Ghana in the Headlines

A week before I even arrived in Ghana the country had already made headlines. On Tuesday the 24th of July, Ghana lost their president. Our first day in the country was exactly a week after he had passed away and it shocked me how saddened the country was.

In Ghana, the sense of community is huge. When someone is mourning, the immediate reaction is to mourn with him or her and this was very present after the president had died. The entire country was in a state of sadness; posters and billboards had already been put up showing the respects to the recently deceased. Even in the newspapers, it seemed that every legitimate company in Ghana had written an ad sending their public condolences about the president. Newscasts, advertisements, music videos, posters, billboards – you name it, the presidents face was somewhere.

Condolences for President John Atta Mills in the local newspapers.

More condolences in the other papers.

In Ghana, when a person dies, everyone is to wear black and red to symbolize that you are mourning, and one must never wear white.  White is the symbol of new life and you are insulting the one who died by wearing it. It was very interesting to see, everyone was decked out in red and black (seriously). Now when I packed my clothes, I didn’t pack expecting to wear specifically black and red, so I needed to make some exceptions. I wore the darkest shirt I had and bought a red piece of fabric to tie around my neck.

Whitney and I in our red and black outfits.

It was amazing to see that after only one week, the country was still so very sad and now, well over two weeks later, I was still seeing how sad everyone was. The funeral was held on Friday the 10th of August, and it seemed to finally give some peace to the people of the country. The entire city seemed to shut down as everyone was at home watching the funeral. I have never seen the roads so bare and so many people NOT on the streets. It was a weird change of scenery. We tried to do some touristy stuff, but as they declared yesterday a National Holiday, most things were shut down so we did not do a whole lot.

It is remarkable to see such devotion and love for the president of the country. It is also interesting to think, would this happen in Canada? It’s hard to answer precisely, however, I personally don’t think this would ever happen back home.  No doubt about it, the news would be all over the death of the Prime Minister, and there would be a huge funeral and tears shed – but definitely not to the extent that it is here. People wouldn’t cry in their homes, people wouldn’t dress in black on the day of the funeral and people for sure wouldn’t be mourning for over 2 weeks. Declaring the day of the funeral a National Holiday was the tip of the iceberg for me, I couldn’t imagine anything like that happening back at home.

I guess in Canada the difference is that we don’t have a strong connection with our Prime Minister; he is just the man running our country. Here in Ghana, however, he is a part of the community and almost like a part of everyone’s family.

In a way I wish that Canada was like Ghana in that sense, everyone mourns together and is there for each other. It’s amazing how the Ghanaians love their President so much, that people on the street are crying. I wish our country was that devoted to the Prime Minister (or even the politics), maybe it would change the way things were run at home

-Johannah Rolland, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2012

Ghana will have their next federal election coming up this December. The Vice President, John Dramani Mahama, was swiftly sworn in following President Mills’ death. He is expected to be the NDC (the ruling party) flag-bearer in the upcoming election. 

For information on our upcoming Ghana projects, check out our Program Calendar

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