Date of Award
Master of Arts
Lee S. Greene
In October, 1961, the Ghanaian legislature enacted two laws which received considerable attention from the world press. One made illegal any statement which could be taken as criticism of the President. This was to apply even in the legislature, so that it would be extremely difficult for any anti-Nkrumah forces there to operate effectively. The other law empowered the President to appoint special courts to deal with crimes against the state. This might not have been especially noteworthy except that they were clearly set up so that they could easily be used to bring about the execution of persons who had done nothing more than express opposition to the President in some ordinarily legal manner. The law gave the President the right to appoint personally and without restriction the judges who would try any specific case of subversive activities; there would be no jury or appeal, and only a majority of two out of three opinions would be necessary for conviction. If one of the three judges dissented, his opinion would not become public. Penalties would range to death.
That a single dictator would decree such powers for himself is not difficult to understand, but why a legislature would extend them to anyone, retaining no means for controlling their use, is. It implied either that the legislators who voted with the majority had some evidence that such extraordinary powers were necessary in the interests of the state or their constituents, that the constituents themselves demanded it, that their behavior was irrational in some way, or that the Chief Executive held some power over them which forced them in effect to enact the legislation. Or the explanation could have been a combination of these.
Stephenson, Peter Martin, "Some Factors in the Establishment of Autocracy in Ghana. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 1963.