Today in History, exactly 41 years ago, on June 26, 1979, Ghana’s former head of state, Lieutenant General Akwasi Afrifa was executed by a firing squad after being convicted of “corruption, embezzlement and using his position to amass wealth” after a short trial by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) which had seized power under the leadership of Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings. He was executed together with General Fred Akuffo, also a former Head of state and Major General Robert Kotei, Colonel Roger Felli, Air Vice Marshal George Yaw Boakye and Rear Admiral Joy Amedume.
Lieutenant General Akwasi Afrifa was Ghana’s head of state from (2 April 1969 – 3 september 1969) and (3 september 1969 – 7 August 1970) after helping to lead the coup that overthrew President Kwame Nkrumah in 1966.
Following the coup, Afrifa became one of the eight members of the National Liberation Council (NLC). Afrifa also went through a series of rapid promotions rising from Major to Lieutenant General in the three years his government was in power. He was also appointed the Commissioner (Minister) for Finance and Trade.
The Head of state of Ghana and Chairman of the NLC, Joseph Arthur Ankrah was forced to resign in April 1969 following a bribery scandal. He was replaced by General Akwasi Afrifa as Head of state.
Afrifa handed over to Busia who became the Prime Minister of Ghana on inauguration of the Second Republic.
Ignatius Kutu Acheampong led a bloodless coup d’état to overthrow the democratically elected government of the Progress Party and its leader Dr. Kofi Busia on 13 January 1972. He became Head of State and Chairman of the National Redemption Council (NRC), which was later transformed into the Supreme Military Council on 9 October 1975.
In the days following Busia’s overthrow in January 1972 by Lt. Colonel Ignatius Acheampong, Afrifa attempted to mount a counter-coup to restore Busia, but was foiled and jailed by Acheampong.
General Akwasi Afrifa was subsequently released by Acheampong in December 1972, but appears to have been restricted to the vicinity of his hometown of Mampong-Ashanti where he farmed and involved himself in rural development projects. At some point his army pension appears to have been suspended by the Acheampong regime and in an article in the Tampa Bay Times of July 1st 1979, his brother-in-law, John Addaquay, claimed that Afrifa, together with his family, had gone into exile in London.
However, in 1978, General Acheampong was accused of economic mismanagement and forced to resign by a group of army officers led by General Fred Akuffo.
Akwasi Afrifa, Addaqay continued, returned after Acheampong’s overthrow.
On June 4, 1979, Ghana was ushered into its morning life with an announcement on radio by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings of a change in government by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).
A new leader named Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings, who had been sprung from a prison cell where he had been concealed since leading an abortive coup a few weeks earlier, was installed as the leader of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).
The AFRC allowed already scheduled elections to go ahead, Afrifa contested a seat and won it in parliamentary elections held in June 1979.
The AFRC after immediately making clear its intention to hold to account those it considered responsible for Ghana’s economic woes, proceeded with what it described as a ‘House Cleaning’ operation.
Ignatius Kutu Acheampong and a number of other high-ranking military officials including two former Heads of State, General Fred Akuffo and General Akwasi Afrifa, were apprehended and placed in detention.
Prior to his arrest and prosecution, General Akwasi Afrifa was reported to have written a letter to General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, expressing fear at a possible execution by the AFRC regime as a deterrent to coup plotters. In the said letter, he stated: “I feel greatly disturbed about the future after the government.… In order to discourage the military from staging coups in the future, how about if they line all of us up and shoot us one by one? I do not certainly want to be arrested, given some sort of trial and shot. But I would be a stupid General if I sit in the comfort of my farm and await the VENGEANCE that is about to be unleashed on us…. I will pray to take away the fear and confusion weighing on my mind now.”
On June 26, 1979, Lieutenant General Akwasi Afrifa was executed by firing squad, together with General Fred Akuffo, also a former Head of state and Major General Robert Kotei, Colonel Roger Felli, Air Vice Marshal George Yaw Boakye and Rear Admiral Joy Amedume.
Afterward the bodies were taken away for burial in a prison cemetery at Nsawam, north of Accra.