent a cable to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London. The UGCC expressed their belief that a change in the colonial government was essential to quell the growing unrest. They declared their readiness to take over an interim government and urged the appointment of a Special Commissioner to facilitate the transition.

The people's protests continued for five days, prompting the colonial governor to declare a state of emergency on 1st March. A new Riot Act was put in place, signaling the gravity of the situation. The unrest led to looting, destruction, and further loss of life. The UGCC's call for change resonated, highlighting the deep-seated dissatisfaction with colonial rule.

In response to the escalating crisis, the colonial governor ordered the arrest of "The Big Six," prominent members of the UGCC, including Kwame Nkrumah. The authorities believed they were responsible for orchestrating the disturbances. The arrest elevated the UGCC's status, turning its leaders into national heroes.

To investigate the circumstances of the riots, the British colonial government established the Watson Commission. The commission's findings paved the way for constitutional changes that set Ghana on the path to independence. The 1946 constitution was deemed inappropriate, and the Gold Coast was allowed to draft its own constitution.

By 1949, disagreements arose among "The Big Six," leading Kwame Nkrumah to break away from the UGCC and form the Convention People's Party (CPP). Nkrumah's campaign of "Positive Action" gained momentum, demanding self-government. On 6th March 1957, Ghana achieved independence, becoming the first African colony to break free from colonial rule.

The Accra Riots of 1948 served as a catalyst for change, propelling the Gold Coast towards independence. The sacrifices made by the veterans and the subsequent unrest highlighted the deep-seated desire for self-determination. The events of 1948 shaped the destiny of Ghana, marking the beginning of a new era in the nation's history.





Jun 12, 2024 22:18:26 Reply

The script is too short