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22.02.2007 Politics

17 African Leaders confirm attendance

By The Statesman
17 African Leaders confirm attendance

17 African leaders have so far confirmed that they would grace the celebration of Ghana's Golden Jubilee on March 6 this year.

The Government has sent invitations to all African leaders to attend the [email protected] celebrations but the 17 Heads of State have given their word that they will honour the invitations.

Ghana`s celebration of its 50th birthday is seen in many quarters as an African celebration because the country, known during British colonial rule as Gold Coast, championed the continent's independence immediately after it became the first independent black African state on March 6, 1957.

With the historically prophetic statement, "The independence of Ghana is meaningless until it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent,” uttered by our first Prime Minister, Kwame Nkrumah, at the dawn of independence, the floodgates of African freedom from colonial shackles were literally opened.

Reacting to a questioner at Meet-the- Press conference in Accra. Kwadwo Okyere Mpiani, Chairman of the National Planning Committee for the Golden Jubilee Celebrations, articulated that Ghana's independence gave it the impetus to expend huge sums of money to fight for the liberation of African colonies.

Earlier in a five-page speech read to the media, Mr. Mpiani referred to former President Nkrumah's assertion, saying, “Today, all of Africa is indeed free and it is significant that our current President, John Agyekum Kufuor has been given the distinguished honour by his fellow leaders to chair the Africa Union in this Golden Jubilee year.”

The Jubilee celebrations are under the theme, “Ghana @50: Celebrating African Excellence.”

He observed that the celebrations was a time to “show what is it about us that propelled our founding fathers to inspire and lead Africa to freedom and self-rule,” stating that they offer us another platform to show why 50 years on, Ghana was leading the way to the resurgence of and revitalisation of Africa's unfulfilled dreams.

“If indeed, we are to fulfill our pledge to champion Africa's excellence in this new century, the guiding light must be that of a united people, in a united country that is justifiably proud of its achievements and most deserving of sharing our joy with the rest of the world on 50th birthday.”

Mr Mpiani, who is the Chief of Staff, told reporters that the celebrations would start with commemorative parades in every district of the country, which would be followed by street parties and carnivals. Miss [email protected] gala balls would also be held. He said on the evening of March 6, Parliament would hold a commemorative session to relive and re-enact the moment when the colonial authorities formally handed over power to then Premier Nkrumah.

The special session will be participated by 37 prominent speakers from Legislatures of African states as well as the Duke of Kent, who will represent Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; like his mother did 50 years ago.

Touching on the non-inclusion of opposition political parties in the planning of the celebrations, he argued that the planning followed long and established precedence and practice for important national events since 1957. “The celebration of our birth as a nation state fifty years ago was planned and managed by the Government of the day. Since then, the organisation of the celebrations of every landmark point in our history has been stewarded by the incumbent Government at the helm of our affairs.

“The 25th anniversary of our independence was planned by the Government of Dr Hilla Limann, though its fulfilment was cut short by a violent disruption to constitutional order. Ten years ago, the 40th anniversary of our independence was planned and implemented by the Government of the National Democratic Congress, without any fuss or protest from any of the political parties.”

Mr. Mpiani, who also doubles as Minister for Presidential Affairs, further contended that the principle of incumbent governments taking charge of the responsibility for planning national occasions is not peculiar to Ghana or Africa.

He noted that it is applied and observed throughout the world and has never been considered as an issue of serious fracture of the unity and sanctity of nations, adding it is not a “legitimate basis for sowing seeds of disunity amongst the people.”

Quizzed whether, as part of the celebrations, it was not worth honouring Nkrumah and rehabilitating his hometown, Nkroful, the Chief of Staff conceded that “nobody can push aside the Nkrumah” and we can never run away from the Nkrumah factor.” But added that some people started the nationalist struggle before Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast to lead his party and country to independence.

On the role of former President Rawlings in the celebrations, he counter-questioned, “I really don't know what you want [former] President Rawlings to do?” He asserted that Rawlings has no specific role per se in the planning of the anniversary, pointing out, “there is nothing like a co-Presidency. There is only one President.”