The Independence Celebrations in Ghana, 2007

General News of Monday, 5 March 2007
Black Star flags flutter as Ghana celebrates 50th

Ghanaians hoisted their Black Star flag across the country on Monday for the country's 50th birthday party and authorities pledged a two-week respite from power blackouts that have plagued them for months.

Tuesday's jubilee marks half a century since Ghana became the first black African country south of the Sahara to gain independence from colonial rule, setting a pattern for the continent, but some see the celebrations as a waste of money.

The red, yellow and green flag adorned with a black star fluttered from palm trees, electricity poles and taxis.

"When you look how at our friends have suffered, by God's grace, we are here. We have suffered, but look at Liberia and Sierra Leone, we have reason to be proud," said Nora Kattah, a flag wrapped round her hair.

Thousands of people were expected to congregate in Accra on Monday evening for a party with a re-enactment of the Declaration of Independence and fireworks at midnight to mark the precise anniversary of independence.

Singer Stevie Wonder and black American politician Jesse Jackson were expected to join African leaders including Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo, along with Britain's Duke of Kent.

"The independence of Ghana was a landmark event with global impact. They said the sun would never set on the British empire and Ghana was a huge blow to British colonialism," Jackson told Reuters.

Ghana's independence inspired a wave of liberation struggles around the continent and the world.

Controversial commemoration

The celebrations have not been without controversy.

Former President Jerry Rawlings, who led two coups and ruled for nearly 20 of Ghana's 50 years of independence before stepping down in 2000, will not attend the celebrations.

A statement released at the weekend said Rawlings, a vocal critic of President John Kufuor's administration, refused to share a platform with "the same people who have taken every opportunity to denigrate us for the last seven years and see no good in what we did for this country."

An Accra court has banned a demonstration organized by the Committee for Joint Action, a gathering of opposition politicians and critics, amid fears the police would be overstretched.

Many still question the decision to spend $20 million on the yearlong commemoration, including a hefty chunk on cars for visiting presidents.

"We should have invested that money in other areas, water and electricity," said office worker Emmanuel Danso, a flag tied round his neck.

Rolling power cuts have become a daily annoyance for those residents lucky enough to have electricity at all.

For some, any sense of patriotism is obscured by the poverty that still exists in Ghana fifty years since independence.

"Politically our leaders have failed us. Only politicians or people who know people in politics live well in this country," Emmanuel Amanor said on his way to work in central Accra.The