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Ghanaians Await Arrival of US President

“Barack Obama is coming home.  He is coming to Ghana," says an advertisement on one of Ghana's TV stations.

In Accra, huge billboards show pictures of the U.S. president either with his wife or with Ghanaian President John Atta Mills. The caption is short and simple: “Akwaaba” -- meaning “Welcome.”

 

Around the capital, traders are selling various goods designed for the visit. Vendor Christiana Asare's stall displays specially designed clothes with pictures of the U.S. president.

"Ghanaians want to wear the clothes to welcome the president of America when he comes to Ghana," she says. "They are [buying] a lot, especially the shirts and dresses."

This is President Obama’s first visit to Sub Saharan Africa since his election last year.

The news media are speculating about why their country was chosen for the visit. Kenya and Nigeria are regional hubs, large and populous countries with a great deal of political influence, and Kenya was the home of President Obama’s father.

The last elections in both countries were marred by accusations of fraud, and were followed by violence. Ghana’s Minister of Information, Zita Okaikoi, has expressed the view that the practice of democracy, which is thriving in the country, may have been the reason Obama chose to visit Ghana.

 

"It is because of our good governance and democratic principles that Obama has chosen to come to Ghana. This will send the right signals that Ghana is the right place to invest," Okaikoi says.  "Our democracy has stood the test of time. We will protect our democracy and what we stand for as a people."

Since military rule ended in the country in 1992, the country has successfully changed leadership twice through the ballot box.

President Obama said as much in a recent interview. He said by traveling to Ghana he is hoping to lift up successful models of democracy in Africa.

The plans for the visit are complete.  In Accra, President Obama is expected to deliver a major policy statement on Africa.  He is scheduled to visit the palace of the Ogua Paramount Chief in the central region, and the Cape Coast Castle, which played a major role in the slave trade during the 16th century.

On the streets of Accra, Ghanaians are expressing their views about the visit.  Most, but not all, are positive.

"Obama is coming to Ghana," says Emmanuel Abbey. "I am very happy because Ghana’s name will be mentioned all over the world."

Not everyone agrees. "I don’t know what his visit is about," says Asare Anthony Anan, "but if it is for the good of the country, fine. But personally I know that Obama is coming for oil."

These people and many more are expected to line the streets to welcome President Obama to Ghana.

 

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