'Inspiration for Africa'

 

Singer Stevie Wonder is due in Accra this week to sing a special version of his hit "Happy Birthday" dedicated to Ghana, whose independence inspired a wave of liberation struggles around the continent.

 

Voices from Ghana

Al Jazeera talks to key figures on how Ghana has changed in the last 50 years

Olusegun Obasanjo, the president of Nigeria, was billed as guest of honour at a ceremony on Tuesday to be attended by Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

 

The British Duke of Kent, World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz, and Jesse Jackson, the black American politician, are scheduled to attend the celebrations.

 

Jackson said: "The independence of Ghana was a landmark event with global impact. They said the sun would never set on the British empire and Ghana was a huge blow to British colonialism."

 

Following independence on March 6, 1957, Ghana witnessed a spate of military coups, but has since has emerged as one of Africa's most respected democracies and economies.

 

One Ghanaian market seller said: "I am glad to see this 50-year anniversary. God has taken us far. We want to develop more than this."

 

Celebration controversy

 

Jerry Rawlings, the former president who led two coups and ruled for nearly 20 of Ghana's 50 years of independence before stepping down in 2000, has decided not to attend the celebrations.

 

A statue of Kwame Nkrumah,
at Independence Square [AFP]
Rawlings, a vocal critic of President John Kufuor's administration, has condemned the government for refusing to acknowledge his contribution to Ghana's development.

 

With poverty widespread in Ghana, many ordinary Ghanaians have questioned the decision to spend $20m on the year-long commemoration, including large sums on cars for visiting presidents.

 

On Monday evening, the Ghanaian government organised a re-enactment of historic scenes from March 5, 1957 as well as a commemorative parliamentary session in Accra.

 

They was followed by a laser and fireworks display at the Memorial Park named after the late Kwame Nkrumah, the 'father of Ghanaian independence'.

 

A jubilee parade of armed forces personnel and schoolchildren mark the start of the festivities.

 

Tuesday and Wednesday have been declared public holidays.