Earlier this year, President Akufo-Addo announced government's plan to donate land for the building of a 5,000-seater national cathedral beneath a breathtaking concaved roof in the heart of Accra. Some applauded the decision, hailing the new piece of architecture as a “huge deal. It signals that the country is poised to consolidate the gains of decades of democracy,” wrote Chika Okeke-Agulu, a Princeton professor for The New York Times.
But not everyone is elated. For some, the new building completely blurs the line between Church and State.
“The Church can prioritize this, but not the State,” said Executive Director of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law, H. Kwasi Prempeh.
Prempeh argued that Akufo-Addo’s announcement came without proper documentation providing Ghanaians with an outline of the structure’s cost and a timeline on phases in its construction.
“I’m concerned about governance and the use of power in Ghana. We have a huge problem with presidential power in this country.”
He explained that as President of a nation, there are typically restrictions on what he/she can do, specifically in regards to land. But this is not the case in Ghana, he said. He contended that it appears that there are no rules around what the President can do.
“This raises questions about how power is allocated and distributed in this country,” adding that “it speaks to the absence of real limitations of power. It raises red flags for me.”
Others criticize the cathedral’s location. As it stands, the new building will stretch alongside the Osu Cemetery and takeover land holding properties from the Ridge roundabout - the Scholarship Secretariat, the Judicial Training Institute, residences of Court of Appeal judges, and the Passport Office. All of those organizations’ buildings would be demolished and relocated elsewhere.
Immediate past Lands and Natural Resources Minister John Peter Amewu argues, though, that the plan to build there was a strategic decision made by government officials.
“We’re looking for a very prime area that will fit the status of the kind of building that the committee envisaged,” he told Joy FM Monday.
Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye will spearhead the project, which will be his first in Accra. His firm, Adjaye Associates, wrote on its website, that it plans to build an office in the city to add to its other flagship locations in London and New York.
"It is an immense honour to be granted the opportunity to contribute something of this scale and import to my home country," said Adjaye on his firm’s website. “I have sought to craft a building that not only understands its landscape, but one that will be unique to Accra and the Ghanaian nation."
The national cathedral will be surrounded by more than 5 hectares of landscaped gardens, and will serve as a place of worship and a community hub that will encompass several chapels, a baptistery, a school, an art gallery and Africa’s first bible museum.
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