July 9th, 2009
11:01 AM ET
5 years ago

Excitement on streets of Ghana ahead of Obama's visit

President Obama will depart the G8 summit Friday for Ghana.
President Obama will depart the G8 summit Friday for Ghana.

(CNN) – A street vendor in Ghana's capital sells small American flags with an image of President Barack Obama on them, in front of a billboard that proclaims "Akwaaba" - or "Welcome" – next to a smiling image of the U.S. leader.

When Obama arrives in Accra on Friday night, he will be the third sitting American president to visit the West African nation of Ghana. But unlike Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Obama is only visiting Ghana and no other country in the continent.

He said he picked Ghana as the first African country he would visit as U.S. president partly because of the "democratic commitments" demonstrated by President John Atta Mills, who took office in January after a close election.

"By traveling to Ghana, we hope to highlight the effective governance that they have in place," Obama said Tuesday in an interview with AllAfrica.com.

During his 24-hour visit to Ghana, Obama will meet with the president and address parliament before he and First Lady Michelle Obama tour the Cape Coast Castle, which was used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Security has been tight all week in Accra, and Ghana plans to deploy some 10,000 security forces during Obama's visit, according to Ghana News Agency (GNA).

The White House has set up SMS codes to allow people across Africa to send "words of welcome" via text message to Obama during his visit. Obama has already received thousands of messages, and plans to answer several of the questions sent to him, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported on Thursday.

Bill Clinton was the first U.S. president to visit Ghana in 1998 in the middle of his second term, as part of a six-nation Africa tour. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, stopped there during a four-nation Africa tour during his last year of office that largely focused on U.S. aid programs.

Ghana's government even named a road after Bush to recognize his government's contribution towards the country's development.

As the United States' first African-American president, Obama's trip has broader significance as well. Obama's father is from Kenya and he expressed concern about the political situation in that east African nation.

"The political parties (in Kenya) do not seem to be moving into a permanent reconciliation that would allow the country to move forward," Obama told AllAfrica.com. "And Kenya is not alone in some of the problems that we've seen of late, post-election or pre-election."

Many in Kenya were critical of Obama's decision to pick Ghana the first African nation he visited instead of his father's birthplace. During his campaign for president, Obama was hailed by many as a "son of Kenya." Shortly after the White House announced the Ghana trip in May, newspaper headlines in Nairobi asked, "Why Obama Snubbed Kenya." A political cartoon in one Kenyan paper showed Air Force One dropping a note to Kenya's leaders saying, "Get your act together," as it flew over the country.

Obama said he wanted his visit to Africa to mean more than just something to cross off his list as U.S. president.

"I actually thought that it made sense for us to connect a trip to Ghana to a previous trip with the G8 ... to show that Africa is directly connected to our entire foreign policy approach," Obama told AllAfrica.com.

"That it's not some isolated thing where once every term you go visit Africa for a while to check that box, but rather it's an ongoing part of a broader discussion about how we move many of these international challenges forward."

As Ghana gears up for the visit, a group of local singers and rap artists wrote a welcome song for Obama and produced a music video on YouTube.

"President Obama, Welcome to Ghana," they sing, with images of American and Ghanaian flags interspersed between the musicians. "We welcome you to the Land of Gold."


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Bisola

    President Obama
    . . if this ever gets to you, regardless of what people say keep your focus and don't get distracted... We love you, we're proud of you and we believe in you!

    July 9, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  2. Lee, Ann Arbor, Michigan

    The "clueless wonder" is popular everywhere except his popularity is now fading here in the US where people are seeing that he is just a great politician but not a LEADER at all.

    His marxist policies are a failure.

    July 9, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  3. max

    I live in Ghana and Obama is very welcome to Ghana; there are welcoming posters and all and places around town. However, I don't see any excitement on the streets pending his coming as this article tends to suggest.

    July 9, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. Samuel

    Right wing "looser" July 9th, 2009 11:54 am ET

    Whine, complain, whine, complain – I have no actual legitimate criticism of the our President (considering he has done an excellent job of repairing the US image abroad) or anything intelligent to say so I will whine, complain, whine, complain…
    ------------------------------

    Visit blogs and websites of different countries. Obama is doing an "excellent job" of making us look like laughing stock for the rest of the world

    July 9, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  5. Jan, from Madison, WI

    Mike and Arlene Bailey, unlike the you two that hate your president, remember not everybody hate President Obama. Yes people are excited because he is the first African-American president, moreover when Bush was visiting people where excited for his visit and Clinton also. People in Ghana are not like your guys, we treat or say make anybody that visit's the country feel welcome. We don't hate our president and neither should we hate the US President.

    Oh Arlene Bailey, yes we knew what Obama is all about, to you he is nothing but to some he more than what you White racist think off. You hid you racist views behine religion, and values. But you are all the same racist people that you think you are the only people can rule this country best. Grow up people and the see that the world has change.

    July 9, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  6. tpbco

    jo...you're right, the obama has plenty of money. That's because he spends ours...not his.

    That's the platform of the liberal party of America.

    July 9, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  7. Bryan

    CNN can do better. The first African country president Obama visited was Egypt. That was a couple of weeks ago.

    July 9, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  8. Samuel

    jeff krouse July 9th, 2009 11:42 am ET

    Who really cares what a Bush thinks better off under a rock.
    ---------------------------–

    I guess the coments were closed for the Jeb Bush article, so you are blabbering here.

