Ghana has celebrated Commonwealth Day with a plethora of significant events across the country. This year’s celebration was held under the theme “A Connected Commonwealth”.
This year, celebrations for the Commonwealth Day began a week before during the Independence Day celebrations on the 6th of March 2019, in Tamale. Adorned in Commonwealth inspired regalia and waving Commonwealth flags and placards, students of various schools joined the Independence Day celebrations to wild applause from Ghana’s President and First Lady.
On the 9th of March 2019 Heads of Commonwealth organisations in Ghana led a delegation of members of the Diplomatic corps to plant trees in various secondary schools. Speaking to the press, Mina Mensah, Head of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative spoke of the need to work with school children to recognise the Commonwealth at 70 years old, by planting trees: “School children must recognise their responsibility as active citizens. The future is theirs and they must be responsible for it. Removing excessive CO2 from the air is one of the most important steps we can take to fight climate change and planting trees is a remarkably effective way to do that”.
On Commonwealth Day 11th March 2019 Senior members of Britain’s royal family, led by Queen Elizabeth II, attended the annual Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey. In Ghana, the Minister of Foreign affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, led a poignant Flag-Raising ceremony at the Forecourt of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Commonwealth. The event was attended by Commonwealth Heads in Ghana, Mr. John Apea, Mr. Sam Okudzeto and Ms. Mina Mensah and Heads of the Diplomatic Missions from Commonwealth countries and Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel.
In an impassioned keynote address, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Mad Botchwey, reaffirmed Ghana’s commitment to the fundamental political values of the Commonwealth, and emphatically stated that Ghana will continue to support the efforts of the organization in delivering initiatives across its thematic areas of prosperity, sustainability, security and fairness.
She added that Ghana believes in the fundamental political values of the Commonwealth which includes democracy, freedom, respect for human rights, rule of law and opportunity for all, to name a few. She reiterated the significant role that Ghana played in the creation of an impartial and neutral secretariat for the organisation in 1965.
The Minister indicated that, this year’s theme “A connected Commonwealth” was very timely because member countries must “collaborate to protect natural resources and the environment so that all people particularly women, children, youth and the marginalized communities would share the fruit of progress, development and prosperity”. She further urged countries of the Commonwealth to strengthen their collaboration and partnerships in order to positively change the lives of the people of the member states.
In a speech read on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen and Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, the Africa Head of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Mr. John Apea, stated that this year’s “Commonwealth Day Celebration had special significance because it marked the 70th anniversary of the London Declaration when nations of the Commonwealth agreed to move forward together as free and equal members”.
“Today many millions of people are drawn together because of the collective values shared by the Commonwealth” he added.
He further stated that, the Queen had said that “in April last year when I welcomed the leaders of 53 nations to at the Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, we all witnessed how the Commonwealth vision offers hope and inspires us to find ways of protecting our planet and our people”.
The Queen urged that all should continue to find new ways of expressing through their actions, the values of belonging to a connected Commonwealth, and look to the future with greater confidence and optimism as a result of the links that are shared and the networks of cooperation and mutual support.
Celebrations for Commonwealth Day continued with two events in Accra. The First event at British Council was organised by the Commonwealth offices in Accra and partnered by the British High Commission in Accra and the British Council. Invited guests were treated to an impressive model Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting by students of British International School and Hydeson School.
In his Keynote Address, the British Ambassador to Ghana, Ian Walker spoke of the power and might of the Commonwealth, adding that intra – Commonwealth Trade alone has the potential to enhance prosperity across its 2.5 billion citizens. On his part, the Chair of the occasion, Mr. Okudzeto, who is a previous President of the Ghana Bar Association, Member of the Council of State and Chair of The Commonwealth Human Rights Africa Office, spoke of the important role of the Commonwealth in guiding and enforcing human rights and the rule of Law within Commonwealth states.
Commonwealth Day celebrations climaxed at the Residence of the British High Commissioner to Ghana. The event was attended by senior current and previous Ministers of State, Members of Parliament, Heads of Diplomatic Corps and distinguished guests.