Goodbye 2006, Welcome 2007

I have been scouting around for the most appropriate photo for 2007. I think this expresses aptly, what I wanted.
Enjoy this year.

Kufuor launches Ghana's Golden Jubilee Celebrations

President John Agyekum Kufuor on New Year's Eve launched Ghana's Golden Jubilee Celebrations in a nationwide radio and television broadcast.
He said; "given the solemnity of the celebration, the highlight of which falls on the 6th of March, let us as a nation usher in that very special day by holding vigil on its eve".
President Kufuor said "the Jubilee Celebration is a unique opportunity not only to demonstrate our unity as a nation, but also to highlight the many opportunities for commerce, business and tourism. It is the occasion to bring to the fore our famed arts and culture and our traditional warm hospitality".
He appealed to the entire nation to display a high sense of responsible citizenship, dignity and commitment to the success of the Jubilee Celebration adding; "sprucing up the home and the environment should be part of the commitment. The sense of pride in our environment ought to be on display not only for the occasion but for all times".
President Kufuor, therefore, urged all including the District Assemblies; Traditional Authorities; Religious Groups; Market Leaders; Trades Unions and the entire civil society to join together to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the nation in a befitting manner.President Kufuor reserved a special word to the young people of Ghana, saying: "The future belongs to you.
Fifty years ago I was a teenager looking to the future with great hope and expectation. Unfortunately, the experience had not been half as good as most young people of my generation dreamt it will be. "I want to speak on behalf of the elders and adults of this nation and say that, with our resolution of today, we are prepared to set things aright and sustain them, so that the path will be easier and smoother for you.
"But one thing is sure; you must use every opportunity to prepare yourselves diligently so that you will not fail this nation and yourselves when your turn comes. Seize the moment and become worthy citizens of our country", he said.

I Remain Optimistic.......Isaac TETTEH

Topic:-2007 and beyond
This is news medium dedicated to news lovers like me, so I try not to populate it with news about me and the funny things I do each day. However, I decided to write this piece because of the overwhelming amount of requests I had from readers of this blog, calling on me to do so.I want to remain a channel for many so I will not disappoint.The time reads about 7pm EST. That's about five hours to the New Year. If I were home, (Ghana), I would have been in Church by now, but here I am conducting my own church service at home.
My congregants are my Computer, TV, Home phone and a long distance calling card, not forgetting the cold weather out there ( Zero degrees today).For me 2006, has been everything in my life. It brought the breath-taking events and also came along with very painful processes. But five hours to the New Year I can confidently say that this year has been one of the many that the Lord has been kind to me. My life has moved on in big strides and I can only blame myself if I fail to notice and take advantage of the many opportunities that have and are going to come my way in the future.In this dying year, I have visited many countries; some are the Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Netherlands, USA, and now Canada.
I did all these as part of my quest to gain knowledge. The trips were very fruitful and educational as I expected.My life at Radio Gold 90.5 FM, Accra, was equally rewarding. The year saw me taking on new roles and hosting on air programmes better. I am aware that my absence from the station in the last quarter has caused slight difficulties. But I am not surprised that the station has risen to the task and made amends. At the moment I am not sure if I still have my job over there???? (Laugh).Having said all these, I am aware that I am not growing any younger and life is progressing so fast I have to catch a flight to keep pace. In other words I am keeping an open mind on what the future brings my way.
I am naturally, a patient person who has a listening ear and will normally make my choices after a careful consideration. I remain hopeful as we enter 2007. I am sure it will be fruitful, eventful and less pain. That IS WHAT I WISH FOR ALL PERSONS around the world.I cannot conclude without saying thank you to these great people who made my life better in 2006: Mr K.S Baffoe Bonnie, Mr. Agyenim Boateng, BB, Ransford, Fred and all other colleagues at Radio Gold 90.5 FM.My brother Benjamin, Ebenezer and my little sister Gloria have all been great in 2006.
My parents have always been there for me and I am glad.The most of all goes to God, my wife and all my children. And to the readers of this forum, I say lets help in any small way we can to improve the standards of Journalism in Ghana and Africa in General.Happy New Year to you all.By Isaac TettehManaging Editor (Ghananie.com)


Shun those bent on destroying the nation's peace - JAK

President John Agyekum Kufuor has called on Ghanaian Muslims to shun those bent on using undue political influence to destroy the peace and harmony the nation was now enjoying.
They should be wary of people, who through hypocrisy would try to influence them and create division in the society, he said at the national celebration of the Eid-Ul-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, in Accra on Saturday.
Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama and the wife Rahamatu and Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, were among the large congregation of Muslims at the forecourt of the Trade Fair Centre, La for the celebration.President Kufuor said; "Ghana is acknowledged as the oasis of peace in the West African Sub-Region" and that a major contributing factor for this had been the happy and harmonious coexistence of religions.
He said it was, therefore, important for people of the different religious faith to continue to cooperate in the pursuit of peace and to live in peace.He told them that the Government had the best of intentions for the Muslim community and asked for their total support towards efforts at pulling the country out of poverty."Ghana is moving out of hard times.
We are strong where we are now. If we work together and move together, we would be heading towards prosperity."Let us accept as a people, to appreciate the good things happening to our country and work together to sustain them", he said. President Kufuor used the occasion to highlight the impending National Identification (ID) Programme and asked that no citizen of the country should feel threatened by the registration exercise.
The ID would make for easy governance and to enhance development, he said and called on all communities to take part in the exercise. Touching on Ghana's Golden Jubilee Celebration, President Kufuor enjoined the people to have a change of attitude towards environmental sanitation.
He said it should become part of their culture to do away with unsanitary conditions to convince the rest of the world that Ghana was indeed on the path of progress.Sheikh Nuhu Sharabutu, the National Chief Imam, in his message to Ghanaian Muslims said as they celebrated the occasion of the Eid-Ul-Adha, they should not forget the plight of the needy, the less fortunate and the deprived in society.
He said beyond sharing of meat of sacrificed animals they needed to show greater generosity to the poor and the socially disadvantaged. Earlier in a welcoming address, Alhaji Gado Mohammed, a member of the Muslim Council of Elders, said the Muslim Community was grateful to the Government for the Sate Award given to the National Chief Imam. The Chief Imam was awarded the Order of the Volta and this, he said, was an honour they were proud of.
Source: GNA

Offer special prayers for Allah's protection-Mills

Professor John Evans Atta Mills, Flagbearer-elect of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), on Friday urged Muslims to join their Christian brothers to offer special prayers for Allah's guidance and protection in 2007.

Making the call in Accra, Prof Mills stated that it was the wish of the NDC to see the peaceful co-existence of Ghanaians in the years ahead. He was at the Abbosey Okai Central Mosque to express the party's gratitude to Muslims in the country for their prayers, which resulted in its peaceful National Delegates Congress on December 21.