    Jeb said it very well. Obama is a ghost of the man I voted for

    July 9, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  9. JoJo

    He forgot about Kenya. Oh well, Kenya, Ghana, they all the same. I wonder if he is going to mention anything about Darfur and the genocide that took place and is taking place right now. He couldn't be but in the right place. Will see if the man deserve the right to be called an African-American.

    July 9, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  10. Stuffit

    Right wing "looser" July 9th, 2009 11:54 am ET

    Whine, complain, whine, complain – I have no actual legitimate criticism of the our President (considering he has done an excellent job of repairing the US image abroad) or anything intelligent to say so I will whine, complain, whine, complain…

    Maybe instead of whining and complaining, you could take that time to learn how to spell LOSER.
    =============================================
    "By traveling to Ghana, we hope to highlight the effective governance that they have in place," Obama said Tuesday in an interview with AllAfrica.com.
    And perhaps to get some tips on how a democracy is supposed to work?

    July 9, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. Jan, from Madison, WI

    Hey phonix86 – That's nonsense apology for what, you people only speak from you stomach not from your head. Please try to reason on things before you speak.

    July 9, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  12. Samuel

    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA July 9th, 2009 11:33 am ET

    I agree with the President in visiting the democracies. By doing so he sends a message to other nations that if you want a relationship with the U.S., you must have a democratically elected government.
    -------------------------------–

    We have relationship with China, have and had relationship with Pakistan when Musharff the dictator was President of Pakistan.

    July 9, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  13. Rose D

    It is amazing to me that intelligent, educated white americans continue to practice ignorance in a public forum like CNN. Your racism is showing again. You never voted for Obama in the first place so get over it. He's President. True Americans who possess patriotism for this country would never openly disrespect any other president of the past, but yet you feel entitled to do so because he is an African American.

    I pray for you Americans. Our country is in trouble morally, spiritually and lastly financially, and God is not pleased with your continued bitterness and hatred. Your pettiness and racism is glaringly obvious.

    July 9, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  14. freyrhyme0206@yahoo.com

    there's no legitimate point to criticize Obama just because he is visiting Ghana, what wrong did Obama did? I don't understand. all these negatives comments are from GOPs because they are just jealous of Obama...sorry pal Mr. Obama is the President of USA whether you like it or not and he is doing far better than Bush...remember Bush spend 2/3 of his Presidency on vacation, which is true, now think of Obama??? and shut your mouth pal...your die hard supporter...

    July 9, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  15. Tom Paine

    Dear Ghana – please keep him. Thanks.

    July 9, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  16. daniel

    I see Republicans swarming this site and treating us again to a feast of their bottomless bitterness and bile. What really gets me is they somehow think their relentless negativity and ugliness is some kind of payback for the Bush years, when their poor little fellow was treated so badly. Uh, as I remmeber, before the Bush years there was this president named Clinton, and Republicans treated him pretty vilely. It wasn't so long ago that we have forgotten how they accused him of every sin in the calendar, including murdering his own commerce secretary and 200 others by downing their plane, murdering one of his best friends, drug running, rape, etc. So my suggestion to Republicans is SHOVE IT!

    July 9, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  17. Anthony In Miami

    Why all the hate on here? Let's see, I've seen every President since Ford visit countries and never have I heard so much hate about a sitting American President visiting an event that was actually scheduled (G-8) before his inauguration. And how often have Presidents tied in diplomacy visits with world business visits: ALL THE TIME! Yet the only attitude of these bloggers is to put down a sitting President for what reason. This country's hate will be it's demise. Terrorists don't need to make plans to destroy us, we're doing a fine job of that on our own. And we disguise it behind Freedom of Speech. Something that was intended to be a way for people to express their political views and for the press to be able to speak truth without undue pressure from the government. Now it's just a way to destroy the person next to you. Where was all this when George Bush made the same trip last year when gas was $4 a gallon and the economy was in shambles, but he wouldn't even acknowledge it.

    July 9, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  18. William, Madison

    Jo.Jo, : Ghana or Kenya, they're all the same? Such ignorance!!! That statement alone makes any subsequent statement by you self-explanatory. They may all be black, but other than that, they are different. Like Ms. Palin, perhaps you should spend time learning about other countries and cultures.

    July 9, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  19. Michael M, Phoenix AZ

    If someone is going to mention the genocide in Darfur, then don't forget about the genocide that went on in Uganda for years. I think both Bush Sr and Clinton were the Presidents during that time....genocide has been going on in the African continent for generations and it probably doesn't matter who our President is. In fact the UN isn't much of a help.

    July 9, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  20. tedious898

    Lee, Ann Arbor, Michigan July 9th, 2009 12:21 pm ET

    The "clueless wonder" is popular everywhere except his popularity is now fading here in the US where people are seeing that he is just a great politician but not a LEADER at all.

    His marxist policies are a failure

    ===========================

    I guess a putz like you hasn't noticed that The President's plan to get GM out of bankruptcy in record time succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. And of course GM's success has nothing to do with your community/neighborhood.

    Have enough guts to say that you don't like Obama because he's black and you're a racist that should post with Faux news. In other words "Man up and take off the the hood"

    July 9, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  21. indy 08

    A huge Welcome home Pres Obama awaits you. Africa welcomes you , Michelle and the girls with open arms.

    July 9, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  22. Open Your 3rd Eye

    A strong president through republican/conservative eyes is a man that is NOT respected by the world.

    Go figure.

    July 9, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  23. JP

    Why Ghana? Why not Iran. It's a democracy too.

    July 9, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
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