Posted by / Monday 5 December 2016 / No comments

The causes of the 1948 riots in the Gold Coast

Police, Urn, Esu, The Riot Squad

On 25th February 1948, a group of ex-servicemen went on a peaceful demonstration to the Christianborg Castle to put their concerns across to the then Governor. At the crossroads to the Castle, the Head of Security commanded his troops to shoot into the group of unarmed ex-servicemen.

In the ensuing mayhem that followed, many people were injured and three of the ex-servicemen were found dead. They included Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey.This ignited a riot that started in Accra and soon spread to other regional capitals.

Though it might seem that the riots was sparked by the Christianborg shooting incident, there were some other underlying factors that may have laid the grounds for the riots to start.

Foreign domination of the economy
The people of the Gold Coast were unhappy with the domination of trade and commerce by the Europeans, Syrians, Indians and the Lebanese excluding the indigenes. The local people resented the fact that these business men determined the price of the local goods they purchased but at the same time when they import their goods, they determine the price of those goods too.

Destruction of Cocoa trees
In the years leading to the riots, the cocoa trees were attacked by a disease called swollen shoot and there was no antidote except to cut down the cocoa trees. The problem was that the farm owners were not informed about the decision the cut the trees down. This did not go down well with the cocoa farm owners. They took it as a destruction of their livelihood.

Protest, Vandalism, Riot, Danger

Inadequate social amenities
One of the grievances of the people was that there were not enough medical facilities, not enough educational facilities like secondary schools and universities. The people felt that a lot of such basic facilities should have been provided by the colonial authorities.

Failure to resettle the ex-servicemen
The African who were conscripted into Her Majesty’s service to assist in the war effort during the Second World War could not be properly resettled. The British government had promised to reward the ex-servicemen after the end of the war but this was not forthcoming. This was also an underlying reason for the riots.

Portland, Police, Protest, Riot

Governor’s veto power
The Governor continued to exercise his veto powers under the new constitution. The Governor was given the power to reject any Ordinance that was passed by the Legislative Council. The Governor also had the power of Certification where he could force a law to be passed even if the majority of the members of the Legislative Council thought otherwise.

Absence of universal suffrage
The people continued to despise the limited franchise that was in existence at the time because the Burns constitution did not fully address it. The franchise continued to be limited to only a few cities. It did not cover the entire colony.

1. The 1948 riots was gunpowder ready to explode. Advance six reasons to support this statement.
2. a. Describe the immediate cause of the 1948 riots.
    b. Highlight five underlying causes that may have led to the tipping point in “a” above.

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