Dr Kwabena Adjei, National Chairman of the party, Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, one of the four contestants, Mr Jonathan Tachie-Kommey, Member of Parliament for Odododiodoo, Dr E G A Don-Arthur, leading member, and Mr Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah, Deputy General-Secretary, were among dignitaries who accompanied Prof Mills.

Another delegation of leading members of the NDC, made up of Alhaji Mahama Iddrisu, Mr Eddie Annan, the two other contestants for the flagbearership, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, General Secretary and Mr Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, leading member, also joined Ahmadis at their headquarters at Ashongman, near Accra for the congregational prayers.GNA


Political parties declare 2007 Action Year

The main political parties on Friday declared the country's Golden Jubilee Year as Action Year to set the pace for Ghana's fifth consecutive general election under the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution.The parties described Elections 2008 as a crucial period for the electorate to pronounce judgment on the administrations of the two foremost political forces - the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).
In separate interviews with the Ghana News Agency in Accra on their visions for 2007, NPP, NDC and Convention People's Party (CPP) said 2007 would be used to prepare for Elections 2008.Mr Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, NDC National Organiser, said the Party would use 2007 as an 93operational barometer" on the NPP's quest to retain power at the Castle for another four-year term.
"It will then spur us on to launch a progressive programme to dislocate and chase the elephant from the Castle back to the political bush by democratically taking over the reins of governance of the country once again."We will also attempt to provide evidence to persuade the electorate to incarcerate the ruling NPP into political hell (opposition) for four years with hard labour to learn the rudiments of good governance, tents of democracy and adherence to constitutional order.
"Mr Ofosu Ampofo said the NDC's campaign for Elections 2008 starts immediately after the festive season."We are going to fire on all cylinders ...NDC will not wait for any party to organise its primaries to elect a flagbearer. "We are ready to take over the reins of governance once more and we are not going to wait for any party to go to congress before campaigning starts.
"The NDC has already set high standard for the other political parties to emulate them through a peaceful, transparent and orderly election of its Presidential Candidate at their December 22 Special National Delegates' Congress."We are not going to rest until we capture political power once again in 2008 and march peacefully to occupy the Castle on January 7, 2009 to fulfil the wishes and aspirations of the suffering Ghanaians," he said.
Mr Albert Afaglo, NPP Greater Accra Regional Organiser, noted that the Party had earmarked 2007 to oil its electoral machinery, equip executives at the wards, constituencies, regional and national levels and to build the capacity of foot soldiers.He acknowledged that political tension might build up in 2007 but stressed, "The Party is well prepared for the actions.
"Mr Afaglo said as a party in government it would continue to maintain a strong focus of national governance mainly on local government systems, maintenance of law and order as well as human resource development to ensure the country's rapid development. "No country can progress without sound and quality education, discipline and effective participation in decision-making at the local level.
"Mr Afaglo also urged the media to desist from personality attacks and focus on developmental issues that would project and enhance the quality of life of the people.Dr Edmund Delle, National Chairman and Leader of the CPP, explained that the Party would use the year to mainly organise its structures, resource its officials and organise National Delegates' Congress to elect its presidential candidate and other executives.

CPP announces programmes for 2007

The Convention People's Party (CPP) on Friday announced its programme of activities for 2007 saying filing of nominations for various positions of its national officers and presidential candidate would open in June.This forms part of activities that the Central Committee (CC) of the Party discussed and adopted at its monthly meeting held on Thursday, December 28.

A statement signed by Professor Nii Noi Dowuona, General Secretary of the CPP, said a vetting committee to be appointed by the CC would vet candidates for the flag bearer position in July. It said the main congress would take place in the second or third week of August with a formal handing over to newly elected officers in September.

The statement named other activities leading to the Third National Party Congress of the CPP as mobilization, registration and meetings of polling station branches, which would commerce in January 2007 and continue throughout the country till March.

It said election of polling station and electoral area executives would be conducted from February to April 2007 while constituency executives would be elected in all the 230 constituencies between April and May 2007.This would pave the way for the election of regional executives in the 10 regions in May and June.

The CPP said in arriving at the activities, it took into consideration the relevant provisions of the Party's Constitution and the tenure of the various local, regional and national branch executives.The CC has directed that selection of parliamentary candidates should form an integral part of the programme of action of sub-committees of the Party.

The statement also announced that a meeting of constituency representatives in the Northern, Upper West and Upper East Regions would be held in Tamale in early January to kick-start the implementation of the organizational blueprint of the Party.In a related development, the Central Committee of the Party said the CPP had decided not to contest the bye-election in the Fomena Constituency scheduled for January 2007.

It said this decision was taken after a critical appraisal of the Party' programme of action. 29 Dec. 06

Ghaha---2006, What Happend when?

The year 2006 began with a good will message delivered by President John Agyekum Kufuor promising a giant lift-off for the agriculture and other sectors for the year.

The following are some of the major events for the year 2006 beginning from January:
2nd - Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, Minister of Public Sector Reform, says new pay scheme underway for the public sector workers3rd 96 Methodist Church marks 170 years in GhanaLiberian legislators inducted in Ghana 96 President Kufuor urges them to cherish the constitutional checks and balancesPatricia Appiagyei becomes first woman Metropolitan Chief Executive of Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly4th - Kwamena Ahwoi, a leading member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), tells court Jojo Bruce-Quansah, Editor of the Ghana Palaver, told him of an alleged attack on him by assailants5th - Dr Obed Asamoah and three others in the Volta Region quit NDC6th - Petroleum prices go down9th - Investigator tells court that Bruce Quansah was not assaulted10th - Muslims celebrate Eid-Ul-Adha11th - Finance Ministry honours promise to grant amnesty to tax defaultersMedia reports say mayhem looms in Bimbila over Nanumba chieftaincy dispute12th - More

Hussein executed, Iraqi TV stations report

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has been executed, according to two Arabic language media outlets.

Hussein was hanged before dawn on Saturday in Iraq, at about 6 a.m. (10 p.m. Friday ET), the U.S.-backed Al-Hurra television reported.

Al-Arabiya reported that Barzan Hassan, Hussein's half-brother, and Awad Bandar, former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, were hanged after Hussein.
All three were convicted of killings in the Iraqi town of Dujail nearly 25 years ago.
Earlier, Munir Haddad, a judge on the appeals court that upheld the former dictator's death sentence, and an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki each confirmed the paperwork needed for Hussein's execution had been prepared late Friday.

"All the procedures have been completed," Haddad said.
At the same time, a U.S. district judge refused a request to stay the execution.
Attorney Nicholas Gilman said in an application for a restraining order, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington, that a stay would allow Hussein "to be informed of his rights and take whatever action he can and may wish to pursue."

Haddad had called Gilman's filing "rubbish," and said, "It will not delay carrying out the sentence," which he called "final."
Haddad also said there is no need for a presidential decree for the implementation of the execution.

