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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ghana at 50 Remembers Becoming 'Free Forever'

ACCRA, Ghana -- Lasers lit the sky and an actor relived the emotional moment 50 years ago when independence leader Kwame Nkrumah declared Ghana "free forever" to kick off celebrations Tuesday in the first sub-Saharan African nation to break from Europe.

The laser show and re-enactment were highlights of events that started at midnight Monday for the people of this West African nation, celebrities and heads of state. The schedule Tuesday included a mass yell, in remembrance of the whoop with which Nkrumah ended his speech on March 6, 1957.

While crowds in the national colors of red, yellow, green and black and traditional kente cloth were exuberant Tuesday, the anniversary also has prompted sober soul searching.

Ghana has been mired in political repression, military dictatorship and poverty. Hopes, though, were raised in 2000 when Ghana saw its first peaceful and democratic changeover of government.

"To realize Nkrumah's dream, we need to be constantly asking the question: 'Are we really free?'" Nicole Amateifio, a university student who joined celebrations outside Nkrumah's mausoleum said early Tuesday.

Nkrumah, independent Ghana's first leader, dreamed of pan-African power that would free blacks from whites.

Today, President John Kufuor would be happy to see the country leap the gap from poor to middle class.

"We young Africans are trying to figure out how and when our time will come for us to make a difference in our own way." said Segun Olagunju, 24, a development worker from Nigeria.

Modern-day Ghana was part of the Gold Coast that became the Slave Coast as Portuguese and Danes set up trading posts there in the 1400s.

Britain gradually colonized what became its Gold Coast colony in the 1800s, defeating the Ashanti kingdom in 1902.

When Nkrumah began pressing for independence, Britain was demoralized by its loss of the Suez Canal and gave in.

In his famous independence declaration, Nkrumah declared: "Today, there is a new African in the world, and that new African is ready to fight his own battle and show that after all the black man is capable of managing his own affairs."