President John Evans Atta Mills, Ghana’s third President of the Fourth Republic, who died on July, 24 has been laid to eternal rest with full military honours.
After lying in state from Wednesday morning to Friday morning at the Banquet Hall of the State House, a state funeral service was conducted at the Independence Square on a day declared as national day of mourning.
Being Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, President Mills’ casket, draped in the national colours was brought to the funeral ground on a gun-carriage on red carpet, escorted by eight pall bearers of brigadier general rank to the Independence Square, the very venue where he was inaugurated into office as the President of Ghana on January 7, 2009.
The solemn three-hour funeral service was attended by government delegations and distinguished personalities, including Mrs Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State, the Chairman of the African Union and President of Benin, Yayi Boni, the Ivorian President and Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Alassane Ouattara, Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea and President Goodluck Jhonathan of Nigeria.
Also present were the Presidents of Guinea, Alpha Conde, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Blaise Campoare of Burkina Faso, Mrs Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia, President Macky Sall of Senegal, the French Minister for Francophonie, Yamina Benguigui, Deputy Prime Minister of Swaziland, Themba Masuku, the secretary to the President of Sudan, Dr Mustapha Osman and members of the Diplomatic Corps.
About 50,000 Ghanaians also attended the funeral service, including Members of the Council of State, Ministers of State, Members of the Legislature and Judiciary.
Former President Jerry John Rawlings, former President John Agyekum Kufuour, flag bearers and representative of the various political parties, high ranking members of the Ghana Armed Forces, traditional leaders and the clergy were also in attendance.
As early as 6.a.m, the Independence Square was half full as people from all walks of life trooped to the venue in their numbers with most of them wearing the special funeral cloth produced in memory of the late president.
People who arrived after 8 a.m. found it difficult to get seats as the venue which was filled to capacity.
Security personnel detailed to maintain order had difficulty in performing their duties due to the large crowd.
A mass choir, made up of the Tema Youth Choir, Dansoman Youth choir, Osu Castle Choir and the National Parliament choir, accompanied by the Armed Forces Band performed a rendition of sorrowful songs.
A mounted squadron of Recce Regiment of the Ghana Armed Forces and dispatch riders of the Ghana Police Service heralded the arrival of the Presidential casket from the State House with artistic display.
A sea of Ghanaians, in mourning clothes thronged the Independence Square to pay their last respects. The beauty of the solemn ceremony was the display of national unity with the majority of the people waving miniature national flags, especially, when the military cortege arrived at the service grounds.
The security personnel had a tough time controlling the crowd as every mourner was to sit to observe the proceedings.
Soon on arrival, the President, John Dramani Mahama lit the Perpetual Flame after which the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Right Rev. Professor Emmanuel Martey called the service to worship and prayed for peace and prosperity for the nation.
Glowing tributes were paid to the late president.
President Mahama in his tribute described his predecessor as “an emphatic, decent, incorruptible, caring, intelligent, selfless, thoughtful and God-loving leader who cared deeply about creating a better Ghana for all”.
He was in no doubt that the passing on to glory of the late president would be a catalyst for the country to consolidate the peace and forge ahead in unity.
The late President’s wife, Dr. Ernestina Naadu Mills, in her tribute said her late husband was a blessing to her, Ghana, Africa and the world.
She expressed her gratitude to the family of her late husband for their friendship and support throughout their marriage.
Dr. Cadman Atta Mills, brother of the late president who read the tribute on behalf of the family said the family had been humbled by the eulogies from all corners of the world and comforted by the sincere words of sympathy from colleague heads of state of the late president, world leaders, political allies and from multitudes of ordinary Ghanaians who were described by the late president as his “brothers and sisters”.
He said President Mills has left “a legacy of commitment to education, the pursuit of excellence, devotion to development of the youth through sports, respect for the political process and a determination to prove that good and decent people needed to be involved in politics to be relevant in policy formulation and implementation”.
Preaching the sermon on the theme, “the futility of life without God”, the Most Reverend Prof. Emmanuel K. Asante, said human life on earth was short and transient.
He recounted the virtues of King Solomon as told in the bible, and said he was a man of substance, power and wealth.
Most Rev. Asante said in spite of all these, Solomon was righteous and considered life without God as futile.
The late President, he said, exhibited the traits of Solomon and was of the strong conviction that “life without God is merely existence. It is futile”.
Rev Asante called on Ghanaians not to take life for granted but to love one another and live in peace and harmony.
After the service, President Mills’ casket was taken on a state ride on some principal streets of Accra before interment at the “Asomdwee Park” located on the the Marine Drive , close to the Castle, the seat of government