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Colonial Bargaining as Tactics: The Ghana Experience, 1954–1957

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image of International Negotiation

In the pre-independence conflict between the Nkrumah regime and the Ashanti-led opposition in the Gold Coast, the departing colonial power found itself caught up in an internal confrontation. The NLM and its allies, fearing the shadow of the future, sought to establish credible guarantees against majoritarian rule after independence. The Nkrumah government insisted upon the centralization of political power and majoritarian principles. The effect was to increase minority insecurity and raise inter-group suspicions and tensions. In this situation, the colonial mediator, determined to advance the negotiation process, secured concessions from the Nkrumah regime on the devolution of limited functions and powers to the sub-regions. However, the preconditions for successful official mediation were not present. The CPP offered concessions that disappeared with the advent of independence, and the opposition refused to participate in an implementation process that appeared to offer them uncertain guarantees. Colonial bargaining therefore represented a lost opportunity, one that failed to resolve the commitment problem.


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