Ghanaians are celebrating their 52nd year of independence today with festivities set to begin early this morning and run throughout the day. Today's activities mark the first celebration headed by newly elected President John Atta-Mills who won last December's general election run-off. In 1957, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan country to free itself from colonial rule, with founding father Kwame Nkrumah leading it to independence from Britain. Nkrumah envisioned the country as the guiding light of African independence and solidarity, the "Black Star" of Africa. International observers have praised the country's sustained democratic civil rule through general elections since 1992, which also witnessed several transitional developments at all levels of governance. Economic reform has been at the forefront of Ghana's democratic transition. Alex Segbefia is President Atta-Mills' deputy chief of staff. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that unity and prosperity are the focus of the new administration.
"The president will be attending the national parade, which is going to be once again a glorious event. This is a onetime event where Ghanaians can put aside their partisanship and bask in the glory of having attained independence some 52 years ago. It is also more poignant because we have a lot of children and workers involved in the parade, and it gives it a sense of feeling of being close to your people and realizing that we are all one people with the same destiny," Segbefia pointed out.
He said President Atta-Mill's government is focused on ensuring unity among Ghanaians in today's independence celebration.
"The message is one of unity on occasions like this, so it is a very good day for Professor Mills, especially since this is his first independence celebration after having won the general election," he said.
Segbefia said the new administration has come out with its budget for the year to address some of the concerns expressed by average Ghanaians.
"We've just had the budget read yesterday, and Ghanaians know what is in store. So Professor Mills will go through the process of seeing the parade through, and his message will always be one of unity as occasions like this always demand, that you always talk about unity. And it will be at some point a solemn occasion, but a joyous one for the simple reason that we are quite clear in our minds that this is an occasion where we should all come together as one people and celebrate. But also remember what we've been through to actually get to the point of independence at this stage," Segbefia pointed out.
He denied the administration's budget is overly optimistic as claimed by critics of the government.
"No, I don't think it is overly optimistic. In actual fact, you can tell that the figures for growth are lower than were projected before. The figures are to try and reduce the budget deficit and figures therefore for the growth rates are not as high as have been in recent past. We've taken quite cognizance of the situation with regards to the global economic situation, and adjustments have been made to ensure that we deal with those issues that arise from the global situation. And we've actually tabulated where we expect cuts to be made, and these are being made predominantly in the area of government expenditure. So I think that it is clear that we have a budget that is clear for all to see as to what we intend to do to be able to meet the target we have set," he said.
Segbefia reiterated the need for oneness among Ghanaians as the nation celebrates 52 years of independence from Britain on March 6th 1957.
"They should aspire to ensuring that we always remember that we are one people and that we have a common destiny. And that we want to ensure that everything that is positive for the NDC (ruling National Democratic Congress) will move the country forward in terms of ensuring that our goals and aspirations for the people of Ghana are attained. I do not think that we should be thinking of partisan politics at this stage. We now must grow in terms of understanding that there is a plan that has been put forward. We should all try to achieve the aims and goals of that plan under that government that exist at this time," he noted.
Segbefia asked those opposed to the government to put aside any partisanship for today's celebration.
"The time for serious party politicking will come in four years' time when we have another election. For now, unity and prosperity should be the name of the game," he said.