Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama has written a new memoir of growing up during what he calls Africa’s “lost decades” the difficult years after independence. It’s not all politics, though: Mahama also writes about enjoying James Brown and traditional village dances.
The title refers to the 1966 military coup that overthrew Ghana’s first president. Mahama was 7 years old, and his father, a minister in the government, was imprisoned for more than a year. Mahama tells NPR’s Renee Montagne that Africa’s “lost decades” lasted from the late 1960s to the 1980s, after the initial euphoria of independence passed.
“Africa had become plagued by coups and violence, and dictators were taking over from civilian governments,” he says. “Most African countries went under military regimes. The Cold War was at its height. This is a period that is not well-documented in our literature, and yet that was the period where most of us were growing up … forming our consciousness.”
The book presents both Mahama’s urban life with his father, and his experiences in his mother’s village. Before the coups began, Mahama recalls a happy life picking fruit and climbing trees with his siblings, fishing in the river and hunting in the bush, cooking their catch over a fire — despite the occasional terrifying snake encounter.
Listen to President Mahama’s Interview with NPR Radio — African Politics, And Afros, In ‘My First Coup D’Etat’ [Radio Stream Link]
Read excerpts of his Book here – My First Coup D’etat