5 Mar 2007
Ghana, the first Sub Saharan African country to attain independence is celebrating her 50th anniversary today March 6th. An elaborate program has been mapped out for the occasion that is unfolding under the theme ‘Championing African Excellence’. At Midnight of March 5th the Ghanaian parliament re-enacted the declaration of Independence as it occurred 50 years ago followed by fireworks, marches and celebrations. This silver jubilee independence celebration that Ghana’s government has spent $20 million to organize will go down in record as the biggest and longest public manifestation in the history of Ghana. Events and activities had been planned for the 12 months of the year with each month having a theme. The opening theme in January is ‘Reflections’ and that for December is ‘Final Curtain’. Among the projects and events include exhibitions, lectures, concerts, parades, sports, films and publications. There are also planned legacy projects like tree planting initiatives, recreational parks and housing projects among others.
The Ghanaian government led by John Kufuor has done everything to use this opportunity to showcase Ghana and boost his own standing internationally. On the website created for the occasion www.Ghana@50.gov, most of what a visitor needs to know about contemporary Ghana is published there. An article written by one of Ghana’s best-known citizens, ex-UN secretary General Kofi Annan, appears there. In a message to Ghanaians on the website president Kufuor said; “We should rejoice in the fact that in spite of periods of uncertainty, and difficulties in the past 50 years, we have managed to pull together as a nation to this day”. Adding, “Let us resolve to draw a firm line between our checkered and unhappy past and a future full of hope, achievement and fellow feeling”.
Ghana indeed had a checkered past. Kwame Nkrumah’s Pan African Socialist leaning government was overthrown in a military coup in 1966. During that period of the Cold war, it was suspected that Western powers were involved or at best knew of the coup. Ghana went through different stages until the seventies when things really changed for the worse. Many Ghanaians went into ‘economic exile’ with close to 3 million living in Nigeria by the time Nigeria expelled illegal immigrants in 1983. By 1979, dissatisfaction led to an uprising within the army. Junior officers rebelled and freed Jerry Rawlings from Prison (he was detained on allegations of plotting a coup). Rawlings and his supporters succeeded in toppling the military government of Gen Akufo. Akufo and seven senior military officers including two other former heads of states were publicly executed during Rawlings’ ‘house cleaning exercise’ that lasted for three months. Rawlings was to stage a second coup against Hilla Liman in 1981 and then ruled Ghana for the next 19 years up 2001 when John Kufuor took over through elections.
Rawlings Boycotts Celelebration
Relations between Rawlings and Kufuor have been degenerating in recent times and it is not surprising that Rawlings has decided to boycott the Jubilee celebrations. In a message addressed to ‘The People of Ghana And All Well Wishers of Ghana’ Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings seems to cast doubt on Kufuors claim to be leading Ghana on the right path. He criticized “certain international powers” and “sections of the international and local press” for glossing over the difficulties Ghanaians face to “whitewash the present government”. He added, “There is an empty façade of ‘good governance’ that earns the applause of those who seek to control us”. “I deeply regret that I cannot therefore join Kufuor’s government for this anniversary. My conscience and my principles will not permit me. I cannot share the same platform with the same people who have taken every opportunity to denigrate us for the past seven years and see no good for what we did for this country”. Rawlings said.
There is no doubt that Rawlings has done a lot for Ghana and no question that his government was pretty free of corruption. It was during his rule that Ghana came out of economic abyss and Ghanaians abroad started returning home in large numbers to invest and live in their country. Ghana (pop 20 million) has been experiencing an annual economic growth rate of between 5 to 6% for the past 10 to 15 years. Her democracy is encouraging and her political stability enviable. If this trend continues, Ghana could well be on the way to regain the past glory of the Nkrumah Years. It is therefore a good reason to celebrate.
Njei Moses Timah