He said once the handover is completed, "the sentence will be carried out swiftly, without any delay. God willing."
Haddad, who will attend the execution, said he received a call from al-Maliki's office asking him and a prosecutor to be ready for it.

Haddad wouldn't disclose the location of the execution and said it won't be broadcast live on TV because of human rights issues.
Meanwhile, Giovanni di Stefano, one of Hussein's defense attorneys, told CNN the U.S. military officially informed him that the former Iraqi dictator has been transferred to Iraqi authorities for his execution and that a "credible source" told him Hussein will be executed "very shortly -- in the next couple of hours."

And di Stefano indicated that the move by lawyers in the U.S. court could mean Hussein is in U.S. military custody now.
"The United States may very well have had a cause to effectively take him back in the event" a judge "grants the temporary restraining order, in which case his life would then be spared at least for a period of time or until such further order of the court," he said.

Giving Hussein to the Iraqis despite a temporary restraining order would be contempt of court, di Stefano said.
Conflicting reports These latest developments come during a day of conflicting reports over whether Hussein was in U.S. or Iraqi custody. Throughout the day, U.S. officials have not wavered in their stance that he remains in U.S. custody.

There has been speculation that Hussein would be executed before Eid Al-Adha -- a holiday period that means Feast of the Sacrifice, celebrated by Muslims around the world at the climax of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
There is a belief that the execution could be soon because the law does not permit executions to be carried out during religious holidays.

Eid begins Saturday for Sunnis and Sunday for Shiites and lasts for four days. Hussein is a Sunni Muslim.
Baha al-Araji, a member of the Iraqi parliament from the Muqtada al-Sadr bloc, said the government is seeking the "opinion of clerics, both Sunni and Shiite, whether they can carry out the death sentence against Saddam on Saturday since it's the start of Eid."

"The clerics would issue a fatwa saying that due to exceptional circumstances the death sentence can be carried out," said al-Araji, whose political movement represents Shiite Muslims.

Sheikh Jalaleddin al-Saghir, who is both a Shiite cleric and a parliament member from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said, "There is absolutely no problem from a religious standpoint to carry out the death sentence at the start of Eid."
Baghdad now is in its regular overnight curfew, and Iraqi and U.S. troops are bracing for protests and violence if an execution occurs.

Ministerial aides said government officials have been in "emergency meeting," and al-Araji confirmed that officials were still debating whether to execute the former Iraqi leader on Saturday.
Gallows in Green Zone Al-Araji said the scaffolding where Hussein is to be hanged is in Baghdad's Green Zone, the center of power for coalition officials.

He said he saw a judge, a cleric and a physician at the site. According to Iraqi law, these people have to be present at the execution.
"These people were told to remain there on standby waiting for orders for the government," al-Araji said.
Al-Araji told CNN that he and other parliament members and government officials have been cleared to attend the hanging.

"I would have wished for this to happen in Sadr City, where he has killed the most people," he said.
If the hanging does occur on Saturday, it will "most likely take place between 6 a.m. and noon," he said. Those hours translate to 10 p.m. Friday and 4 a.m. Saturday in the Eastern United States.
Speaking from Doha, Qatar, Najib al-Nuaimi, one of Hussein's defense attorneys, said Hussein's "fate definitely [is] in the hands of God."

Meeting with half-brothers Another defense lawyer, Badie Aref, told CNN that Hussein met with two of his half-brothers in his cell on Thursday and passed on messages and instructions to his family.
"President Saddam was just bracing for the worst, so he wanted to see his brothers and pass on some messages and instructions to his family," Aref said. The half brothers who visited were Sabawi and Wathban Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti, he said.
Another of Hussein's half-brothers, Barzan al-Tikriti, has been sentenced to death and is being held in Iraq under the same charges as Hussein.
Aref said the U.S. soldiers guarding Hussein on Tuesday took away a radio he kept in his cell so he could not hear news reports about his death sentence, which was confirmed that day.
"They did not want him to hear the news from the appeals court upholding the sentence," he said. "They gave him back the radio on Wednesday."
Aref said Saddam found out about the appeals court verdict "a few hours after it was announced."
Crimes against humanity Hussein was convicted on November 5 of crimes against humanity in connection with the killings of 148 people in the rown of Dujail after an attempt on his life.
The dictator was found guilty of murder, torture and forced deportation

Saddam Hussein 'executed in Iraq'

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been executed by hanging at an unspecified location, reports say.

Iraqi TV said the execution took place just before 0600 local time (0300GMT). It was witnessed by a doctor, lawyer and officials. It was also filmed.

US troops and Iraqi security forces are on high alert for any violent backlash.
Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by an Iraqi court on 5 November after a year-long trial over the 1982 killings of 148 Shias in the town Dujail.

