Ghana’s former first lady dies at 87.

Flags have been flying at half mast in Ghana in tribute to Theresa Kufuor, the wife of John Agyekum Kufuor, president of Ghana from 2000 to 2008. Born Theresa Mensah, the former first lady passed away on 1 October at the age of 87.

As a scholar of political science and international relations I followed her public career with keen interest.

In my considered view, Theresa Kufuor in her own unique way transcended the ceremonial role of first lady and quietly exercised considerable political power in the Ghanaian political arena. She also endeared herself to Ghanaians through her self-effacing and unobtrusive style.

She will be remembered for devoting herself to national development and to steering the country through turbulent waters.

Who was Theresa Kufuor?

Theresa Kufuor was born on 25 October 1935 in Wenchi, a town in the Bono region of Ghana. She was the youngest sister of Ghanaian statesman and politician J.H. Mensah, point man for the remarkable seven-year development plan set out after independence by the country’s first president. She studied as a registered general nurse in London and qualified as a state certified midwife.

Her marriage in 1962 to Kufuor after meeting him a year earlier in London at a dance seemed natural, given that Kufuor served as deputy foreign minister in a government in which her brother (J.H. Mensah) was a more senior official.

Kufuor’s political rise to the Ghanaian presidency in 2000 brought Theresa more directly into the often acrimonious world of Ghanaian politics. Kufuor set about delicately trying to uproot all vestiges of the Rawlings era, with his wife by his side. She seemed to take it all in her careful stride, with her taciturn, reserved, behind the scenes approach.

A 19-year rule (the first part of which was rather bloody) had come to an end and Theresa Kufuor came across as just the right first lady to help navigate a sensitive and difficult change of the political guard.

She proved up to the task. Her well cultivated public persona in key aspects had a calming effect on the nation and its politics. Her sartorial style was less gaudy and very conservative compared with her predecessors. Her speeches were not meant to rally the troops to battle; she simply spoke to the nation with impeccable diction and a rather quaint British accent which recalled colonial times long gone.

She was content to be the dutiful wife who helped the president steer the Ghanaian ship of state to a safe berth in choppy waters. Tapping into her training as a nurse, she made it clear her sole focus was social matters affecting Ghanaian women; she had no pretensions of setting up political machinery to help her husband’s electoral fortunes.

She was a devout Catholic. She was also a strong advocate for a free compulsory universal basic education programme for kindergarten children, as part of the government’s educational reforms in 2007.

Source: https://theconversation.com


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