U.S. President Barack Obama is in Ghana on his first trip in office to
sub-Saharan Africa. It is the emotional highpoint of a week-long journey
that also took him to Moscow and the Group of Eight Summit in Italy.
The president says he came to Accra at the end of his long trip to make a point.
have come here, to Ghana, for a simple reason: the 21st century will be
shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow or Washington, but by
what happens in Accra as well," he said.
African-American president of the United States received an
enthusiastic welcome in the Ghanaian capital, where he was embraced as
Obama praises Ghanaian democracy
He responded with praise and warm words for Ghana, and
its democratic institutions. But there was also some tough talk - the
kind of talk only a family member can provide.
The president -
the son of a Kenyan father - spoke of his personal connection to
Africa's tragic past. But he said the time has come for Africans to
take control of their own destiny.
"Yes, a colonial map that
made little sense helped to breed conflict, and the West has often
approached Africa as a patron and a source of resources, rather than a
partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the
Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are
enlisted as combatants," he said.
Hope for better future
He called on a new generation
of Africans to build democracy, create opportunity, fight corruption,
and end the long cycle of strongman rule and conflict on the continent.
Obama said these conflicts have become a millstone around Africa's
neck. And he stressed it is never justifiable to kill innocents in the
name of ideology.
"It is the death sentence of a society to
force children to kill in wars. It is the ultimate mark of criminality
and cowardice to condemn women to relentless and systematic rape. We
must bear witness to the value of every child in Darfur and the dignity
of every woman in Congo," he said.
The remarks came in a speech
at a packed convention center attended by members of the Ghanaian
parliament. The president said Ghana has become an example for the
rest of the continent - a country where one political party peacefully
yields power to another at the ballot box, and government institutions
"That is the ingredient which has been missing in
far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can
unlock Africa's potential. And that is a responsibility that can only
be met by Africans," he said.
Reaching out to Africa's youth
It was clear in his words that the
president's intended audience reached far beyond the city limits of
Accra. White House officials said they turned to new media to bring
the event to people across the continent - particularly the young. The president reached out to them in his address, repeating the refrain
of his White House campaign.
"You can conquer disease, end conflicts, and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes you can," he said.
America is partner and friend
Mr. Obama met privately with Ghanaian President John Atta Mills. He
also visited a hospital, a symbolic stop designed to highlight American
support for development efforts in Africa.
"America will be with
you every step of the way as a partner and as a friend," he said.
"Opportunity won't come from any other place, though - it must come
from the decisions that you make, the things that you do, and the hope
that you hold in your hearts."
Before leaving Ghana, President
Obama planned to travel by helicopter to a coastal fortress, where for
300 years, countless Africans boarded ships bound for death at sea or
a life in slavery. His wife and children are expected to join him at
the site. First lady Michelle Obama is the descendent of African
slaves, but it is not known where in the continent her ancestors lived.