By Nadia Samie
6 March 2007
It was all systems go in Ghana as the African nation celebrated 50 years of independence on Wednesday. The colours of the national flag, red, green, yellow and black, could be seen everywhere in the capital of Accra, on t-shirts, cars and hanging in windows.
The guest list included Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe; Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo; the president of Gabon, Omar Bongo; US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and World Bank Chief Paul Woflowitz.
The Ghanaian government spent $20 million on the Golden Jubilee celebrations, an amount detractors’ have decried as excessive. Ghana was the first African country south of the Sahara to gain sovereignty in 1957.
Speaking to Bush Radio, Ghanaian journalist Joushua Anny said, "For me it shows that we still have a long way to go. After 50 years, economic structures have collapsed and we’re consumed by tribal and ideological differences."
Again, the country at 50 has no policy plan that would be followed by all parties. Each party comes to power and either destroys what is already there or, abandon them completely.
After 50, the country is still grappling with a high rate of graduate unemployment, mass exodus of Ghanaian professionals abroad, and polarization."
Part of Tuesday's celebrations saw Ghanaians re-enacting one of the country's most historic scenes from 5 March 1957, where the the Ghana independence leader Kwame Nkrumah was remembered. Also included was a commemorative parliamentary session in the capital and a fireworks display at the Memorial Park.
"There were regional celebrations in all the ten regions. A reenactment of Nkrumah’s declaration of independence took place at the memorial park where he was buried. There was a huge musical concert in the capital Accra. A street was named after the Nigerian president Obasanjo at a gala night," Anny says.
Cosatu's Patrick Craven says he wishes Ghana well as they celebrate their 50 years of independence.
"The 50 years have not been easy. The imperialist powers that conceded their direct, political control of Africa have kept an iron grip on their economic domination of the continent. They have continued to exploit our natural resources and cheap labour. They have erected tariffs to protect their own economies at the expense of the developing world, while trying to force African countries to embrace the ‘free market’. They have stifled the development of manufacturing industry, and imposed ‘structural adjustment’ programmes, through the IMF and World Bank, which have had dire consequences for the people of Africa, most of whom still live in desperate poverty.
"All this has inevitably had a destabilising impact on Africa. Many independent countries, including Ghana itself, have suffered from coups, dictatorships, civil wars or foreign incursions. Yet, despite massive problems of poverty, hunger and disease, most are now back on the road to democracy," Craven said.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Ghana for serving as an example for freedom movements across the African continent.
According to the World Bank, the number of Ghanaians living below the poverty line has dropped from more than half the population in 1990 to about 37 percent today.
The 6th and 7th March have been declared public holidays in Ghana.