Ghana buzzes with excitement over Obama visit

Local dignitaries greet President Obama when he arrives in Ghana on Friday.
President Obama arrived in Ghana on Friday for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office, sparking excitement in the west African nation.

Obama is expected to address lawmakers in the capital city of Accra on Saturday and tour the Cape Coast Castle, which was used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Obamas will also visit a hospital that specializes in maternal and child health, said Michelle Gavin, the White House senior director for African affairs. The president, accompanied by his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, was met at the airport by his Ghanaian counterpart John Atta Mills as a crowd of dignitaries gathered to greet them. Traditional dancers and drummers performed in the background. The visit by the first African-American president in the United States sparked a frenzy in the country as street vendors stocked miniature U.S. flags. Massive billboards with pictures of a smiling Obama and “akwaaba, ” the local word for welcome, were set up in the capital city. Watch how Ghana is celebrating Obama’s visit ยป “People in Ghana are printing clothes for this occasion,” said Adrian Landry, general manager of a beach hotel in Accra. “The fact that his father is African and he picked us makes us special,” he said. “He is endorsing our strong democracy in Ghana. This is historic.”

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The visit by Obama, the son of a Kenyan father, generated excitement in the west African nation and envy among its neighbors. Many considered it a message to governments over their poor records on stability. Obama said he picked Ghana partly because of its commitment to democracy. “By traveling to Ghana, we hope to highlight the effective governance that they have in place,” he said in an interview with The former slaving-hub of 23 million people held peaceful presidential elections, a far cry from recent votes in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Those two countries plunged into post-election chaos last year, forcing leaders to form contentious coalition governments. Obama’s visit to the nation is the third by a sitting American president. Bill Clinton was the first U.S. president to visit Ghana in 1998 as part of a six-nation Africa tour. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, stopped there as part of a four-nation Africa tour during his last year of office.

“Bush received a positive response, but it does not compare to this,” Landry said. Obama, who recently attended the G8 summit in Italy, will not visit any other country in the continent during the trip.