Ghanaians Asked To Adopt Development Attitude

Mr Mats Karlsson, World Bank Country Director, on Friday appealed to Ghanaian to assume an attitude that is oriented towards speeding up the development process of the country.
He said the opportunity for a faster development was here but there was the need to exhibit an attitude conducive to greater economic development and questioned why in spite of all the economic variables the country was not moving faster.
Mr Karlsson in an interview with the Ghana News Agency said: "All the elements for economic growth are here in the country - financing, political dialogue, the knowledge… why can't we make them gel even more?" The WB Country Director noted as a Ghanaian problem, "doing what we say we are going to do", adding that the issue was also about "moving on quickly with what we know is the best for us".
On the current energy crisis, Mr Karlsson said, the low rains were only a trigger of the energy crisis, whereas the actual reason was sluggishness to energy reforms that had long been envisioned. "But this is solvable, so let's solve it," he said. Mr Karlsson said to attain the target of a middle-income status, speed was part of the solution and the country would not achieve much with the slow implementation of policies, projects and programmes.
He said people in leadership positions, particularly at the grassroots, should not be afraid to make mistakes, which always resulted in them always waiting for decisions from the top. He said people at the grassroots must initiate moves and be prepared to learn from their mistakes, "local leadership should be paramount”.
District Chief Executives, opinion leaders and area council leaders should have attitudinal change that would not accept slow performance," he stated. On the performance of the economy, Mr Karlsson agreed with the Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Mr Paul Acquah that the economy in 2006 had performed well and was also ahead of most of its peers. Mr Karlsson said there were tall and challenging benchmarks that the country could set for itself.
He acknowledged that the year recorded some results that were improvement over previous years of consistent stability. These included downward trends in inflation and interest rates; higher growth rate; higher cocoa production and non-traditional exports; as well as improvement in the basic school enrolment and gender parity. In the 2004/2005 academic calendar, enrolment at the primary level was 3.28 million with a total gross enrolment ratio (GER) of 92.1 per cent.
The Gender Parity Index was 0.95. At the junior secondary level, enrolment was 1.12 million with a total GER of 74.7 per cent. Gender Parity Index was 0.94. Mr Karlsson was, however, not impressed with achievements in health and outlined three areas, nutrition, sanitation and early childhood development as key areas to tackle.
"Nutrition levels are very low in a country that can grow virtually everything and this is an attitudinal issue rather than one of income," he observed. He deplored a situation where people littered virtually wherever they walked and called for a major attitudinal change at all levels to deal with the problem of filth.
He said district assemblies, for example, could not pretend they could not find 50 million cedis to construct public places of convenience, as well as provide lavatories and hand-washing facilities for schools in their localities. Although he did not think local assemblies should rely on the Central Government and donor partners for such projects, he said the donor community had completed their framework for such a support and was only waiting for implementation.
He said $62 million had been earmarked for sanitation under the Second Urban Sanitation Project for the provision of drainage, and liquid and solid waste management by the five largest metropolitan and municipal assemblies in Ghana but the project had encountered delays. A total of $10.8 million meant for a sanitary landfill and a liquid waste treatment facility has not been utilised because there is no land to accommodate these facilities.
Mr Karlsson commended efforts by the Ghana@50 Secretariat to make sanitation a key part of the celebrations. He encouraged all Ghanaians to take advantage of it to rid the country of filth during the 50th anniversary and beyond. He also commended religious bodies, who, with the support of the World Bank Ghana Office had established a best practice initiative to use the pulpit to preach to the minds and souls of all to change from the ungodly attitude of littering the environment.
Mr Karlsson said he had learnt a new phrase in Ghana which is "Cleanliness is next to Godliness". He encouraged all to use the Christmas period not only to do soul-searching but make concrete efforts to change their attitudes and get rid of filth forever. On early childhood development, he said it should be given serious consideration if the country was to see quality future leaders in about 25 years.
For the long term, Mr Karlsson proposed two policies on natural resource management; forestry and fisheries, both of which were being depleted. He also recommended that an urban policy should be enacted to engender the right responses to deal with the rate of urbanisation in Ghana.
"The rate at which urbanisation is occurring in the country required clear-cut policies and strong leadership to contain it, else the situation could get out of hand in 20 years," stressed Mr Karlsson. According to the 2000 population and housing census, Accra's population is growing at almost four per cent per annum and higher than the national average of 2.6 per cent, and Kumasi's population is growing at 5.6 per cent.
This means Accra's population will double in 16 years, while Kumasi’s will double in 12 years. Therefore, if these two largest cities do not plan in advance, there will be a catastrophe by the end of the next decade. Mr Karlsson also advised the country to maintain its grips on the macroeconomic achievements, since it had profited from it. "Greater ambition can get us there.”GNA

German Embassy Increases Visa Fees

The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany has announced an upward adjustment in the fees for application for all short-term visas valid for all Schengen countries beginning from January 1, 2007.
This is the result of the decision by the Council of the European Union to raise the fee for the handling of short-period visa applications.The Schengen countries in Ghana are Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands and the Belgian Visa Office attached to the Embassy of The Netherlands.
From January 1, 2007, 60 euros (about �720,000) will be charged for airport transit visa (Category A), transit visa (Category B) and short-stay visa (1-90 days) instead of the current 35 euros (about �420,000).A release from the German Embassy said national long-stay visa (Category D) fees would, however, remain unchanged.
It said the new visa fees were also to apply in those cases where a particular Schengen mission issued visa on behalf of Schengen partners without resident missions in Ghana, such as when the Danish Mission issued visas on behalf of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland and France for Austria.
The release said the current fee of 35 euros for the processing of visa applications had proved not to be sufficient any more to cover the ever-increasing administrative cost of the issuance of such visas.It added that the problem would be aggravated further with the future introduction of the collection of the visa applicant�s biometrics data (fingerprints, among others).
The release explained that those measures were expected to put an additional financial burden on the Schengen partners� foreign missions for personnel, advance computer systems and other necessary changes to their respective visa sections.
It said, however, that the visa fees might be waived for the following groups of visa applicants, irrespective of their nationality:Children below the age of six years, pupils, students only when applying for student or education-related purposes, teachers who accompany pupils or students on educational journeys or training purposes and scientists who pursue specific research projects in one or more Schengen partner states.

Construction Union asks Ghana@50 Secretariat to seek technical advice

The Construction and Builders Materials Workers' Union of the Trade Union Congress (CBMWU) have cautioned officials of Ghana@50 Secretariat, not to pursue the execution of projects without professional advice, in order to avoid structural defects that may lead to disaster.

The Union, which gave the caution on Friday, said in view of the limited time for the execution of the projects to facilitate the Golden Jubilee celebration of Ghana's Independence on March 6, 2007, there was the need to avoid hasty works that may cost lives.

Mr Pious Quainoo, General Secretary of the CBMWU, who gave the advice while addressing a workshop for members of staff of the Union in Accra, said the celebration should be used to showcase the country as having matured in construction practices n consonance with international standards.

He thereforlge called on the government to initiate investigations into reasons why some public buildings collapse soon after construction, adding that the anomaly is detrimental to the interest of the nation and the tax payer in general.

Mr Quainoo also called on government to oust employers in the construction industry who cunningly adopts measures to evade tax, exploit workers through low wage and use casual labour system to avoid payment of social security through permanent employment.

Mr said unregulated, unprotected, insecure and indecent practices which did not guarantee the health and safety conditions at construction sites must be reversed.He said the practice whereby employers did what they pleased with the fate of workers, irrespective of the Labour law was "at variance with the United Nation's Declaration of Human Rights".

Mr Quainoo asked workers who do not belong to trade unions to join to enable them assert their rights.He said employers should associate themselves with various Employers Associations so that they would be abreast with basic employment standards.

"The conditions under which construction workers were treated right in the capital and major urban cities under full glare of public authorities on major public projects are worrisome."He called on the Government, Parliament, the Media, development partners, and civil society organisations to join hands with CBMWU to improve the lot of casual workers in the country.


Churches urged to pay fines for convicts

Churches should consider paying fines imposed on convicts by the courts as a means of decongesting the prisons, Mr Ambrose Imoro Salifu, Ashanti Regional Commander of Prisons, has suggested.
Mr Salifu said the major problem facing the prisons was the large numbers of remand prisoners, which had overstretched facilities thus compelling inmates to sleep in turns, a situation he described as injurious to their health.
The Regional Prison Commander was speaking when the Most Reverend Peter Kwasi Sarpong, Catholic Archbishop of Kumasi, paid his 36th annual visit to the Kumasi Central Prisons on Boxing Day to share the word of God with the inmates and the prison officials.
Mr Salifu explained that some of the inmates were in the prisons just because they were unable to pay minor fines imposed on them by the courts and if churches paid such fines it would help to decongest the prisons. He commended the Catholic Church for its regular support to prisons in the Ashanti Region and appealed to the Government to increase the feeding allowance of 4,000 cedis per day for every inmate.
Most Reverend Sarpong appealed to the Government to grant mass amnesty to some prisoners in the country to mark the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s independence. He explained that such a gesture would not only decongest the nation’s overcrowded prisons but would also reconcile the nation as well as heal the wounds of affected families.
Archbishop Sarpong called on the inmates not to see themselves as outcasts, who have come to the end of the road but to use their period of incarceration to take stock of their lives; forgive themselves and to plan towards life after serving their jail terms. He commended the prison authorities for allowing him to adopt the prisons in the Region ever since he became Bishop, which had enabled him to preach and interact with the inmates.
The Most Rev Gabriel Justice Anokye, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese, preaching the sermon, called on Christians to pray for both the inmates and the prison personnel to enable them to work and live peacefully. He lamented over the increasing spate of injustices in the country as a result of some law enforcing agencies not doing the right thing which in turn sent some innocent people into prison.
Bishop Anokye appealed to the society to avoid condemning people in prison custody since as he put it, not all of them have committed crimes, as some were thrown into jail due to false accusations.GNA

