Excerpt from My First Coup d'Etat by John Mahama, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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My First Coup d'Etat

And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa

By John Mahama

My First Coup d'Etat
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  • Hardcover: Jul 2012,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: May 2013,
    288 pages.

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The school crest is a black-and-white drawing of piano keys. It was in keeping with the motto and founding principles. One of Achimota's founders, Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey, is famously quoted as saying, "You can play a tune of sorts on the black keys only; and you can play a tune of sorts on the white keys only; but for perfect harmony, you must use both the black and the white keys."

It somehow seems just, given the history of the land on which it was erected, that Achimota should have made a name for itself as a safe haven, a beacon of promise and hope for future generations of Africans. The school was built in the middle of the Achimota Forest. The forest, which at one time spanned thousands and thousands of acres, was notoriously dense, the sort of place in which a person could get lost forever. It was officially set aside as a reserve in 1930.

The area that became the Gold Coast colony and is now called Ghana was a key location in the transatlantic slave trade. Ghana contains more slave castles and forts than anywhere else. These buildings have been preserved as historical landmarks or turned into museums. They tell the story of domination and enslavement.

But there are lesser-known landmarks, ones that tell another sort of tale, a tale of defiance and resistance. One such landmark is the forest in which Achimota School is now situated. It was where the captured who'd managed to escape would run to seek shelter and protection from those who wished to enslave them.

Even the name that was ultimately given to the forest is a testament to the fear its trees have witnessed and the secrets their canopies have kept. Achimota, in the language Ga, means "speak no name." That forest was a place of silences, but it was also a place of salvation.

This history is all the more reason I find our experience with Ezra so significant that even to this day it stands out in my mind.

Kwashiorkor is a form of malnutrition that occurs when there is not enough protein in the diet.

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Excerpted from My First Coup D'Etat by John Dramani Mahama. Copyright 2012 by John Dramani Mahama. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury.

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Beyond the Book:
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