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Ghana Prepares to Mark 50 Years of Political Independence


Ghana is preparing to mark 50 years of political independence from British colonial rule. The March 6 event is expected to attract about 30 heads of state and many high profile delegates from around the world. But with only three days to the big event, the government is being criticized for poor organization and exclusion of political opponents from activities marking the anniversary. Efam Dovi has details from the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

A chain saw cuts through a tree stump on a portion of the ceremonial road in Accra, to make way for a sidewalk. At Independence Square, the main venue for the anniversary parade, bulldozers are still working behind the independence arch, and in many parts of the city, the usual dark streets are being lit.

Ghanaian authorities are determined to give the city a complete makeover before their numerous guests start arriving.

But opposition party members are criticizing President John Kufuor's administration for poor planning.

Dr. Edmund Delle is National Chairman of the Convention Peoples Party (CPP), a party that follows the traditions of Kwame Nkrumah, the man, who led Ghana into independence and later became the country's first president.

"Go round and see, they are now painting around the place when you have a few days, go and see Nkrumah's monument at the circle, there is nothing for you to write home about it, people who are coming to Ghana will definitely like to see the greatest of the great ones, and that is Kwame Nkrumah, you can not deny it," he said. "So definitely they will like to know where he lived, they will like to know his home town, some of the buildings that he used. These are monuments which don't belong to the CPP, they belong to the whole nation, they are historical places."

Dr. Delle says the government should have had broader consultation with all political parties, in planning the national event.

"This is a political event," he said. "Celebrating the independence of Ghana is a political event, because 1957 was the year we had political independence. So you cannot divorce it from politics. So we the political actors should have been involved maybe make contributions to government how we thought that this thing could have been done. And of course, as government, they will always take the final decision."

Dr. Delle says ordinary Ghanaians who worked to gain independence for the country have not been involved in the anniversary activities. He says the Kufuor administration only thought of the elites.

But deputy Information and National Orientation minister Oboshie Sai Cofie says it is the government's responsibility to organize the anniversary.

"Yes, they may not have been involved in the actual planning of the events. Our belief is that this is an event that is suppose to be organized by the leader and we feel it's government's responsibility to take hold of this event, plan it, organize it, and then invite people to play their different parts," she noted. "That is not to say that there has been no consultation.

Both the CPP and the National Democratic Congress, the largest opposition party, say they have, so far, not received any formal invitation to the anniversary activities. But Cofie says the invitations are still going out.

The government last month sent a special delegation to invite former President Jerry John Rawlings to take part in the ceremony, but it is still not clear if he will attend. He has been reported as saying there was nothing to celebrate.

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