Exactly 53 years ago today, on April 17, 1967, Major General Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka who was a member of the ruling National Liberation Council (NLC) which came to power in Ghana in a military coup d’état on 24 February 1966 was killed in an abortive coup attempt involving junior officers. It was code named “Guitar boy”.
In the early hours of February 24, 1966, a group of officers and men of the Ghana Army, led by Lt. C B (later General) Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka and Major (later General) Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa, with the active support from the Police in an operation code named “Operation Cold Chop” removed President Kwame Nkrumah from power while he was on a peace mission to Hanoi at the invitation of premier Ho Chi Minh.
On the morning of 17th April, 1967, Ghanaians were rudely shaken out of a contented sleep by the voice of a young Lieutenant, S.B. Arthur, announcing over Radio Ghana that he had taken over the administration of the Country.
The attempted counter-coup against the NLC was instigated by three junior officers of the Ghana Armed Forces: Lt. Samuel Arthur, Lt. Moses Yeboah, and 2nd Lt. Osei-Poku. With the support of several senior officers, including Warrant Officer George Ofosu, and 119 soldiers of the 2nd Recce (Reconnaissance) Regiment, the coup-makers plotted to overthrow the NLC government.
Arthur failed in the attempt and Ghanaians were soon able to heave a sign of relief. But they were to learn, to their horror, a few hours later that Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka had been captured in the night, by Arthur’s men and murdered in cold blood at the then Accra International Airport which today has been christened Kotoka International Airport in his memory. Operation Guitar Boy was the code-name for the attempted coup d’état on April 17, 1967, in Ghana.
Although unsuccessful, the coup resulted in the assassination of Lieutenant General Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka. The operation was named “Guitar Boy”, after a popular song by Nigerian musician Victor Uwaifo, in which the West African water goddess, the Mami Wata, had given him a guitar and asked him to make good music.
After the attempted coup, “Guitar Boy” was banned by the NLC from radio airplay in Ghana. Lt. Samuel Arthur attempted to gain access to the ammunition depot of the 1st Recce Regiment.
In a struggle for the keys, Captain Avevor – the depot’s quartermaster – was shot and killed. For their role in the deaths, Yeboah and Arthur were executed by firing squad at a military range near Labadi Beach. The other conspirator, Osei-Poku, received a thirty-year prison sentence, and the other members of the regiment also received prison terms.
In 1969, the Accra International Airport was renamed Kotoka International Airport in memory of the late Lt. General E.K. Kotoka.
General Emmanuel Kotoko, 40-years-old was the father of six children, was the NLC member responsible for defence, health, labour and social welfare as well as commanding the armed forces.
A year before his death, he led the military coup which removed president Kwame Nkrumah from power.