Thousands packed the streets of the capital and other town squares throughout the country today for celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule.
Affail Monney, the editor-in-chief of radio news for the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, said “The whole of Accra poured into the street to witness the events. People were in a joyous mood, they wore clothes in national colors (of red, yellow and green). They came on bicycles, horseback and in cars tooting their horns. The crowds which poured onto the parade grounds are among the biggest ever (gathered) in the history of this country.”
Monney said President Olusegan Obasanjo of Nigeria, who was the guest of honor, told the crowd Ghana and his country shared a special relationship that augurs well for Africa’s advancement and development. He said President John Kufuor acknowledged independence leader and first president Kwame Nkrumah’s for his contribution to Africa, repeating the late leader’s view that Ghana’s liberation would be meaningless unless all of Africa were independent.
Former president Jerry Rawlings, who staged a coup in 1979 but handed over to a democratically elected successor in 2001, did not attend today’s ceremonies. Monney said the former leader was “conspicuous” by his absence. “He said a few days ago his conscience would not allow him to take part,…[saying] here is a government which in his words ‘desecrates’ whatever achievements he has made in the history of the country.”
Also invited to the day’s festivities was Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, who has been criticized by the West for his growing repression of the opposition and violations of human rights. But Monney said “criticism (of Mugabe)has been muted. We recognize him as a Ghanaian because he was schooled in this country (and his first wife was a Ghanaian). Whatever political sins he has should not be used against him.”
The $20 million celebrations will continue throughout the year.