The British Monarch, Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, yesterday rolled out the red carpet for President J.A. Kufuor to officially welcome him to London at the beginning of his three-day State Visit to Britain.
It was historic in many respects. President Kufuor's visit is the first by a Ghanaian Head of State and the 17th by any African (the first being President Bourguiba of Tunisia in October 1980 and Nelson Mandela of South Africa in 1995) and it came exactly a week after Ghana celebrated 50 years of independence from colonial rule with a colourful ceremony in Accra.
The Queen, by tradition, invites two Heads of State annually to the Buckingham Palace for a State Visit.
It was a great spectacle yesterday as Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, Home Secretary John Reid and Police Chief Ian Blair waited patiently to welcome the Ghanaian President at the ceremonial grounds.
Hundreds of cheering Ghanaians waving miniature Ghana flags lined up the street along The Mall, the ceremonial route to the Buckingham Palace, to welcome President Kufuor and his wife, Madam Theresa, who were driven to the grounds in a Rolls Royce limousine.
The bright grey skies and cool spring weather provided the perfect ambience in Central London where 100 horse riders of the Royal Cavalry and two contingents from the Royal Regiment had mounted a colourful parade to welcome President Kufuor, resplendent in an immaculate black suit, while the Ghanaian First Lady wore a traditional Kente outfit.
As the Queen stepped forward to welcome the Ghanaian Head of State and his wife to the dais, led by Prince Edward, the youngest son of the monarch, the British national anthem gradually faded out and gave way to Ghana's national anthem as President Kufuor took the national salute before he was later accompanied by Prince Philip to inspect a Guard of Honour mounted by the Royal Regiment.
While the President and the Duke were reviewing the parade, Queen Elizabeth and Mrs Kufuor continued to engage in a hearty chat on the dais which was decked in Ghana national colours.
After the brief welcoming ceremony, President Kufuor and his host were driven to the Buckingham Palace in an ornate horse-drawn carriage in a colourful procession of horse riders from the Horse Guards, amidst cheers and applause from over 100 Ghanaians and other onlookers.
The First Lady and the Duke of Edinburgh followed in another carriage.
The rest of Ghana's delegation, including Foreign Affairs Minister, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and Ghana's High Commissioner to the UK, Mr Annan Cato, were driven in similar carriages to the Buckingham Palace where President Kufuor and his official delegation will lodge in an exquisite suite for the next three days.
Later in the day, President Kufuor and his wife were conducted by the Queen to view an exhibition of Ghanaian items from the Royal Collection and had a private lunch.
The President also visited the British Museum and the Westminster Abbey, where he laid a wreath at the grave of the Unknown Soldier.
Today, President Kufuor is due to visit Prime Minister Blair at his office, Number 10 Downing Street, and later attend a banquet hosted by the Lord Mayor of London.
He will spend tomorrow in Liverpool, Northwest England, to take part in a number of ceremonies at the Slave Museum to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery by the British Parliament, including receiving an honorary degree from Liverpool John Moores University.
At the time of filing this report, the President was scheduled to receive courtesy calls by the leader of the British opposition, David Cameron of the Conservatives, Menzies Campbell of the smaller Liberal Democrats and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.
Story by Nehemiah Owusu Achiaw
& Nana Sifa Twum