This year’s national Independence Day celebration saw 1,200 school pupils drawn from selected schools in the Greater Accra Region to mark the anniversary at the Black Star Square in Accra.
The theme for the celebration “Investing in the Youth for Ghana’s Transformation” is aimed at channeling resources to equip the youth in being young entrepreneurs.
In attendance were the President of Guinea-Bissau, Jose Mario Vaz and President Uhuru Kenyata of Kenya. They joined President John Mahama for the anniversary.
President Mahama’s address
your Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya
Your Excellency José Mário Vaz, President of Guinea Bissau
Your Excellency Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, Vice President of the Republic of Ghana
Your Excellencies Former Presidents Jerry John Rawlings and John Agyekum Kufuor
Right Honourable Edward Doe Adjaho, Speaker of Parliament
Her Ladyship the Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood
My fellow Ghanaians
I would like to begin by congratulating each and every Ghanaian for your role in ensuring our beloved country’s ability to celebrate another year of independence and liberty, with democracy and the rule of law at the helm.
The reason we gather each year to celebrate our independence is because it is not something to be taken for granted. The struggles and the sacrifices that it required should never be forgotten.
They were struggles and sacrifices made by people whose names are perhaps, not as widely known, and whose stories have not been as widely spread, yet they were people without whom we would not be where we are today.
One of the most important reasons we gather each year to celebrate our independence is to acknowledge the responsibility that we as citizens carry for its continuation. We are the ones who must ensure that there is liberty in this land.
Every year school children are included in the Independence Day parade not for the purposes of entertainment but, rather, as a presentation of our nation’s future. These children are the future of Ghana; they are the future that the men and women in the Forces who march with them are tasked to protect.
It is our responsibility to safeguard our independence so that the nation we leave for our children to inherit is also free, peaceful and democratic.
Kenya and Guinea Bissau
Joining us today to celebrate our independence are two African presidents who understand the importance of that responsibility, and what it means for a generation to inherit a nation that is either primed for success or in need of saving.
We welcome Excellencies José Mário Vaz and Uhuru Kenyatta, Presidents of Guinea-Bissau and Kenya, respectively.
Since attaining its independence from Portugal in 1972, Guinea-Bissau has been engaged in a constant struggle to maintain peace and stability. In 2014, President Vaz assumed the highest office in the land. President Vaz has been credited for re-introducing the rule of law to Guinea-Bissau.
As the first sub-Saharan nation to gain independence, Ghana inspired other nations to claim their freedom. Today, as our citizens enjoy peace, security and freedom of speech; and expect transparent, non-violent electoral processes at all levels of government, Ghana is also inspiring other nations, such as Guinea-Bissau to maintain a consistent constitutional democracy.
In 1963, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta led his homeland, Kenya, to independence. On that day, this is what Mzee Jomo Kenyatta said to the citizens of the newly liberated Kenya, “I ask you to dedicate yourselves to the memory of those who have gone before us and to those who must follow us. I ask you to resolve to put aside all selfish desires and to strain every ounce of muscle and brain to building a nation which shall honour our dead, inspire our living and prove a proud heritage for those who are yet to come.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta was 2 years old when his father spoke those words. During the years that filled the gap between that day in 1963 and the day in 2013 when he was sworn in as the nation’s fourth president, Kenya, like so many African nations, experienced periods of economic difficulties and political turmoil.
But today Kenya is thriving, fighting back against all that would stand in the way of its progress. And despite the political difficulties that have travelled through the generations, the citizens of Guinea-Bissau also still hold fast to the hope of a continuation of security and many more peaceful transitions of power.
My Brothers and Sisters,
It is no secret that President Uhuru Kenyatta stands on the shoulders of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta; that President Jose Mario Vaz stands on the shoulders of Amilcar Cabral; or, that I stand on the shoulders of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, his colleagues of the Big Six and the many heroes of Ghana’s liberation.
The future we are building is situated on the ground that they broke. As we remember this, we must bear in mind that in some years to come, these children marching here today will be depending on our attitudes and our actions, the changes we make now, to lift them higher, to provide them with a solid foundation on which they, too, can build.
The successes and the failures of this nation belong to all of us because this country is for all of us, and we can each choose to play a role, no matter how seemingly minor, in moving it forward.
We must invest ourselves not only in the achievements our nation has chalked, but also in the challenges because each of us is the face of Ghana.
When Kofi Annan was named Secretary-General of the United Nations, the world knew him as a Ghanaian, the first black African to ever hold that title. And we took pride in our native son.
When we see Farida Bedwei being featured in the international media or learn that Taiye Selassie’s novel, “Ghana Must Go” is on the New York Times Bestseller List, we sit up straight and think to ourselves, “Yes, that person is one of us. That person is a Ghanaian.”
We do not stop to think about what political party they are associated with, what their ethnic origin is, what region of the country they are from, or which religion they practice. We celebrate them as a Ghanaian, as the face of Ghana.
And all of Africa claims them as well. When Wole Soyinka won the Nobel Prize for Literature, he belonged to all of Africa not just Nigeria.
When Lupita Nyong’o won the Academy Award, she was holding that Oscar for all of Africa, not just Kenya.
When 14-year old Abraham Attah won the Independent Spirit Award, he was not just representing this country; he has been applauded by all of Africa, though I am sure we applauded the loudest because he is one of us, he is the face of Ghana.
This is the pride and the unity we must foster every day.
Certainly there remains much more work to be done. Certainly we will have our differing political views on the best way to do that work. But we must use those discussions to strengthen who we are as one nation, and to find solutions to the challenges that face us.
We cannot encourage conversations and activities that are meant to divide us, to weaken our morale, or limit our potential in this particular moment.
To quote a popular expression: we cannot afford to “cut off our nose to spite our face.”
Not when so many have sacrificed so much for us to succeed.
Not when there are children watching and waiting to follow in the footsteps of Kofi Awoonor, Theodosia Okoh, Komla Dumor, Efua Sutherland and our many other Ghanaian heroes.
Not when we can heed the words of our founding President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who in the first moments of 6th March 1957, said to the citizens of this new nation: “We are going to demonstrate to the world, to the other nations, that we are prepared to lay our foundation—our own African personality.”
And today, 59 years later, we have done just that. The name “Ghana” means something in the world outside of our national borders. It represents a kinship, a determination, a disposition, a resolve, perseverance, dignity and integrity.
Gaining independence in sub-Saharan Africa is not our only first. Ghana was the first African nation to provide peacekeeping forces to the UN.
Ghana was the first country in the world chosen to receive Peace Corps volunteers. Ghana was the first African country to win the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, and the first African country to win the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
Ghana was the first country to open its borders for the provision of humanitarian aid in the fight against Ebola.
The name “Ghana” represents excellence and evokes respect in the comity of nations.
So, today, I applaud the good people of Ghana for continuing to define and demonstrate what Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah described as “our own African personality.”
May you always carry within you the pride and the love of Ghana. We may be many and a diverse people, but we are one nation.
One awesome, powerful nation whose presence on the world stage as a leader, as a peacekeeper, a society of warmth and kindness, a hub of talent, an attendant of culture and heritage, and an architect of change cannot be denied.
We must continue to work together to keep that black star shining.
I would like to close with the words from the second stanza of our National Anthem:
“Hail to thy name, O Ghana/
To thee we make our solemn vow:/
Steadfast to build together/
A nation strong in Unity/
With our gifts of mind and strength of arm,/
Whether night or day, in the midst of a storm,/
In every need, whate’er the call may be,/
To serve thee, Ghana, now and ever more.”
May God bless each and every one of you.
May God continue to bless our beloved homeland, and may Ghana remain free forever.