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Video by Yuka ROYER

Latest update : 2009-07-11

The US president was greeted by thousands of Ghanaians on his first official trip into the heart of Africa. He met with Ghana's president John Atta Mills, and praised the nation's democratic and economic development.

Reuters - U.S. President Barack Obama met Ghana’s democratically elected president on Saturday on a visit to Africa that will emphasise his message on the importance of good governance and accountability.

It is Obama’s first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since he took office as the first African American president of the United States.

Obama and President John Atta Mills shook hands as they met outside the presidential castle, once used by European slave traders. They stood side by side while a military band played national anthems then inspected a guard of honour.

Ghana was chosen because it symbolises an Africa different to the old images of war, misery and corruption. Mills was elected in a peaceful, transparent vote last December that set an example for the continent.

Economic reforms in the cocoa and gold producing country, set to begin pumping oil next year, also helped bring unprecedented investment and growth before the impact of the global financial crisis.

“We don’t allow one president to rule for 30 years. This should be evidence to other countries that it can be done,” said tax official Nii Dodoo, 41, among the crowds in Accra streets.

Walls and utility poles were plastered with posters of side-by-side portraits of Obama and Mills and the word “change” -- the mantra of Obama’s presidential election campaign.

Ghanaians in bright yellow T-shirts showing Obama next to Mills hoped for a glimpse of Obama, a hero on the continent because of his roots as the son of a Kenyan immigrant. But tight security meant only a few got the chance to cheer him.


“This is both a special and an important visit for him personally as president but also for our country to articulate a vision for Africa,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

“He knows there’s a lot of enthusiasm on the continent for his visit but also for our special partnership.”

On an apartment building, a banner draped down several floors read, “Welcome President Obama.” “Ghana Adores You,” said a billboard featuring a picture of Obama and his wife, Michelle.

Africa has not been a top priority for an administration grappling with the global financial crisis.

Few expect a shift in U.S. policy and the main message will be on the importance of good governance and the wise use of aid, such as the G8 commitment made in Italy to spend $20 billion on improving food security in poor countries.

Africa was one of the few parts of the world where U.S. President George W. Bush won friends, for overseeing a significant increase in aid.

But U.S. policy in Africa faces a growing challenge from China’s push into the continent in search of resources and markets. Some governments welcome the fact that Chinese aid and investment comes without the conditions set by the West.

Obama was due to address members of parliament on Saturday before visiting Cape Coast Castle, a fort used in the transatlantic slave trade. He and his family will spend less than 24 hours in Ghana before returning to the United States.


AFP - Thousands of people poured onto the streets of the capital of Ghana on Saturday as US President Barack Obama launched into his first official trip into the heart of Africa to make a call for good governance.

Huge crowds lined the streets of Accra hoping to catch a glimpse of the first black US president, the son of an African immigrant, after he arrived from the Group of Eight summit in Italy.

Obama, his wife and two daughters were welcomed at Kotoka international airport late Friday by President John Atta-Mills to traditional Ashante drumming, singing and dances.

On Saturday the crowds in Accra waved flags and placards with slogans such as "Obama you are the true son of Africa, we love you".

Waiting in a wheelchair on a road near the presidential palace, Ama Agyeman, an 80-year-old woman said: "I want to see America's first black president before I die. I have a few years left, let me see him before I go".

"I will lie peacefully in my grave as a proud Ghanaian because I have lived to see some of the most powerful men in the world," said Agyeman, who was in her 30s when revered African nationalist Kwameh Nkrumah came to power as Ghana became the first African country to shake off its colonial shackles.

Obama, who will address parliament Saturday, said he had chosen Ghana as his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa because it was an example of a "functioning democracy" in a conflict-scarred continent.

After the G8 summit agreed a 20 billion dollar fund to feed the world's hungry, the US president was to use his 24-hour visit to urge Africa to pursue good governance and economic development.

The US leader held talks at Osu Castle, the government headquarters and a former slave trading fort, with Atta-Mills, who won a cliffhanger election in January, and former leaders John Kufuor and Jerry Rawlings.

Along with his wife Michelle -- a descendant of African slaves -- he is also to tour Cape Coast Castle, once one of Africa's main outposts from where slaves were shipped to the Americas.

Ghana's media was awash with articles, advertisements and poems paying tribute to Obama.

Newspapers featured pictures of Obama arriving in Accra. The main state-run Daily Graphic ran the headline "Welcome Home Obama".

The Mirror published a poem about Obama and Atta-Mills titled "twins of the same mother".

Obama's choice of the former British colony on the west coast of Africa was based on Ghana's record of democracy and stability in recent years.

Last year's elections were Ghana's fifth since a return to multi-party democracy in 1992.

The first time power switched peacefully was in 2000, when former military leader Rawlings handed over to Kufuor after an eight-year stint as elected president.

"Part of the reason that we're travelling to Ghana is because you've got there a functioning democracy, a president who's serious about reducing corruption, and you've seen significant economic growth," Obama said before leaving for Accra.

"So I don't want to overly generalise it, but I do want to make the broader point that a government that is stable, that is not engaging in tribal conflicts, that can give people confidence and security that their work will be rewarded."

Obama, whose father was a Kenyan immigrant, also underscored the need for good governance on the continent.

"If you talk to people on the ground in Africa, certainly in Kenya, they will say that part of the issue here is the institutions aren't working for ordinary people," he said.

"And so governance is a vital concern that has to be addressed."

Authorities in Cape Coast, 160 kilometres (100 miles) west of Accra, banned all funerals this weekend for the visit.

Ghana's central region minister Ama Benyiwaa Doe told AFP: "The dead can be buried later, but Obama is here for once and we must pay all attention to him."

Accra bookshops were stocked with piles of Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" book. Larger-than-life posters of Obama and Atta-Mills with the slogan "partnership for change" and "akwaaba" (welcome in the local language) were omnipresent.

Amoo Charles a fashion designer was up at dawn to get a good spot to see Obama: "I was at the airport yesterday to see Obama, but I couldn't, I am here again today".

Thousands of others lined up streets around the US embassy while others waited at a malaria hospital Obama is to tour later.

Obama is the third consecutive US leader in under a decade to travel to Ghana.

He has already visited Egypt but not been further into the African continent.

Date created : 2009-07-11