The IFJ Condemns the Brutal Murder of a Journalist in Nigeria

The International Federation of Journalists, (IFJ), on Wednesday condemned, in strongest terms, the brutal murder of the Chairman of the Editorial Board of "This Day" Newspaper, Godwin Agbroko, on Friday night, December 22, 2006. Godwin Agbroko was shot while on his way home after leaving his office.
"The nature of the killing suggested that Agbroko was specifically targeted for murder, as all his personal belongings in the car were not touched," Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ, Africa Office said.
"We call on the Nigerian Government to launch a thorough investigation into this inhumane act and to ensure that those responsible for this heinous act are brought to justice." The IFJ is deeply concerned with the growing number of journalists murdered with impunity in Nigeria.
It could be recalled that Omololu Falobi, former editor of the Punch Newspaper and chairman of the network of Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) was also shot and killed in October 2006. His killers are yet to be brought to justice. In the same vein the murderers of Dela Giwa are still at large, 20 years after his murder.
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countriesGNA

White Chapel entangles itself in tax evasion

The Value Added Tax (VAT) Service on Wednesday closed the White Chapel Store in Accra again for defaulting in 2.4 billion cedis tax payment for three years. The Service had closed the Store last week and secured the place with its locks and keys but the store was illegally opened and doing business. Business was in full swing when a combined team of officials of the Enforcement and Debt Management Unit of the VAT Service and Police personnel arrived at the store at 1600 hours.
The officials could not locate the Director, Mr Daniel Ofori, and the Police arrested and handcuffed Richard Ohemeng, a Sales Assistant who they said was not co-operating with them on directing them to those responsible for the store's operation.
Exchanges between the police and other personnel in the Store intensified outside the White Chapel Building, when a mob heckled the tax officials with the intent of releasing Ohemeng but that was to no avail. The crowd destroyed a file of the VAT officers, poured water on the police personnel, attempted to seize the cap of an officer and tried to destroy the camera of GTV crew but a re-enforcement soon arrived and restored order.
The police picked some identifiable troublemakers in the crowd and sent them to the Greater Accra Regional Police Headquarters. Mr. Henry Sam, Revenue Official of the Debt Enforcement and Management Unit of the VAT Service, who invoked sections 34 and 70 of the VAT Laws said the Service would be compelled to auction the goods in the store to defray the amount in default after the 14 days' grace period after the closure.
He said negotiations with the management of the store to pay its VAT debt had not been fruitful, adding that the VAT Service was compelled under the circumstance to close the store. Mr Sam warned companies and other stores who had defaulted in the payment of their VAT returns to take a cue from the action.
He could however, not tell total number of organisations in arrears and the total indebtedness to the Service.GNA

Grant mass amnesty to prisoners at Ghana’s 50th anniversary - Archbishop

The Most Reverend Peter Kwasi Sarpong, Catholic Archbishop of Kumasi, has appealed to the Government to grant mass amnesty to some prisoners in the country to mark the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s independence.

He explained that such a gesture would not only decongest the nation’s overcrowded prisons but would also reconcile the nation as well as heal the wounds of affected families. Archbishop Sarpong made the appeal during his 36th annual visit to the Kumasi Central Prisons on the Boxing Day to share the word of God with the inmates and the prison officials.

He, however, called on the inmates not to see themselves as outcasts, who have come to the end of the road but use the period to take stock of their lives, forgive themselves and plan towards life after serving their jail terms. He commended the prison authorities for allowing him to adopt the prisons in the Region ever since he became Bishop, which had enabled him to preach and share the word of God with the inmates.

The Most Rev Gabriel Justice Anokye, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese, preaching the sermon, called on Christians to pray for both the inmates and the prison personnel to enable them to work and live peacefully. He lamented over the increasing spate of injustices in the country as a result of some law enforcing agencies not doing the right thing which in turn sent some innocent people into prison.

Bishop Anokye appealed to the society to avoid condemning people in prison custody since as he put it, “not all of them have committed crimes, as some were thrown into jail due to false accusations”.

Mr Ambrose Imoro Salifu, the Ashanti Regional Commander of Prisons, said the major problem facing his outfit now was the large numbers of remand prisoners had overstretched facilities compelling inmates to sleep in turns a situation he described as injurious to their health. He commended the Catholic Church for its regular support to prisons in the Region and appealed to the Government to increase the feeding allowance of 4,000 cedis for every inmate per day.

Mr Salifu also appealed to the Catholic Church to consider adopting measures to help to pay the minor fines imposed by the courts on some people who could not pay and thus landed them into jail as a way of decongesting the prisons.GNA


