Magazine article New African

Fit for a King (Sorry, President)

Magazine article New African

Fit for a King (Sorry, President)

Article excerpt

Since independence in 1957, Ghana has been ruled from the same slave castle, Christianborg, at Osu on the shores of the capital Accra, from where Britain once commanded all it surveyed. Now, not any more. A brand new state house was commissioned on 10 November, just in time for President John Kufuor to have a peep before he hands over power in January 2009 to a new president to be elected at the general elections fixed for 7 December. Stephen Gyasi Jnr reports from Accra.

The race to succeed President John Kufuor gathered momentum on 10 November when he commissioned a brand new presidential palace, christened the "Golden Jubilee House", built on the site of President Kwame Nkrumah's old office and residence at Flagstaff House in the heart of Accra.

The US$36.9m complex will serve as the office and residence of Ghana's next president, to be elected on 7 December. The imposing edifice, crafted in the shape of a stool sprayed with gold (the national symbol) was constructed by the Indian firm, Shapoorji Pallonji, and took two years to complete.

It was built with a concessionary loan from the Indian government that has a 50% grant element and an interest rate of 1.75%, repayable in 25 years including a five-year moratorium.

The decision to construct the presidential complex generated robust national debate, which sought to suggest that the timing was wrong and that the government was not taking into account the hardships facing the country.

"What Ghana has always needed is not just the physical structure, which in any case must befit the image of the nation, but also a credible spiritual and psychological centre to inspire the self-confidence and clear identity of the national persona," President Kufuor said at the commissioning ceremony.

"It must not be forgotten that the Osu Castle has not fulfilled and can never provide such a centre because it was physically and historically purpose-built as a slaving outpost and indeed in many parts continues to bear the indelible scars and stigma of that inhuman trade of those times," the president added.

He said the major attraction for using the site where the presidential complex has been built was the Flagstaff House, where Ghana's first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah and his family lived when he saw that the castle was unsuitable for a head of state.

According to Kwadwo Mpiani, Kufuor's chief of staff and minister of presidential affairs, the new complex is made up of offices for the president, his advisors and staff, those of the vice president, an official residence for the president that can accommodate a visiting head of state, office space for both civil and public servants, a service building, a clinic, restaurant, bank, post office, and fire station. There is also the refurbished residence of Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

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Security concerns have been raised over the location of the French embassy, which shares a wall with the new presidential palace, but the government has assured the nation that negotiations are still ongoing to find a suitable location for the embassy to relocate. The location of the presidential complex has long been criticised by security experts who say the site cannot pass modern security tests.

Eight political parties are contesting the 7 December elections, but only two--Kufour's NPP and former President Rawlings' NDC--have a real chance of winning. …

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