President confers honour on Ghanaians

Mindful of the controversy this year's National Honours Awards had attracted, President John Agyekum Kufuor, on Thursday capitalised on his official speech to play up national reconciliation as the rationale behind the annual event.

President Kufuor who hammered on the new award: "Grand Order of the Star and Eagles of Ghana," which he created and became the first recipient, and the number of awardees of about 244, said it was a way of bringing all hands on deck for national development.

Addressing the large audience at the auditorium of the Accra International Conference Centre, he stressed that Ghanaians must reach out to one another, within the society, and bring every hand on deck for national development, irrespective of ethnic background, religion, gender, social status or political affiliation.

"This is the spirit in which nominations for this year's awards have been made to reflect government policy, the different area of the national economy and the urgent need for reconciliation."

The official list of the awardees initially included former President, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, flagbearer of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Professor John Evans Atta Mills and other members of the Party.

The list was revised when members of the NDC turned down the offer, citing political vindictiveness from the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).

President Kufuor used his 30 minutes speech, which touched on the theme for the occasion: "Branding Ghana for a Prosperous Future," to urge Ghanaians to embrace efforts by his Administration to build and strengthen the various institutions of governance to make them strong pillars of democracy.

This, he said would promote peace and reconciliation and the welfare of the citizens.

President Kufuor said the National Reconciliation Commission was established in 2002 with the sincere belief that it would be the starting point of national healing and a sense of well-being, across ethnic, religious and the political divide.

"Unfortunately, the good faith of this necessary gesture continues to be spurned with contempt by some particular group. The government's commitment and sincerity will not be shaken."

President Kufuor asked Ghanaians not to lose focus under no circumstance and permit themselves from being distracted from pressing national assignments.

He said Government would continue to uphold the laws that apply to all without fear or favour.

"It is in an environment of peace, security and a sense of goodwill towards one another that Ghanaians can develop their fullest potential."

The awardees which included Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama comprised: "Order of the Star of Ghana," "Order of the Volta-Companion," "Order of the Volta-Officer," and the Order of the Volta-Member."