Disappointed Muslim pilgrims return home

Muslim pilgrims within the premises of the Aviance Cargo Village, near the Kotoka International Airport, who were waiting for a flight to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, have left for their various homes after learning that their trip was no longer possible.
Numbering over 1,000, the pilgrims who had come from all the regions had paid 20 million cedis each for their trip and spent periods ranging from a few days to three weeks within the premises of Aviance Cargo, as they waited for a flight to send them to Saudi Arabia.
Earlier in the week, two chartered flights sent about 400 of the stranded pilgrims to the Saudi Arabia, leaving about 1,000. The Ghana News Agency (GNA) discovered that by 1400 hours on Wednesday, the Aviance Cargo premises were almost empty with only a few of the pilgrims packing their belongings.
The pilgrims, who had earlier shown a lot of hope and courage even when their fate was quite bleak, looked quite resigned to their predicament.A pilgrim, Baba, said he together with others had travelled all the way from the Northern Region in three cars."Apart from the money we have paid; just imagine the other expenses and the inconvenience. Now we have to travel all the way back," he said.
One lady said, "I do not have a cedi left. After waiting here for more than one week, I have spent all the money I had. I only pray that I can borrow some money that would enable me to go back to Nsawam where I came from".Asked whether they still hoped to embark upon the pilgrimage the next time round, the pilgrims said they certainly would once they were still alive.
They said what was most important was for the present Hajj Council to be dissolved to make way for a more competent body that would not repeat the same mistakes.During the period of their wait, the pilgrims could make no contact with the Hajj Council Board members. They said while their offices were closed, none of them came to explain the situation to them. The pilgrims described this as most unfortunate since the Council members were directly responsible to facilitate their trip to the Holy Land.
They said they had been informed that their money would be refunded to them in due course.Ghanaian authorities had tried in vain to negotiate with Saudi authorities to extend the time of closure of the Jeddah Airport. By tradition, the Airport is closed to flights a few days to the beginning of the rituals of the Hajj.
Failure by pilgrims to make it to the Holy Land by the deadline means that they would have to abandon the Hajj for that particular year.The National Hajj Council on Wednesday gave up its efforts to fly hundreds of Muslims to Saudi Arabia for this year's Hajj because it was unable to secure extension of the deadline for its plane to land in that country.
"The National Hajj Council wishes to inform all prospective pilgrims and the general public that despite the frantic efforts made by the Government and the Mission in Jeddah, unfortunately extension (to land in Jeddah) was not granted,=94 it said in a statement issued in Accra."In view of this, pilgrims cannot be air lifted to the Kingdom to perform this year's Hajj."The statement said a substantial number of pilgrims had already been transported to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj.
The National Hajj Council is consulting all stake holders on the way forward and will provide a full statement on Friday 29th December, 2006 at 1000 hours at the International Press Centre,=94 it said.
The Council reiterates that they will continue to generate relationships with all and sundry, especially the Government and affected pilgrims in order to protect the interests of all,=94 it said.

NDC Was Using State Funds — Crabbe

The Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Sammy Crabbe, has described statements by some National Democratic Congress (NDC) activists that being in opposition is hell as an indication that they were using state funds to enrich themselves when they were in power.
According to him, the NPP would not dip its hands into state coffers to cater for its members but would rather empower them through training to be economically independent to support the party, whether it is in power or not.
Mr Crabbe said this at the end-of-year get-together for members of the party in Accra. More than 100 members who have distinguished themselves in serving the party over the years were rewarded with standing fans.
Mr Crabbe said most of the members had been provided with employable skills, with others being supported to undergo various forms of education, while others had also been employed in factories set up by the regional secretariat.
He added that the regional office was in collaboration with some transport companies for the supply of 350 taxi cabs which would be given to members of the party in the Greater Accra on credit basis.He commended the members for the keen interest shown in the National Youth Employment Programme.
The General Secretary of the NPP, Nana Ohene Ntow, commended the Greater Accra Regional branch for always being innovative and urged other regional branches to emulate it.

Two million unemployed in Ghana

The Minister of Manpower, Youth and Employment, Alhaji Boniface Abubakar Saddique has estimated the umeployment number in the country to be two million and said out of that number, 78,000, representing 26 per cent, were between the ages of 18-25.
He, therefore, advised the youth to take advantage of the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) to get something to do in order to earn their keep.
The minister made the remark last Friday in Accra when some officials of his ministry interacted with the media to explain the programmes so far embarked upon by the ministry.Commenting on the numerous industrial disputes which hit the labour front this year, the minister expressed the hope that the Fair Wages Commission (FWC) would help to stem labour agitation.
He urged the labour unions and employees, such as the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Ghana Employers Association (GEA), to work at resolving labour issues amicably in order to bring sanity to the industrial sector.The National Co-ordinator of the NYEP, Mr Leo Kaba, in a separate interview, expressed his appreciation to the opposition parties, notably the National Democratic Congress (NDC), for supporting the programme.
He said every home in Ghana had at least an unemployed youth and added that the programme, in the long term, would provide sustenance for the numerous youths who were currently out of jobs.He said the organisations which absorbed the interns had been granted tax rebates by the government so that they could be encouraged to absorb more unemployed youths under the programme.
He mentioned the employment modules as paid internship, waste and sanitation and vacation jobs, among others, and was particularly happy about the recent rise in revenue mobilisation by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, with the support of about 300 youths.IN the same interview Saddique commended the media for undertaking positive but critical reportage of his ministry.
"Although sections of the media have been critical of us, that has propelled me to work harder, thereby putting me on my toes," he declared.Alhaji Saddique said in an interview that during his tenure as the Northern Regional Minister, the good media reports the region enjoyed contributed to bringing about peace and tranquillity in the Dagbon Traditional Area, especially during the burial of Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II.
Source:Culled From Graphic


NPP to organize national conference at Koforidua

The New Patriotic Party(NPP) is to organize it's national conference at Koforidua from January 5 to January 7, 2007 at the EREDEC Hotel.
The three-day conference which would be organized under the theme "Moving forward in unity" would be climaxed with a non-denominational church service in the morning of January 7 at the EREDEC Hotel and a rally at the Jackson's Park in the afternoon. This was disclosed by the National Organizer of NPP, Mr Laud Commey at a press conference at Koforidua on Tuesday.
He said the conference would be attended by over 200 delegates made up of 1,429 delegates from the constituencies and other delegates from the foreign constituencies of the party and would be used to reenergize and resource the structures of the party in preparations towards the 2008 elections.
Mr Commey said the conference would discuss reports from the regions, some key ministries and the government to assess how the manifesto presented to the people of Ghana by the party was being fulfilled.
He said a special feature of the conference would be the opportunity that would be offered the delegates to sit with the President to chat with him and ask him key questions on issues affecting the areas where they were coming from.

Mr. Commey said some proposals had been forwarded to the party secretariat and would expect some amendments to be made to the constitution of the party but did not specify. He explained that as far as the party was concern, there are no presidential aspirants of the party but what was happening could best be described as party members conducting consultations and "testing the waters".
Mr. Commey explained that, by the constitution of the party, 14 months before an election, the party opens nominations for possible presidential candidates to fill their nominations. He explained that, it was after the filling of nomination that a committee would be set up by the party to vet the nominees and it was after a nominee had been confirmed by the committee that the fellow would become a presidential aspirant of the party.
Mr. Commey described the research said to have been published on the presidential aspirants through a poll of delegates as a fun because the delegates of the party were not automatic. He explained that by the constitution of the party, every constituency would be expected to organize a special delegates conference to elect four delegates from the ten constituency executives and six non-executive members and as at now nobody knows who would be a delegate and so wonder who were interviewed.
Mr. Commey said to him, the various threats of passing of vote of no confidence in the various executives of the party at different levels of the party was an expression that the party was alive and that the ordinary members of the party could point out faults of the leadership to them even if the ordinary members were wrong.
The Eastern Regional chairman of the party, Mr Yaw Gyekye Amoabeng explained that, most of the party members accusing him of not acting on their threat to have their executives removed were not having their way because often, they failed to abide by the laid down procedures in the constitution of the party.Source:GNA

Cocaine traces 'on Spanish euros'

Traces of cocaine can be found on 94% of euro banknotes circulating in Spain, a study has suggested. Analysis of notes from a selection of Spain's major cities showed that each one carried an average of 25.18 micrograms of cocaine.
Spain has one of the highest rates of cocaine use in the world, with about 475,000 regular users, El Mundo newspaper reports.
Euro banknotes have only been in circulation since January 2002.

