Why US President Obama Visits Ghana, But Not Kenya?
President Obama is scheduled to arrive in Ghana on late Friday Jul. 10 for a 24-hour visit. While Kenya is President Obama's ancestral homeland, it is fitting that he has chosen the West African country for his first visit to the Sub-Saharan Africa.
Ghana has just had a peaceful transfer of power after a close presidential election, which is in stark contrast to Kenya's continual political crisis since 2007 post-election violence that led to approximately 1,500 deaths. In other words, Ghana is a model of stable governance, and Kenya is too troubled for a visit.
Ghana has had five successive democratic elections since 1992.
President John Atta Mills defeated an incumbent, becoming the second opposition leader to peacefully take control in Ghana through elections. The nation serves as the backdrop for Obama’s push for more peaceful democratic and economic developments across Africa.
The visit of President Obama is not just an acknowledgment and recognition of Ghana’s democratic credentials but an appellation of the generality of what the country has been able to achieve as a sovereign state over the years.
President Obama is the third consecutive US President to visit Ghana. Former President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush visited Ghana during each man's presidency. In spite of the jubilant excitement in Ghana for President Obama, it remains to be seen how he will live up to or surpass some of the achievements accomplished in Africa by his predecessor, George W Bush.
The 2009 visit is historic for Ghanaians because President Obama is the first US President of African American ancestry to visit this small West African nation of 23 million people.
President Obama will be given a traditional hero's welcome or as Ghanaians say, "Akwaaba".
Accra's international airport has received a brisk makeover - shiny new flags adorn lamp posts along major routes and large billboards have been erected depicting Ghanaian President John Atta Mills alongside Mr Obama, with the proclamation "Partnership for Change" and the Akan phrase "Akwaaba" meaning welcome home.
The capital Accra has been spending weeks preparing to welcome President and Mrs. Obama. Ghanaians are hopeful that President Obama's visit will affirm an important role of Ghana in maintaining strong regional stability, by contributing to peacekeeping missions in West Africa.
He's the first U.S. president with roots in Africa, making his visit something of a homecoming, whether he sees it that way or not. Being a "son of Africa" carries more meaning to Africans — not least pride, dignity, and hope — than anything he might say or do. Yet what he says about Africa on this trip will carry significantly more meaning for this same reason.
President Obama and President Mills are expected to meet late Friday and have breakfast Saturday with former Ghanaian leaders John Kufuor and Jerry Rawlings.
During the visit, President Barack Obama will address a number of bilateral and regional issues with his Ghanaian counterpart, President John Evans Atta Mills, according to Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary.
On Saturday, Jul. 11, President Obama will address Ghana's parliament and by extension, African lawmakers in the continent. He is expected to use the platform of Ghana to make a major policy statement to the rest of the African continent, and in particular, the 750 million Sub-Saharan Africans.
Update: The speech is entitled, "A New Moment of Promise." Readers can listen only.
The White House has set up a special page, entitled "President Obama in Ghana", which included President Obama's interview with AllAfrica.com about his visit to Ghana, and the invitation to Africans to send their messages to the President in English and French.
Readers can view and read an interactive map of SMS messages received by the White House here. The comments are interestingly diverse.
Obama is scheduled to make a major speech in Ghana. He will address Africans through a Ghanaian audience.
What he says will influence the way the world sees Africa and Africa's place in the world. It will reveal his attitude towards a continent much preached to and exploited, whose history is often disregarded. He will address the Ghanaian parliament.
President Obama is expected to tour a former slave trading center, Cape Coast Castle, where African slaves were shipped across the Atlantic for almost 300 years ago before returning home. Cape Coast is a town about 100 miles west of Accra.
The building was started by Swedes in 1654 and completed by the British after they captured the castle and transformed it into the capital of their colonial administration of then 'Gold Coast' - now Ghana.
Many slaves died in this castle as a result of the dehumanizing treatments they received at the hands of their captors.
It has become one of the most prominent sites for Africans from the diaspora to 'link' to their roots. Visitors often break down and weep when they get to see the treatment of their ancestors.
The Cape Coast Castle houses a museum where relics of the slave trade are kept.
Source: America -Engaging the World
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