- The Ghanaian President, John Kufuor, today led thousands of people in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, to celebrate Ghana's 50 years of independence. President Kufuor has lit the independence flame to throw Ghanaians festooned in national colours into total celebration at the Accra Independence Square.
The festivities, which line up for 12 months, cost the Ghanaian government US $20 million.
Ghana, a former colony of Britain, became the first sub-Saharan country to become independent on 6 March 1957. The country's late President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who led Ghana to self rule, was overthrown in 1966.
Ghana's independence blew a wind of change in Africa, with many countries struggling to rule themselves. It is against this background that Africans still hold respect for Ghana and its citizens, especially Mr Nkumah who was keen in realising his dream to unite the entire Africa.
The event is graced by several heads of state and prominent people, including the Brazil-born black football icon, Pele and musician Stevie Wonder who is expected to unveil his composed "Happy Birthday Ghana."
The dignitaries include Presidents of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Nigeria – Thabo Mbeki, Robert Mugabe and Olusegun Obasanjo.
Thousands of Ghanaians living abroad also flew home to witness the colourful and symbolic event seen as deepening the unity, respect and joy between Ghanaians and other Africans.
However, Ghana's only surviving former President, Jerry John Rawlings, who ruled for two decades, refused to join the celebrations, despite several efforts by President Kufuor.
Since he left office in 2001, Mr Rawlings has been an arch critic of the Kufuor government. The existing bad blood between the two sometimes results to tensions in the country.
Mr Rawlings justified the reasons for snubbing the national event in a statement, arguing that he would not celebrate with "the same people who have taken every opportunity to denigrate us."
Officials of his party, National Democratic Congress, told a news conference yesterday that they would attend the event, despite being given short invitation.
Celebrations started in earnest at midnight when thousands of Ghanaians left their homes to participate in their country's most important day.
Accompanied by horses, President Kufuor who also doubles as the African Union Chairman was given a tumultuous welcome when he arrived at the parade grounds. After inspecting a guard of honour, Mr Kufuor delivered a speech for the red-lettered day.
He said 6 March 1957 independence had changed the image of the entire Africa, which is why the whole black continent has been thrown into celebration.
Mr Kufuor saluted the country's founding fathers, especially Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, first President of Ghana who headed the Convention People's Party.
The Chief Guest of Honour for the event, President Obasanjo, hailed Ghana's independence as timely because it had triggered stimulated 80 percent of African countries to attain self-rule ten years later.
The Nigerian President however blamed African countries for their failure to transform political independence into economic independence. Commending President Kufuor for his successes, Mr Obasanjo asked African leaders to him.
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