Scientists could not carry out tests on old peseta banknotes before 2002 for fear that they would not withstand the chemicals used in the analysis.
Now, though, armed with resilient modern euro notes, experts collected 20 notes for analysis from each of five cities - Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Valencia and Seville.
From each city they gathered five 10 euro notes, 10 of 20 euros and five of 50 euros.
Only three of notes gathered from each of Madrid and Barcelona were found to carry no trace of cocaine.

Wider issue

Users of the drug usually snort it by rolling up a banknote into the shape of a tube.
But experts said it was difficult to tell which notes had been used for snorting cocaine and which had become contaminated with the drug in other ways, such as in counting machines.
According to El Mundo Spain has just over one billion banknotes in circulation, with estimates suggesting that 142 million have been used directly to snort the drug.
Other countries have been found to have drug problems in the past: a BBC survey in 1999 found that 99% of £5 notes tested in London contained traces of cocaine.
Euro banknotes in Germany appear especially vulnerable: a 2003 survey gave similar results to the Spanish analysis about cocaine traces.

And this month officials in Germany suggested that methamphetamine, or crystal meth, could be causing euros to "corrode" when users snort it through a rolled-up note.

Lagos Pipeline Blast Kills scores

More than 200 people have been killed in an oil pipeline explosion in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, the Red Cross says.
Officials say they are still counting bodies and it is feared the death toll could be much higher.

The blast in the Abule Egba area happened as hundreds of people were scooping fuel from a pipeline punctured by thieves, officials said.
Some 2,000 people have died in similar incidents in the past decade.
Bodies 'scattered'

A Red Cross official said efforts to recover the bodies were being hampered by the intense heat.
May 2006: At least 150 killed in Lagos
Dec 2004: At least 20 killed in Lagos
Sept 2004: At least 60 killed in Lagos
June 2003: At least 105 killed in Abia State
Jul 2000: At least 300 killed in Warri
Mar 2000: At least 50 killed in Abia State
Oct 1998: At least 1,000 killed in Jesse
Pictures from the scene
"We can only recognise them through the skulls, the bodies are scattered over the ground," Ige Oladimeji was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.
Akintunde Akinkleye, a Reuters news agency photographer at the scene, said he had counted about 500 bodies.
The secretary general of Nigeria's Red Cross, Abiodum Orebiyi, told the BBC that a number of houses had been destroyed, along with a mosque and a church.
He said the blaze had now been brought under control.

Cement shortage stalls devt projects in Upper West

Most on-going development projects in the Upper West Region are at a standstill as a result of an acute shortage of cement in the region within the past month.Buoyed by this development, the price of the commodity has shot up to 90,000 cedis per bag up by 10,000 cedis from the previous price of 80,000 cedis during the period.
Projects that have been severely affected the scarcity are, building projects and construction of culverts and drains. Ghana News Agency saw empty shops when it went round the retail outlets in Wa to assess the situation, with the inscription "NO Cement" displayed in front of some of them.
While some of the dealers put the blame on the manufacturers of the product, others attributed the shortage to the inability of Distributors to get vehicles to cart the product to the region.Mr Abubakari Hamid, a prominent cement dealer in Wa who had no single bag of the product in his shop when the GNA got there, said the shortage was a national problem and blamed GHACEM for creating the situation.
Asked whether the current price would come down when the commodity was made available, he said the price would never go below 85,000 cedis per bag since GHACEM was noted for increasing the price of the commodity every three months.Mr John Ibrahim Donkor, a Wa-based Building Contractor, said they had information that all the articulated trucks were now engaged in carting cocoa beans to the ports for export and their owners found that a more profitable venture than carting cement to the north.
He said unless an immediate solution was found to the problem, they would not be able to complete their projects on schedule.

Nduom confused about his CPP status

Public Sector Reform Minister, Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom has expressed worry about his non-party status in Parliament. Nduom, who is also the Member of Parliament for Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abirem Constituency in the Central Region, was dismissed along with two other MPs from the Convention People’s Party by its Central Disciplinary Committee for acts the party executives described as disloyal.

Dr Nduom told a local radio station - JoyFM - that he had made several attempts to find out if the Central Committee had rescinded its decision since they were sacked in August but had not received any official response, and given that the decision still stood, that could mean he was a free agent and he intended to ask the Speaker of Parliament to clarify the matter so that he could decide on his political future.

“Until they come back and say well, we’ve rescinded our decision, I cannot just go about and pretend that I am a part of something that the leaders say I am not. I have asked the question several times, I haven’t gotten an answer and indeed I do intend to ask the Speaker of Parliament to help clarify this matter so that once and for all we can put this matter to bed so that I can decide what it is that I do with my political future.

Asked if he had received any offers from the ruling New Patriotic Party government, Nduom said he had tried very much stay away from their political activities and believed there had been too much political talk in the country. He did not intend to add to the debates, rather, he preferred to concentrate on development issues and believed Election 2008 was too far away to be given priorities now at the expense of development.

Meanwhile Dr Nduom has denied any knowledge of reports linking him to the creation of a new party. He said he had been minding his business and concentrating on the work in his constituency.A pressure group in the Convention People’s Party, The Patriots said it had come to its attention that certain individuals claiming to be members of the CPP were going round various constituencies seeking to destroy the party and create a new one.

According to The Patriots, the said group was going round asking party officials to complete a form simply titled “Political Movement” and asking them to forward the forms to Accra for action.The Patriots said it was reliably informed that the group was financed by a foreign government that feared the reincarnation of the CPP and was seeking to destroy it in order to create a new party to serve the selfish interests of its leader, a prominent CPP member of hybrid political affiliation.

According to The Patriots, those behind these activities typically sent their agents to constituencies where The Patriots were in the process of opening offices or had opened offices, thus creating the impression that somehow the patriots groups was affiliated with them. The Eastern Regional Chairman of the CPP, Nana Owusu-Sekyere claimed to have received copies of the forms allegedly sent to him by Dr. Nduom.

“When I went to my office, the regional office of the party, I saw over 15 copies of a circular letter. I don’t know where it came from. The topic or agenda was Party Executives and it was asking us to submit the names of the party’s regional executive members to an unknown person.“When I inquired from my secretary, he told me that the bearer of that circular letter told him that it was sent to him by Nduom.”


