The late President John Atta Mills began his final journey to his ancestors yesterday, with thousands of mourners gathered at the forecourt of the Banquet Hall of the State House, to pay him their last respects.
Few minutes after 9:00 a.m. yesterday, the casket containing the body of the late President, adorned in the colours of the national flag, arrived at the Banquet Hall after a journey through some of the principal streets of Accra to his private residence at the Regimanuel Gray Estates off the Spintex Road, and through to the Castle, Osu, seat of Government, from where he operated until Tuesday, July 24, 2012.
In a solemn procession that portrayed the beauty of the Ghanaian way of doing things, the hearse carrying the casket of the late President, with the tag “His Excellency” as its number plate, was escorted to the Banquet Hall from the Castle.
Long before the casket arrived, Ghanaians from all walks of life had already gathered at the entrance, waiting to be ushered in. Red and black were the official mourning colours. Emotions were too high to resist, and many along the route, and those waiting at the forecourt of the State House, broke down weeping uncontrollably.
Several dignitaries had the opportunity to file past the body to pay their last respects to the fallen President. Sitting President John Dramani Mahama, the man handpicked by the deceased leader to partner him in the last elections, and newly sworn-in Vice-President Paa Kwesi Bekoe Ammisah-Arthur, were the first to file past the body.
Former President John Agyekum Kufuor with his wife, Madam Theresa, in tow, in the company of New Patriotic Party leaders, including Jake Obetsebi- Lamptey and Mr. Alan Kyerematen, took turns to file past the body. Members of Parliament, led by their leaders, also filed past the body.
As the crowd had waited for a long time without getting the nod from security officials to pay their last respects, there were near scuffles between the teeming sympathisers and some security personnel, as the crowd tried to push their way into the Banquet Hall.
Many people had raised concerns about why political party leaders who arrived long after they had taken positions at the entrance to the Banquet Hall, were given the right to file past the body, ahead of them.
There was former President Jerry John Rawlings and Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, a former First Family. No aspect of life in Ghana was left out in the mourning process.
The mourning traditions would continue today to ensure that most people who want to bid Professor Mills farewell get their chance.
According to an official pronouncement, 16 heads of state and governments are expected to participate in the three-day funeral of President John Evans Atta Mills. So far, 700 newsmen, including all the top television, radio and news agencies in the world, have been issued with accreditation to cover proceedings, which end tomorrow with the funeral service and burial ceremony at the Castle Drive, near the seat of Government, in Accra.
In attendance will be the US Secretary of State, Mrs Hillary Clinton, and four special envoys from the United States of America, as well as the President of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
The leaders are President Thomas Yayi Boni of Benin and Chairman of the AU; Alassane Ouattara, Cote d’Ivoire and Chairman of ECOWAS; Theodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Equatorial Guinea, and Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso.
Others are President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia; President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo; Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania; Ellen Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia; Dr Goodluck Johnathan of Nigeria and Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger.
The rest are Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa; Yahya J. Jammeh of The Gambia, and Macky Sall of Senegal.
The body of the late President, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, would be laid in state for viewing at the State House from Wednesday August 8, 2012 to Friday August 12, 2012.