After 22 years of separation, the government of Ghana has taken steps to restore formal relations with Madam Helena Ritz Fathia Nkrumah, wife of Ghana's first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. The former first lady, now in her 60s, left the country after the December 31, 1981 coup, to stay in her native country, Egypt.
The government has decided to restore her diplomatic status by giving her a new diplomatic passport, which is currently being processed. The old one was withdrawn by the previous administrations.
In addition, the government has refurbished a residential accommodation at Labone in Accra which she occupied in 1976 and would soon hand it over to the family.
This is in line with the government's pledge to restore all assets of former Heads of State and to take good care of their surviving wives.
Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, made this known when he visited Madam Fathia at her residence in Cairo, Egypt, ahead of the CAN 2008 bidding contest in which Ghana emerged victorious.
Present were Ghana's Ambassador to Egypt, General Ben Akafia (retd), the chairman of the Ghana Football Association, Dr Nyaho Tamakloe, and one of the former President's sons, Mr Gamel Gorkeh Nkrumah.
“She was surprised at the team's visit and was deeply touched,” Mr Baah-Wiredu later told the Graphic in an interview in Accra.
On behalf of the government, Mr Baah-Wiredu presented $3,000 to Madam Fathia for the upkeep of her family.
On behalf of the family, Mr Gorkel Nkrumah thanked President Kufuor and Ghanaians for the gesture, which he said, “is especially moving because no party, historically, has done this.”
“It's very touching for us that President Kufuor has taken the initiative. We appreciate it very much,” he added.
Mr Nkrumah expressed the willingness of the family to come back to Ghana and declared, “I'll like to serve Ghana in any capacity.”
Madam Fathia, like other former first ladies, has suffered neglect in the past, following the overthrow and death of Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
She left the country after the 1966 coup and went to live in a sheltered life in Maadi, Egypt.
Madam Fathia, as she was popularly known, came back to Ghana for the burial of Dr Nkrumah at Nkroful in the Western Region on July 7, 1972, after the late President's body had been exhumed from Conakry, Guinea, and returned to Ghana.
In 1976, she returned to Ghana following an invitation by the late General I.K. Acheampong, who was then Head of State and Chairman of the Supreme Military Council (SMC I). She then occupied a house at Labone which the present government intends to return to her.
When the New Patriotic Party took power in 2001, the government decided to return all seized Property of former Heads of State and to take good care of their wives.
In line with this pledge, the assets of former Presidents, Prof. Kofi Abrefa Busia and Dr Hilla Limann, among others, have been returned, while their wives have been compensated by the government.