Calls for peace in the Holy Land

Amid another gloomy Christmas celebrations in the Holy Land, top Roman Catholic official, Michel Sabbah, has appealed Palestinians to halt infighting and for an end to Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed during his homily at midnight Mass in Jesus' birthplace.
"The conflict here has lasted too long. It is high time that the leaders who have our destinies in their hands in this land, specifically, the Palestinian and Israeli leaders as well as those of the international community, it is time for all of them to take new measures that will bring an end to the long phase of death in our history and lead us into a new phase in the history of this Holy Land," Sabbah said in a fervent appeal.
The Latin Patriarch called upon leaders of all hues to "examine their conscience in order to enter a new path that puts an end to bloodshed, death, and in these days to new internal quarrels"."Christmas is saying to us to put down your arms," Sabbah asserted.
The Manger square in front of the Church of Nativity saw more activities than the past years despite internal strife but the foreign tourists seem to have deserted the city."Jerusalem and Bethlehem are like twin cities. If you try to separate Bethlehem from Jerusalem it will be dead and that's what is happening.
The Israeli wall has turned it into a jail and restricted tourists", Raja Zachariah, a catholic christian from Bethelehm's old city told PTI.He shows a whole street with most of the shops shut down, including his own, to drive home his contention. The Israeli tourism ministry took several measures to facilitate the entry of tourists into Bethlehem but locals said it is not a a matter of one time thing."We have tried to make the checkpoint leading to Bethlehem as friendly as such a place could be made friendly, in discussion with Palestinians.
We have also arranged free shuttles for tourists from Jerusalem to the Church of Nativity", Oren Drori, Director of Marketing at Ministry of Tourism told PTI."The city survives on tourism and the wall has broken its backbone. No such measure is going to cheer up this city", Zachariah's friend, George, quipped in response when pointed out with Israeli measures.Hathem, a gift shop owner in a prime location close to the church of Nativity said,' it is the worst Christmas for me.
Not many tourists have come and those who are around are mostly students who have already been living here. It doesn't help".Despite all the hindrances marching bands, children dressed as Santa Claus, clergymen in magenta skullcaps, foreign tourists, including Indians, gathered in the Manger Square for the Christmas Eve celebrations.
"I had put up an application some three months back for an entry pass for the Midnight Mass. When I was told last week that I can come and collect it I was thrilled. It is like a dream come true for me", Sajan Stelas from Kerala said. Sajan had come down from the southern Israeli coastal city of Eilat especially for the celebrations.
"I can't find words to express my feelings at being here", Franklin Titus fom Mumbai said.Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas attended the Midnight Mass and was specially blessed by the Latin Patriarch.

Christians mark the birth of Jesus Christ

Thousands of Christians in the Cape Coast municipality on Monday attended church service and conventions to mark the birth of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago.
Many of the churches were filled to capacity and extra seating places were created outside the church halls to accommodate the congregation.In a sermon at the St Francis de Sales Cathedral, His Eminence Peter Cardinal Appiah Turkson said the celebration of Christmas should not be used for only merry making, but rather should be used as a period for reconciliation and for people to change their ways to ensure peace and development.
He said people normally 93harden their hearts=94 to the word of God because of the fear of change, stressing that the time had come for Christians to use the word Christ brought to live decent lives and eschew all social vices to enable them enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Cardinal Turkson urged all to use the celebration to share their love, experience, blessing and joy with their neighbours, just as Christ shared the word of God with the world."Christmas is a gift from God and people should endeavour to share this gift with others"At the Varrick Memorial AME Zion church in Cape Coast, reverend Joseph Hammond, assistant pastor of the church, said the birth of Christ was a proclamation of Jesus as the Saviour.
He charged Christians to have faith in Jesus, love one another and follow his footsteps.He advised Christians to eschew hatred, envy and black mailing to promote peaceful co-existence.Rev. Hammond said when this is done, God the father would continue to bless the citizens of the country and 93we may continue to know peace in the country to ensure rapid developments in all spheres of our lives and blessings in all our endeavours=94. 25 Dec 06


Public Alert From The CPP Patriots

It has come to the attention of the CPP-Patriots, a group of Nkrumaists solely dedicated to the rebuilding of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) into a formidable force in Ghanaian politics, that certain individuals claiming to be members of the CPP are going around various constituencies and asking party officials to complete a form simply titled “Political Movement” and asking these officials to forward the forms to Accra for action.
This group, which we have reliably learned is financed by a foreign government that fears the reincarnation of the CPP, is seeking to destroy the CPP in order to create a new party to serve the selfish interests of its leader, a prominent CPP member of hybrid political affiliation.
They typically send their agents to constituencies where the Patriots are in the process of opening offices (or have opened offices), thus creating the impression that somehow we are affiliated with them. We are not.
Indeed, we repudiate their nefarious activities and condemn them in the strongest possible terms.We use this opportunity, therefore, to call on all members of the Nkrumaist family, especially the CPP, to be on the alert and stand fast in this period of rejuvenation, transition and hope, and fend off these and other subversive forces that seek to pursue their narrow political interests at the expense of the nationalist and Pan-Africanist agenda of the CPP.
We should never entertain such traitors.Forward Ever, Backward Never!Issued by the:The Patriots (cpppatriots@yahoo.com) AccraDecember 23, 2006
Source:The Patriots (cpppatriots@yahoo.com)

"Afii Aya ni eba nina wo"

In Ghana, Christmas season runs from December 20th to the first week in January. This coincides with the end of the cocoa harvest, the most prosperous time of the year, which contributes to the festive atmosphere.

Ghanaians who labor far from home, in the cities, on cocoa farms, and in the mines, return home for the holiday to spend it with family and friends. Houses, schools, and vehicles are decorated with paper ornaments and crepe paper. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, families and friends gather to feast on rice, chicken, goat, lamb and "fufu" (a cassava-plaintain paste)

On Christmas Eve there's often an outdoor procession, perhaps led by local musicians. On Christmas Eve and Day people go caroling house-to-house, singing traditional carols in one of Ghana's 66 local languages. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services feature carols and retellings of the Christmas story.
After church, children get small gifts from "Father Christmas", perhaps sweets, new clothes or a diary. People say Afishapa to one another, using an Akan (a major Ghanaian language) word that translates to "Merry Christmas & Happy New Year".
Father ChristmasThe children of Ghana might find it difficult to relate to the harsh cold of the North Pole, so their "Father Christmas" arrives instead from the tropics to play his part in the Christmas festivals.

His gifts are simple - good things to eat mostly - but his outfit is very elegant. Sandals peek out from under his bright red robe trimmed in golden fabric.
A traditional African patterned sash unites the colors of his outfit, and he wears a pale-colored cloak with a hood over his red cap.
While "Father Christmas" is a holdover from Ghana's colonial days, this was the first Black African country to gain its independence. Thus the people there have chosen the traditions they wish to keep from among the European customs, and expanded to encompass their own.

In Ghana the Christmas festival includes a special, religious service after which young people are given imported chocolates, and cookies and crackers prepared especially for this event. These are said to come from "Father Christmas". Christmas also coincides with harvest time for cocoa, which also is generally known as a time of abundance and good cheer.
Friends and relations travel to visit each other, celebrate the Christmas story, and share a wonderful feast.