News Articles

In Obama visit, Ghanaians say they are encouraged

ACCRA, Ghana (BP)–In the hours leading up to President Barack Obama’s 24-hour visit to Ghana, life went on as usual in at least one community in the capital of the West African nation.

Yes, there were Obama T-shirts and Obama flip-flops, but in Labadi, an Accra slum, people were engaged in daily routines. Women cooked over open fires and bathed children. Men sat in shops or worked on taxicabs.

Less than a mile away, hundreds lined the street across from La General Hospital where the president was to tour a prenatal unit.

Behind police barricades, proud Africans waved American flags with Obama’s face imprinted on them. They chanted as helicopters flew overhead. When the president’s motorcade passed by, the screams were deafening. Young men climbed on roadside rubbish, hoping to get a glimpse of him.

In the crowd a Ghanaian boy piped up, “I like Obama.”

Someone asked, “Why do you like Obama?”

“He is my brother!” the boy beamed.

His answer summed up the sentiment of the continent. Ask anyone on the streets of sub-Saharan Africa: Obama has come home.

After the visit, Obama was rushed to the Parliament building for his first major speech in the region. He praised Ghana for its commitment to democracy but maintained that African nations must determine their own destinies, fight corruption and pursue strong institutions to become strong nations.

“We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans,” Obama said in the televised speech.

“The world will be what you make of it,” he continued. “You have the power to hold your leaders accountable and to build institutions that serve the people.

“You can serve in your communities and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world. You can conquer disease and end conflicts and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes, you can — because in this moment, history is on the move.”

It would be easy to expect some degree of disappointment, perhaps even anger, in response to the speech. He did not promise new aid and spoke little of what America or the West could do for Africa.

But Ghanaians expressed enthusiastic agreement with Obama. They said they are not looking for someone to solve their problems — that they are not looking for a handout; they just want to work hard and have opportunity to be a part of the “interconnected world” that Obama encouraged.

“I think what he did was to remind us that there is no reason why Africa should not progress,” said Fred Deegbe, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Accra and general secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana. “God has given us everything that we need.”

Perhaps the most significant contribution Obama offered was inspiration and encouragement.

“I see Obama as a mirror to our future,” said Samuel Wonnie, a resident of Accra. “We can aspire to be great in our own country seeing what he has overcome in his country — we can do it in our country.”

Deegbe said Obama’s speech presented an important charge to the church, noting, “The Lord desires holiness from His church.”

The pastor added that the church’s role is to fight corruption from the bottom up — refusing bribes, protecting women and children, and fighting injustice, even when circumstances are difficult.

“When the foundations are rotten, what should the righteous do?” Deegbe asked. “We are many,” he continued, “we must hold to our standards and declare our faith and trust in God as we do the right thing.”
JoAnn Bradberry wrote this story for BP’s international bureau.

    About the Author

  • JoAnn Bradberry