Ghana’s first President who died in the line of duty, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, will be buried today at the Marine Drive near the seat of government, the Castle, Osu in Accra.
The state funeral is taking place at the Independence Square in Accra with tens of thousands of Ghanaians trooping to the venue as early as 3.30am Friday – a day that has been declared a public holiday in Ghana to honour the late Mills.
Ex-President Mills, 68, who died at the 37 Military Hospital on July 24, has been laid in state at the Banquet Hall of the State House near Parliament over the past two days and close to a million Ghanaians including President John Dramani Mahama, Vice President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur and their spouses, Ministers of State, Members of Parliament, members of the Diplomatic Corps, chiefs and other groupings have file past his remains.
Sixteen heads of state and government from the ECOWAS sub-region are attending the funeral with the Secretary of State of the US, Hillary Clinton, representing the US government among several other dignitaries.
Mills’ death hit the headlines across the world and ahead of his burial today, prominent leaders have described him as an asset that will be sorely missed.
President Obama described Mills as “a strong advocate for human rights and for the fair treatment of all Ghanaians”, while his British counterpart David Cameron said, “President Mills was a tireless defender of democracy in West Africa and across the continent, and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family, and all the Ghanaian people on this difficult day.”
The state funeral of the late President Mills, which has seen an unprecedented outpouring of public sympathy, would culminate in a burial ceremony steeped in distinctive military traditions, according to the state-owned GNA.
After the religious ceremonies and the performance of the final funeral rites by the family of the late leader at the Independence Square, the Military would take over the casket containing the body of the late Commander-in-Chief to his final resting place at the Geese Park on the Castle Drive.
Before the body of late President Mills is interred, the casket containing his remains would be placed on a gun carriage by eight pallbearers of Brigadier-General rank and taken on a state drive on a selected route lined with personnel of other security services. The cortege would be escorted by a Ghana Air Force helicopter.
When the cortege finally gets back to the Independence Square after the state drive, military personnel in full ceremonial garbs, will line both sides of the Castle Drive, with reversed arms to give the departed leader his last honours.
At the Geese Park, the pallbearers will lower the casket from the gun carriage and place it on the grave, where military buglers will sound the Last Post amidst the booms of a 21-gun salute by a detachment of personnel of the 66 Artillery Regiment of the GAF.
Simultaneously, there would be a fly-past by three Ghana Air Force jets ejecting long plumes of smoke in the national colours of red, gold and green, with Ghana Navy ships also performing ceremonial manoeuvres on the shoreline behind the Independence Square.
After final prayers, the body of the late President would be lowered into the grave to start his journey into the world beyond.