Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka

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Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka
Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka.jpg
Born26 September 1926
Alakple, Gold Coast
Died1 April 1967(1967-04-01) (aged 40)
Accra, Ghana
Service/branchGhana Army
Years of service1947–1967
RankMajor General
Commands heldChief of Defence Staff and General Officer Commanding
AwardsGhana Service Order for Exceptional Bravery
Other workMember of NLC
Minister for Defence
Minister for Health

Lieutenant-General Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka Born (26 September 1926 – 17 April 1967) was a Ghanaian military officer who was a member of the ruling National Liberation Council which came to power in Ghana in a military coup d'état on 24 February 1966. This overthrew the government of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of the republic.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Emmanuel Kotoka was born at Alakple,[2] a village in the Keta district of the Volta Region of the Gold Coast (British colony). He completed his basic education at the Alakple Roman Catholic School and later attended the Anloga Senior School in 1941.[2] He started training as a goldsmith but switched to a career in the military. Kotoka was enlisted as a private in the Infantry School of the Gold Coast Regiment.[3]

Military career[edit]

In July 1947, he enlisted in the Infantry School of the Gold Coast Regiment at Teshie in Accra. He rose through the ranks, becoming a sergeant in 1948 and later Company Sergeant Major in 1951.[2] In 1952, he was among some west African soldiers selected for training at Eaton Hall Officer Cadet School[4] in the United Kingdom. In 1954, he was commissioned as a lieutenant[4] and seconded to the British army on the Rhine.

On his return to the (Gold Coast) (as Ghana was then called), he was made a Platoon Commander of the Second Gold Coast Regiment of Infantry. He rose to become the Second-in-Command and in 1959 became the Platoon Commander with the rank of Captain. He was promoted to the rank of Major later that year.

In 1960, he attended the Company Commander's course at the School of Infantry in Warminster, England. In 1960, he was the commander of D company of the detachment of the Second Battalion of the Ghana army which made up Ghana's contingent in the United Nations Operation in the Congo deployed in the capital, Leopoldville, now Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.[5] He was regarded as a national hero following this deployment. He was awarded the Ghana Service Order for Exceptional Bravery for Distinguished Service in the Congo in 1963.[2] He later became the Commander of the Second Infantry Brigade (now the Central Command) of the Ghana Army) located at Kumasi.[4]


In 1965, the then Lieutenant-Colonel Kotoka was transferred to Kumasi where he met and became friends with then Major Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa, an officer in the Second Brigade of the Ghana army.[2] The two are generally credited with being among the key conspirators behind the first bloody coup d'état in Ghana on 24 February 1966 which brought an end to the first republic. They codenamed it "Operation Cold Chop".[6] It was Kotoka who announced the coup to the nation early that morning from the Broadcasting House of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, the official radio station in Ghana. The Central Intelligence Agency appears to have been aware about the plotting of the coup at least a year ahead.[7][8] On the day of the coup in 1966, Kotoka was promoted Major General and became a member of the ruling National Liberation Council and also the Commissioner for Ministry of Health as well as General Officer Commanding the Ghana Armed Forces. On the first anniversary of the coup, February 24th 1967, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general.


On 17 April 1967, a company of the reconnaissance regiment of the Ghana army, based at HO, in the Volta Region, attempted to overthrow the NLC government. The operation was code-named "Guitar-boy". Lt. Yeboah and men under his command succeeded in breaking through the defenses of the army headquarters at Flagstaff House and capturing Lt.-Gen. Kotoka. During his court-martial, Lt. Yeboah admitted to stabbing and shooting Kotoka to death.

Kotoka was the general officer commanding the Ghana armed forces, making him the substantive commander-in-chief of the military, at the time of his death.

Lt. Moses Yeboah and Lt. Sam Arthur were later tried and sentenced to death by a military tribunal. They were publicly executed at the military firing range at Teshie, Accra. [9][10]

Kotoka International Airport T3


The Ghana International Airport was renamed Kotoka International Airport in his memory.[11][12] He was killed at a spot which is now part of the forecourt of the airport and his statue used to stand at that spot, but has since been removed to make way for airport expansion projects.[13]

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Mad. Monica Kotoka[12]


The Irish poet, Máire Mhac an tSaoi, wrote a poem in his memory - "Sea never dry" published in 1968 in the magazine Comhair and subsequently in a collection called "Codladh an Ghaiscigh" published by Sairséal & Dill (Dublin) in 1973. She also included in a recording by Claddagh Records (Ómós do Scoil Dhún Chaoin) in 1970..

''"É d'éag d'fhág trom mo chroise,

An saighdiúir gorm,

I bhfad ó fhód a shínte,

An Saighdiúir gorm...."


  1. ^ "Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka, Biography". www.ghanaweb.com. Retrieved 2022-08-04.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Lt-Gen Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka". Famous Ghanaians: Heads of State. Ghana Home Page. Retrieved 2007-03-19.
  3. ^ "Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka, Biography". www.ghanaweb.com. Retrieved 2022-08-04.
  4. ^ a b c Jon Kraus (April 1966). "Ghana Without Nkrumah – The Men In Charge". Africa Report. Archived from the original on 2007-05-19. Retrieved 2007-03-19.
  5. ^ Leslie (2004-09-16). "Kwame Nkrumah's contribution to the decolonisation process in Africa". Black History Month. Wellplaced Consultancy. Archived from the original on 2007-02-02. Retrieved 2007-03-19.
  6. ^ "The Security Services" (PDF). National Reconciliation Commission Report Volume 4 Chapter 1. Ghana government. October 2004. p. 24. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 16, 2006. Retrieved 2007-06-11.
  7. ^ "253. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/". FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES 1964–1968, Volume XXIV Africa. Department of State, USA. 1999. Retrieved 2007-03-19. The plotters are keeping us briefed," .... "and the State Department thinks we're more on the inside than the British. While we're not directly involved (I'm told), we and other Western countries (including France) have been helping to set up the situation by ignoring Nkrumah's pleas for economic aid. All in all, it looks good.
  8. ^ Paul Lee (2002-06-07). "Documents Expose U.S. Role in Nkrumah Overthrow". SeeingBlack.com. Archived from the original on 2007-07-05. Retrieved 2007-03-19.
  9. ^ "The National Liberation Council, 1966–69". Library of Congress Country Studies – Ghana: The Military and the Government. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2007-03-25.
  10. ^ Ghana News. Embassy of Ghana. 1968.
  11. ^ "KIA History – GACL". Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  12. ^ a b "GENERAL KOTOKA TRUST ACT, 1969 N.L.C.D. 339". elibrary.jsg.gov.gh. Retrieved 2021-01-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ "Gen. Kotoka's Children Commend Gov't Over KIA Facelift". Modern Ghana. Retrieved 2021-01-08.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Barker, Peter (1969). Operation Cold Chop: the Coup That Toppled Nkrumah. Ghana: Ghana Publishing Corporation. ISBN 0-87676-065-5.
  • Hansen, Emmanuel. 1968. Ghana: Background to Revolution. Transition, No. 35. (February – March, 1968), pp. 24–28.
Military offices
Preceded by Chief of Defence Staff
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Minister for Health
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Defence
Succeeded by