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Obama Addresses Africans from Ghana

Check out our Special Report for more information on President Obama's trip to Ghana

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.

"I 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.

The first African-American president of the United States received an enthusiastic welcome in the Ghanaian capital, where he was embraced as family.

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.

Mr. 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 are strong.

"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

Earlier, 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.  

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