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Ghana: The Development of the Modern Army
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > The Armed Forces in National Life > The Development of the Modern Army


After independence, Ghana opted out of the RWAFF. According to Nkrumah, this action was necessary because the RWAFF was "one of the trappings of colonialism." The Ghanaian army had grown in size and complexity, moreover, and the government created a separate air force and navy. The military's ostensible mission was to aid the national police in maintaining internal security; however, Nkrumah wanted to use the armed forces to buttress his foreign policy and Pan-Africanist goals.

British officers who served in the Ghanaian armed forces thwarted Nkrumah's plans to use the military as a political tool. As a result, in September 1961 Nkrumah dismissed all British military personnel and ordered the Africanization of the armed forces. By removing the British from command positions, Nkrumah destroyed an apolitical safeguard and exposed the military to political manipulation. However, much of the British-trained Ghanaian officer corps resisted Nkrumah's attempts to indoctrinate them with the political ideology of the CPP. Moreover, the officer corps shunned the political commissars whom Nkrumah had introduced into all units.

To break the power of the traditional Ghanaian military establishment, Nkrumah created his own private army in violation of the country's constitution. The Soviet Union supported this effort by providing military advisers and weaponry. After an unsuccessful attempt on his life, Nkrumah ordered the expansion of the presidential guard company to regimental strength. On the recommendation of Soviet security advisers, Nkrumah also added a civilian unit to the bodyguard. The military and civilian wings formed the Presidential Guard Department. In 1963 Nkrumah changed the name of this organization to the Presidential Detail Department. By February 1966, this unit's First Guard Regiment included a 1,500-member battalion, and the Second Guard Regiment was in the process of being formed and trained under Soviet advisers.

The Presidential Detail Department also supervised secret storage depots and training camps for Nkrumah's constantly expanding private army. These facilities were located at Elmina Castle, Akosombo, Afianya, and Okponglo. After Nkrumah's downfall, Ghanaian authorities discovered an array of weapons, including heavy machine guns, mortars, and artillery, at these sites. AntiNkrumah elements insisted that such weaponry, which exceeded the needs of the Presidential Detail Department, was destined for Nkrumah's private army.

Apart from trying to create a parallel military establishment, Nkrumah also established a multifaceted intelligence apparatus. In early 1963, one of Nkrumah's closest supporters, Ambrose Yankey, established the Special Intelligence Unit to monitor the activities of antigovernment individuals and groups. By 1966 this unit included 281 people, all of whom reportedly received training from Soviet and other communist advisers. Another intelligence unit, Department III, Military Intelligence, was not part of the Ministry of Defence. Instead, its task was to check independently on the loyalty of the regular armed forces. Department III, Military Intelligence, maintained an interrogation center at Burma Camp. The Bureau for Technical Assistance conducted espionage in other African countries. Additionally, on October 1, 1965, the bureau established an all-African intelligence service known as the Special African Service (also known as the Technical Unit), which was designed to penetrate the intelligence services of other African countries. By 1966 this organization had grown from forty to sixty-seven personnel.

Data as of November 1994

Last Updated: November 1994

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Ghana was first published in 1994. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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