Ghana government moves to Indian-built palace
By Francis Kokutse, Accra, Feb 7 : Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama will Thursday officially move the seat of the government of the West African nation from the old colonial slave post Osu Castle to the Flagstaff House built with India's help.
Minister for Information and Media Relations Mahama Ayariga confirmed that the government would conduct "formal" business from the House starting Feb 7. The move comes after four years of dithering over what to do with the building currently being used by the ministry of foreign affairs.
The ministry will relocate to a new building being built with help from China.
"Staff of the ministry of foreign affairs are to relocate from the administration block so that we can make a complete move to the Flagstaff House in 2013," the president had said in December.
However, the new palace has gone through several controversies.
First, then president John Atta Mills decided not to use it after its completion, citing security reasons.
This was in line with his election campaign promise that he would not live in the building because the money spent on it could have been used on other things to benefit the poor.
However, John Kufuor, under whose presidency the construction was initiated, praised the Indian government for providing the funds.
There was also concern about its cost.
Originally estimated at USD36.9 million, the cost shot up to USD135 million with the provision of additional facilities to enhance security.
The amount was part of a USD60 million funding from the Indian government that has a 50-percent grant element at an interest rate of 1.75 percent, repayable in 25 years, including a five-year moratorium.
The building's original name was changed from Jubilee House to Flagstaff House.
Shapoorji Pallonji of India was named as contractor of the project, which started in 2006. It was completed in 2008.
India and Ghana established diplomatic relations in 1953 with the opening of a representative office in Accra, prior to Ghana's independence.
India established full-fledged diplomatic relations with Ghana in 1957 immediately after it became independent. There are about 7,000-8,000 Indians in Ghana. Some of them have been here for over 70 years.
(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org) --IANS