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Fifty-five years of freedom for Ghana - but corruption remains a problem

Last update - Thursday, March 1, 2012, 15:05 By Chinedu Onyejelem

This weekend, Ghanaians at home and abroad will celebrate the 55th anniversary of their homeland’s independence day with mixed feelings.

On 6 March 1957, Ghana became the first black African country to gain its freedom from colonial Britain at an event attended by the Duchess of Kent on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II.
“The hopes of many, especially in Africa, hang on your endeavours,” she said in her address. “It is my earnest and confident belief that my people in Ghana will go forward in freedom and justice.”
It was a unique event for the west African country formerly known as the Gold Coast, which entered a new era blessed with abundant natural resources such gold, diamonds and more recently oil.
In his official address as the first prime minister of Ghana, the nationalist Kwame Nkrumah said it was a beloved country that “is free forever”.
He said at the time: “My government fully realises both the advantages and the responsibilities involved in the achievement of independence. It intends to make full use of these advantages to increase the prosperity of the country.”
Indeed, today Ghana is one of Africa’s most prosperous nations. Not only have its gold and diamond resources flourished, its newfound oil is also set to increase the prosperity Nkrumah spoke about in 1957.
Ghana’s cultural diversity has also been a strong advantage in a country of over 23 million people.
However, corruption and exploitation are never far away from the Ghanaian story. Even in the earliest days of independence, Nkruma – heralded at first as a visionary – soon used his power to ban trade unions and restrict personal freedoms.
And today, graft is a major problem in Ghanaian society. In the last few weeks alone, President John Atta Mills’ government has been rocked by series of corruption scandals, one involving a businessman and party financier who sued the country for a non-existent contract and reached a settlement, approved by the president, for £22m.
Such bad news will weigh heavily on Ghanaians’ minds as their country looks forward to the next years and decades of freedom.

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