Republic of Ghana

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 20.5 million (9.7 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 7,000
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: signed 24 September 2003
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 182

There were no reports of under-18s in the armed forces. Fighters, possibly including under-18s, were reportedly recruited by Ivorian government and Liberian opposition forces in Liberian refugee camps in Ghana.


In January 2003 the National Reconciliation Commission started hearings. The Commission was mandated to establish a complete record of human rights violations from 1979 until the end of military rule in 1993. Former President Jerry Rawlings appeared before the Commission to answer allegations of extrajudicial executions during the periods of military rule under his leadership.1

In June 2003 a ceasefire agreement aimed at ending the conflict in Liberia was negotiated in Ghana, under the aegis of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), but collapsed within days. Ghana contributed troops to ECOWAS peacekeeping missions in Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia.2


National recruitment legislation and practice

According to the 1992 constitution it "shall be the duty of every citizen to defend Ghana and render national service where necessary" (Article 41). This "national service" is not always military service, but often consists of public service, sometimes in the rural areas. There is no conscription and the armed forces consist entirely of volunteers. The minimum age of recruitment is 18.3 There were no reports of under-18s in the armed forces.

Recruitment by neighbouring countries

The government of Côte d'Ivoire was reported to have recruited Liberian fighters in Ghana to join its forces fighting in the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire.4 It was not known whether they included child soldiers, although some Liberian mercenaries were known to be children.5

The Liberian armed political group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), also recruited fighters from a number of countries including Ghana. LURD supported the Ivorian government, which in turn helped form and train a LURD splinter group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL). LURD recruited and made extensive use of child soldiers. However, it was not known whether child soldiers were recruited from Ghana.

In January 2003 as many as 500 Liberian refugees in Ghana were alleged to have been offered money and taken to a training base by LURD recruiters. Ghanaian President John Kufuor reportedly intervened to end recruitments.6

1 IRIN, "Ghana: Rawlings makes brief first appearance at reconciliation commission", 12 February 2004,

2 Ghanaweb, "ECOWAS soldiers to fly to Cote d'Ivoire by 10 January 2003", 3 January 2003,; Ghanaweb, "3,000 ECOWAS troops to Liberia", 4 July 2003,

3 Initial report of Ghana to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/Add.39, 19 December 1995,

4 A.C. Ohene, "Swoop on Buduburam", Ghanaian Chronicle, 24 February 2003.

5 Human Rights Watch, Trapped between two wars: Violence against civilians in western Côte d'Ivoire, August 2003,

6 International Crisis Group, Côte d'Ivoire: "The war is not yet over", Africa Report No. 72, 28 November 2003,


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.