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Obama, Ghana President Meet at White House

Ghana's President John Evans Atta Mills (left) with President Obama at the White House, Mar 8, 2012

President Obama welcomed Ghana's President John Evans Atta Mills to the White House on Thursday. The talks came nearly three years after Obama visited Ghana.

With Ghana’s flag flying across from the White House at Blair House, the official residence used by visiting dignitaries, President Mills and President Obama met in the Oval Office.

This week, Ghana marked the 55th anniversary of its independence when it became the first black sub-Saharan African country to gain independence from a colonial power, Britain.

President Obama visited Ghana in 2009 with first lady Michelle Obama as part of what has been his only visit to sub-Saharan Africa since he was elected in 2008.

An address Obama delivered to Ghana's parliament at the time stressed the importance of good governance and "capable, reliable and transparent institutions" in Africa.

The same issues, along with U.S.-Ghana economic ties, were the subject of discussion on Thursday.

Obama spoke first to reporters. "Ghana has proven, I think, to be a model of Africa in terms of its democratic practices. And I very much appreciate the efforts that President Mills has taken not only to ensure fair and free elections, but also to root out corruption, increase transparency, make sure that government is working for the people of Ghana and not just for the few," he said.

President Obama also noted that he and President Mills are up for re-election this year.

Thanking Obama for honoring Ghana with a visit in 2009, Mills said both nations share the values of democracy and he referred to his country's upcoming presidential election in December.

"We have an election this year, but we are going to ensure there is peace before, during and after. When there is no peace, it is not the leaders who suffer, it is the ordinary people who have elected us into office. So we have a big challenge, and we know that some of our friends in Africa are looking up to us, and we dare not fail them," he said.

President Obama called Ghana a "wonderful success story" with high economic growth, food productivity and security and strong foreign investment, pointing to U.S.-Ghana collaboration in power generation and credits for small and medium-size businesses.

Obama also praised Ghana as a "responsible actor" on the global stage, including working to stabilize and reduce conflict in Africa, and partnering with the United States at the United Nations on a range of issues.

President Obama said President Mills has consistently spoken out on behalf of human rights and ensuring that people in his country are treated fairly and not discriminated against.

Obama also said he looks forward to visiting Ghana again "sometime in the future."

Additional events on the Ghanaian president's schedule in Washington include meetings with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. President Mills is expected to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on Saturday and meet with two U.S. senators. He is scheduled to return to Ghana on Monday.