‘For security reasons it may not be prudent to unfold where I am’ – Ghana’s 1978 electoral commissioner’s letter from hiding surfaces in the BLDS Legacy collection

By Danny Millum – BLDS Metadata and Discovery Officer

Cataloguing on the BLDS Legacy Collection project has now reached Ghana, and we’ve just unearthed a fascinating letter from a dramatic time in that country’s political history.

On 30 March 1978 the country’s Supreme Military Council, led by Col. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, held a referendum on system of government, and whether Ghana should become a non-party state (from the perspective of the UK in 2021 that does have some appeal…). The referendum was controversial, as many saw UNIGOV (as it was known) to be a ploy by Acheampong to retain power and suspected military interference. Things got so heated that the electoral commissioner himself, I. K. Abban, was forced to go into hiding, from where he wrote the letter below which has just turned up in Box 204 of our Ghana materials.

Image of letter written on a typewriter from I.K. Abban to I.K Acheampong
Letter from Electoral Commissioner I.K. Abban to I.K Acheampong

The message is addressed to Acheampong, explaining that following previous threats from the military (which would end in ‘several deaths including me’) his office was now under siege. He diplomatically shies clear of directly accusing the Head of State of being responsible, but he certainly doesn’t sound full of trust for his boss: ‘For security reasons it may not be prudent to unfold where I am but I am safe’. Readers worried about Abban’s fate can breathe easy – he escaped and eventually became Chief Justice (again not without controversy). Acheampong on the other hand only lasted until July when he was arrested and deposed…

Anyone interested in this item, Ghanaian government publications or the BLDS Legacy Collection in general can drop us a line at bldslegacy@sussex.ac.uk

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Posted in BLDS (British Library for Development Studies), IDS

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