Ghanaians from all walks of life yesterday continued trooping to the Banquet Hall of the State House in Accra to pay their last respects to their fallen leader, President John Evans Atta Mills.
Hundreds of thousands of people defied all odds to join long queues stretching from both sides of the entrance to the State House to catch a glimpse of the mortal remains of the late president.
Professor Mills, who was dressed in dark brown and white on Wednesday, had had his garb changed to a white suit yesterday.
Mourners were not allowed to hold their phones and any suspicious materials were kept away to avoid filming or taking photographs of the dead body.
Mourners, including chiefs, queen-mothers, heads of various institutions, the clergy, journalists, lawyers, the elderly and women and children queued for several hours in anticipation of having the opportunity to pay their last respects to the departed president.
The endless queues of mourners prompted the funeral committee to extend the viewing period.
“The Funeral Planning Committee has extended the period allowed for the general public to pay their last respects to Prof. John Evans Atta Mills beyond 7pm today,” a statement issued in Accra said.
It explained that the decision was necessitated by the “long queues which continue to persist outside the precincts of the State House. The general public now has up to 9pm to file past.”
A number of mourners who spoke to DAILY GUIDE claimed to have travelled from far and near to either satisfy their curiosity since they were still in a state of shock and disbelief that President Mills was indeed dead.
Others who had also thronged there said they were there to mourn with the deceased family.
Police sources said as early as 2am, people had started arriving at the forecourt of the State House where the remains of the late president had been laid for public viewing.
The remains had been kept in a glass casket at the Banquet Hall since Wednesday morning when the body was taken from the 37 Military Hospital for a befitting burial.
Unfortunately, most of these individuals, some of whom had kept vigil the previous night, had to wait till 6am before being allowed access into the premises.
Long and winding queues had formed from the entrance of the Banquet Hall going through the main gate of the State House towards the AU roundabout and the other towards the Independence Square.
A long queue had formed in front of the office of the Fisheries Commission while another line was coming from the Accra Sports Stadium.
Some had the patience and endurance to stand in the inclement weather for about six hours before getting the opportunity to file past the fallen leader.
A number of persons in the queues collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital, probably due to fatigue and stress.
Those who managed to get to the forecourt after a thorough body search sometimes had to virtually battle it out before making their way to the Banquet Hall where the late president’s remains were laid, since some were occasionally caught up in a stampeding crowd.
Unlike the previous day when the security and protocol arrangement were fraught with lapses, the police and military managed to bring the crowd under control yesterday, except in a few instances where they were overwhelmed by the numbers.
The deputy Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Alhassan, Director of Education and Police Training, DCOP Nathan Kofi Boakye and DCOP Patrick Timbillah and their colleagues in the army were on hand to give directions to their subordinates.
Most individuals who had the opportunity of filing past the remains of the late president, either sobbing or shedding tears, had to be aided out of the premises.
The crowd was particularly large on Thursday as several people scrambled to catch a glimpse of the dead president before his mortal remains would be conveyed from the Banquet Hall to the presidential cemetery at the Castle driveway for burial to August 10, 2012.
There would be a memorial service at the Independence Square this morning before the body is interred at the Geese Park Garden.
As at press time yesterday, about 65 delegations including Heads of State and international organizations, had confirmed their participation in the funeral service at the Independence Square.
Among the dignitaries is the special representative of the UN to West Africa, Said Djinnit.
A two-member delegation from Ethiopia was also received at the Kotoka International Airport by the Ethiopian Ambassador to Ghana, Gifty Abasiya Ababulgu.
Also in the country is a special envoy of the President of Haiti, Gilbert Passin, Lesotho, Ambassador to Libya Malefetsane Mohafa and a 13-member delegation from Ivory Coast’s traditional authority headed by the King of N’Zima Kotoko, Awoula Amon Tanoe.
A number of dignitaries including the US Secretary of State, Hilary Rodham Clinton, are also expected in the country by today to participate in the funeral ceremony.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu