The year 2012 in retrospect: Ghana?s year of grief

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ACCRA Jan. 1? The year 2012 would certainly be the most memorable year for most Ghanaians in recent history, but this time for the wrong reasons.

Ghanaians were greeted on late afternoon of July 22 with news of the sudden death of their president, John Evans Atta Mills.

The shock wave of the news rung through the atmosphere with many Ghanaians wailing for the man popularly referred to as ?Asomdwehene? (King of peace).

The ambiance of grief that heralded this national tragedy is best witnessed than described, as the three-week national mourning ?period declared by care-taker President, John Dramani Mahana saw Ghanaians from various walks of life pouring into the capital to condole with the widow and immediate relatives of the deceased president.

Heads of State in the West African sub-region and envoys of other African leaders hurried in?????at the tragic news to console the nation.

Perhaps the official announcement on the afternoon of that fateful day by presidential Chief of Staff, John Henry Martey Newman captures the shock and sorrow that gripped the West African country when it happened.

?It is with a heavy heart and deep sorrow that we announce the sudden death of the President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency John Evans Atta Mills,

?The death occurred at the 37 Military Hospital this afternoon while receiving medical attention after being taken ill a few hours earlier,? said the statement signed by Newman.

The streets and public buildings were awash with the red and black mourning colors of the country with flags flying at half-mast in honor of Mills who first came on to the political scene in 1996 as Vice-President of former President, Jerry John Rawlings, ,founder of ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC).

The body lay in state for three days in the State Banquet Hall where all mourners were given equal opportunity to catch a glimpse of the remains of the late leader with majority not able to control their tears.

The burial and final state funeral saw the over 30,000 capacity Independence Square??bursting at its seams with both foreign and local mourners including United States chief envoy, Hillary Clinton and 15??heads of state thronging the funeral grounds to pay their last respect to the first Ghanaian leader to die in office.

A new Executive mausoleum ?Asomdwe? (Peace Park) was created along the Castle Drive where the late leader?s remains were interred on August 10.

Just as it looked like the country was pulling out of the grief situation and efforts were underway by the political parties to win supporters ahead of the December 7 election, another high profile personality, former Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama also passed away after weeks of treatment at the Cardio-thoracic center at the nation?s premiere referral facility, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.

As a Moslem, the remains of the former Vice-President to former President John Agyekum Kufuor between 2001 and 2009 were interred in his private resident just three days after passing away.

Sorrowful as the occasions were, the death of these two high profile politicians, especially that of Mills saw the country, usually polarized along political lines united in grief.

The two high profile deaths were however not the only disasters that Ghanaians suffered during the year, as earlier on??June 2, an Allied Air cargo plane from Nigeria over-shot the run-way at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) on a rainy Saturday evening.

The aircraft crushed through the fence walls opposite the EL-Wak Military Stadium colliding with a public transport killing 10 persons on board including the driver.

Earlier in February, a boat disaster had struck on the Volta River near Krachi in the Volta Region, about 251 kms north-east of the capital claiming 10 lives including that of a baby.

Boat disasters are common on the Volta River as wooden vessels usually strike tree stamps left in the river after the construction of the world?s largest man-made lake on River Volta at Akosombo, 104 kms north of the capital.

Last year also saw the demise of at least three legislators with one yet to be buried. Both the Member (MP) of Parliament for Wulensi in the Northern Region, Alhaji Saani Iddi and MP for Kwabere in Ashanti Region Emmanuel Owusu-Ansah passed away in June and have since been buried. Their deaths, though not too high profile swells the number of politicians the country lost during the year under review.

Just on Christmas day, MP for Buem in the Volta Region, Henry Ford Kamel who was also the Volta Regional Minister collapsed just before the start of a party he had organized for some of his supporters and died minutes later.

However, the most recent event which is still fresh in the memory of Ghanaians is the collapse of a supermarket at Achimota, a suburb of the capital.

The six-storey building housing the Achimota branch of Melcom Shoping Center belonging to the Melcom Group which runs the largest chain of supermarkets in Ghana collapsed on the morning of Wednesday, November 7, claiming 14 lives with several dozens injured severely.

It took five days of hard work by rescue workers supported later by a specialist rescue team from Israel to clear the rubbles to rescue survivors and retrieve remains of the dead.

Both President Mahama and opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP)?s presidential candidates as well as their running mates cut short their campaigning to attend visit the disaster site and the victims at various hospitals in the capital.

Fire outbreaks, especially in busy markets of Accra and Kumasi about 270 kms north of the capital were also rampant, with the latest being the Kumasi Central market fire outbreak on the night of December 30.

Between January and August alone the country recorded over 5,000 cases of cholera infections, with Accra accounting for about 70 percent of them, and dozens of deaths as raw feces is pumped into the sea and other water bodies in the country.

In spite of the grief and sorrow throughout the year, Ghanaians being very religious in nature, found solace in their deities, praying that the country would be spared such disasters in the coming years.

On the night of December 31, 2012, most Christians went for all-night prayer vigils to usher in the New Year.

The atmosphere in the capital was saturated by Christian prayers and music singing to the praise of God amidst fireworks and fire-croakers, while others were engaged in dancing and merry-making at pubs all night long to usher in 2013.??Enditem

 

Source:?Justice Lee Adoboe

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