Thousands of ordinary Ghanaians, as well as heads of state and other dignitaries, gathered Tuesday in Ghana's Independence Square in the capital, Accra, to celebrate the west African nation's 50th anniversary of independence. Efam Dovi was there and filed this report for VOA.
After a long struggle for liberation from Britain, Ghana became the first black African country to gain political independence 50 years ago.
Many people came to the independence parade dressed in the country's national colors - red, gold, green - and carrying miniature Ghanaian flags. The parade is the high point of a year of activities marking the anniversary.
Ghanaian President John Kufuor watched as a broad range of marchers, from school children to members of various state agencies, passed by.
In his remarks to the crowd, President Kufuor paid homage to those who fought for the country's independence and urged all Ghanaians to protect their hard-won freedom.
"It is worthwhile to remind ourselves that freedom is a living flame that needs to be constantly fueled and not a monument to be saluted and revered occasionally," he said. "Ghana's freedom, indeed, African's freedom must be an eternal flame to be continually fueled by all our governments and peoples because this freedom defines our humanity."
President Kufuor also talked about young Africans who risk their lives taking dangerous journeys across the Sahara Desert or the Atlantic Ocean in a bid to find employment in Europe and elsewhere. He urged them to remain home, saying the continent needs their brains, energy and dynamism.
Independent Ghana, like many sub-Saharan African countries, has had a checkered political history marked by a series of military coups, which ended in 1992. But the country is now seen as a model democracy in the region.
Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who was the guest of honor, said Africa's biggest problem was sustaining political stability.
"We substituted military rule for colonially handed down democracy and socialism for capitalism without a productive capital base," he said.
He says what is required is a clear understanding of the best way for Africans to bring political development and economic growth to the continent.
As did so many people who gathered on the Independence Square, 13-year-old Abigail and Brenda from the United States say they have high hopes for Ghana's future.
ABIGAIL: "I would like to see Ghana as independent and at the same time self reliant."
BRENDA: "Ghana is going to progress to be a first rate country, it already has all the infrastructure necessary, the people are certainly committed to its building and its regeneration, and so certainly there are great plans for Ghana."