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Africa
Ghana looks to the next 50 years
Foreign dignitaries join the masses as Ghana celebrates its 50th birthday.
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2007 16:42 GMT

Ghana's independence led to neighbouring countries breaking free from colonial rule [AFP]

Ghanaians have turned out in their thousands to celebrate 50 years of independence from Britain.
 
John Kufuor, the country’s president, lit a flame symbolising the spirit of independence at a ceremony at the packed Independence Square on Tuesday.
Kufour also inspected parades by the armed forces, among them British guardsmen sent by the old colonial power, as more than 20,000 people cheered and waved miniature Ghanaian flags.

Ghana's emergence after 80 years of British rule, when the country was known as the Gold Coast, acted as a catalyst for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa to break away from colonial rule.

Some doubts

By 1965, 17 African nations  had broken free of their colonial powers.

Tuesday and Wednesday have been declared public holidays. All  Accra hotels were fully booked two days before the main ceremonies.

Voices from Ghana

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

Not all Ghanaians were in the festive mood however, as former leader Jerry Rawlings boycotted the ceremony.

The former president who led two coups and ruled for nearly 20 of Ghana's 50 years of independence before stepping down in 2000, is a vocal critic of President John Kufuor's administration, has condemned the government for refusing to acknowledge his contribution to Ghana's development.

 
But Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, in Accra for the ceremony, said most people felt the day was above politics and a day for national celebration.

British peer Baroness Amos told Al Jazeera that the anniversary should be celebrated for the success of Ghana as an emerging democracy.

"Ghana [is]increasingly playing an important role regionally," she said, "continentally this year as chair of the African union, and also Ghana is currently on the UN security council. So its about looking forward to Ghana’s future with confidence."

Kwaku Asaite served in all of independent Ghana’s administrations until 2000 and campaigned alongside the country’s first president Kwame Nkrumah. He said that Tuesday’s festivities were "creating history".

"We are actually creating history today, we reliving the past and at the same time looking to the future with great hope," he said.

Esteemed guests

A statue of Kwame Nkrumah,
at Independence Square [AFP]

Revellers had thronged Accra's main square since dawn after tens of thousands gathered in the square overnight for a re-enactment of the declaration of independence from Britain and fireworks at midnight to mark the precise anniversary.


Altogether, around 12 African heads of state were attending the ceremonies, including Omar Bongo of Gabon, Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast and Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Other high-profile dignitaries in attendance included the Jesse Jackson, the African-American civil rights activist and Paul Wolfowitz, head of the World Bank.


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.

But 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.

 
Kufuor was to host a reception for his guests after the parade, followed by a state dinner. Ordinary Ghanaians were eagerly anticipating huge street, or in some cases, beach parties to celebrate.

 

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'.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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