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22.02.2007 Feature Article

Glimpses of Ghana: A Gilded Jubilee

Despite hard times, Ghanaians celebrate 50 years

Workers prepare and paint the last grandstand in Accra's Independence Square on Friday. With Ghana's 50-year anniversary March 6, the government is putting the final touches on public venues in anticipation of the celebration.

Along with the new coat of paint, the square has also gotten a good cleaning, while the monument seen behind the workers was power washed and its chipped cement patched up and painted over.

The government has also called on Ghanaians to help clean up their country. A few weeks ago, the president asked the people to paint their homes and also instituted several nationwide cleaning days.

The problem with these measures is that not everyone can or does participate. In a country with a per-capita income just shy of $300 a year, many Ghanaians can't afford a bucket of paint or a day of unpaid labor.

Though cleanups were effective in some neighborhoods, they were largely ignored and there wasn't much done to enforce them.

Some see mobilizing the country to pick up the piles of plastic bags and clean the gutters as putting on a pretty face for visitors, only to let it fall apart when they leave.

Parliament has approved $20 million for the celebration and its preparation. Private donors have also dropped more than $2 million into the bucket and have pledged twice that.

All this money, however, has raised eyebrows. Most of the money being spent is targeted at a few firms that are fixing up areas that would be used for the celebration and would be popular with tourists. Some say the money would be better spent on development projects, rather than wasted on celebrating a country that can't keep the power on seven days in a row.

Though many Ghanaians are excited about the anniversary, they have a lot on their minds. Some point to the preparations as a gilding of Ghana's actual situation. Under the shiny paint on some of the buildings, 50 years of independence has not been as successful as hoped.

With people flying in over the next few weeks from all over the world, Ghana is putting on its best face. Foreigners and Ghanaian expatriates will pour in and have a chance to see for themselves what independence has done for the nation, good and bad.

Shane McMillan
Shane McMillan, © 2007

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