Until its independence from British Colonial rule on 6th March, 1957, Ghana was called the “Gold Coast” a name given it by early Portuguese explorers who first set foot on the shores of the country in the fifteenth century.
The name aptly describes the country’s wealth in gold and natural resources, which include to the present day:
Rich mineral resources such as gold, diamonds, manganese, bauxite, iron ore and various clay and salt deposits.
Extensive, rich forests with a wide range of fine tropical hardwoods.
A wide variety of agricultural products and rich fishing resources.
Unique tourist attractions, including beautiful landscapes, inviting sunshine, golden beaches, wildlife parks, the country-side with its rich cultural heritage and the proverbial warmth and hospitality of the people, parliament house.
During various periods from the time the Portuguese discovered gold in 1471 to independence in 1957, the monarchs of several European kingdoms, notably Denmark, England, Holland, Prussia and Sweden, sent hordes of explores and merchants to the country for its abundant wealth, both natural and human.
They battled for supremacy and control over the land and built forts and castles which also served as trading posts. Vestiges of the extent of European colonial presence and concentration of activities in the country are evidenced by the fact that 29 of the 32 European colonial forts and castles dotted along the coast of West Africa are in Ghana.
Ghana is located on the West Coast of Africa about 750km north of the equator on the Gulf of Guinea, between the latitudes of 4 – 11.5º North. The capital, Accra, is on the Greenwich Meridian [zero line of longitude] The country has a total land area of 238,537 Km² and is bounded on the north by Burkina Faso, on the West by Cote d’Ivoire , on the East by Togo and on the South by the Gulf of Guinea.
The land area stretches for 672 Km north-south and 536 Km east-west.
Ghana has a tropical climate, characterized most of the year by moderate temperatures generally 21°C to 33°C (70°F – 90°F), constant breeze and sunshine. There are two rainy seasons, from March to July and September to October, separated by a short cool dry season in August and a relatively long dry season in the South from mid-October to March.
The population of Ghana is estimated to be 22 million. In 2000 it was 20.2 million (source; Ghana Statistical service, 2001 estimate) currently, the country’s population is growing by 2.5 per cent annually. At the same time the total fertility rate has declined from 5.5 per woman in 1995 to 4.5 by 2000.
Languages Ghana’s principal ethnic groups are the Akan (Twi and Fante speaking) the Guans, Ewes, Gas, Gonjas, Dagabas, Walas and Frafras. There are 56 Ghanaian dialects of which Akwapim Twi, Asante Twi, Fante, Ga-Adangbe, Ewe, Kasem Gonja, Dagbani and Nzema are the major languages. The official language of the country is English. French and Hausa are two major foreign languages spoken in the country.
The population of Ghana comprises Christians (43%) Animists (38%) and Muslims (12%). There is complete freedom of religion in Ghana.
Ghana’s system of governance is based on a multiparty constitutional democracy founded on elections by open and free universal adult suffrage. All Ghanaians above 18 years of age are eligible to vote into office an Executive President for a maximum of two four-year terms.
A 230-member Parliament is also elected for unlimited four-year terms. The main arms of Government are the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary each of which is independent of the other. Ghana is a nation governed by the Rule of Law.
There exists by constitutional provision a Council of State that advises the President. Council membership is by both election and appointment. The President or the Vice President chairs meetings of the Cabinet. Also by constitutional provision, a majority of Cabinet Members must be appointed from among Members of Parliament.
By constitutional provision, in the absence of the President, the Vice President acts in his stead and in the absence of both the President and the Vice President, the Speaker of the House of Parliament takes over the mantle of State.
The current Parliament is the Third Parliament of the Fourth Republic of Ghana which came into being in 1992. Parliament is presided over by a Speaker elected by Parliament. The Speaker is assisted in the discharge of his duties by a First Deputy Speaker and a Second Deputy Speaker, who are both members of the House, but not from the ruling party.
Civil law in Ghana is based on the English Common Law doctrines of equity and general statutes. Ghanaian customary law is however the basis of most personal, domestic and contractual relationships. Criminal law is based on the 1960 Criminal Procedure Code, derived from amended English Criminal Law.
The Superior Court of Judicature comprises the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, Regional Tribunals and Inferior Courts, which include Circuit Courts, Circuit Tribunals, Community Tribunals and such other Courts as may be designated by law.
To speed up trials, automation has been introduced in High Courts and such courts are commonly referred to as Fast Track Courts. The Supreme Court is made up of the Chief Justice and no fewer than nine other justices. It is the final court of appeal in Ghana and has jurisdiction in matters relating to enforcement and interpretation of the Constitution.