ACCRA, Ghana – An American president
who has "the blood of Africa within me" praised and scolded the
continent of his ancestors Saturday, asserting forces of tyranny and
corruption must yield if Africa is to achieve its promise.
"Yes you can," Barack Obama declared, brushing off his and adapting it for his foreign audience. Speaking to the Ghanaian Parliament, he called upon African societies to seize opportunities for peace, democracy and prosperity.
is a new moment of promise," he said. "To realize that promise, we must
first recognize a fundamental truth that you have given life to in : Development depends upon good governance.
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
The son of a white woman from Kansas and a black goat herder-turned-academic from Kenya, Obama delivered an unsentimental account of squandered opportunities in postcolonial Africa.
America's first black president spoke with a bluntness that perhaps could only come from a member of Africa's extended family.
country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to
enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers," he
"No business wants to invest in a place
where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the
Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where
the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is
not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end."
He added: "Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions."
was on a 21-hour visit to the West African nation to highlight that
country's democratic tradition and engagement with the West. His visit,
his first to sub-Saharan Africa as president, was greeted as a
"spiritual reunion" Saturday by Ghanian legislators.
People lined the streets, many waving at every vehicle of Obama's motorcade as it headed toward a meeting at Parliament. "Ghana loves you," said a billboard., the storied coastline presidential state house, before his speech to
was also visiting a hospital and a one-time slave trading post, joined
by his wife, Michelle, a great-great granddaughter of slaves.
Obama administration sought a wide African audience for the president's
speech, inviting people to watch it at embassies and cultural centers
across the continent.
The address was in part a splash of cold water for Africans who blame colonialism for their problems.
spoke of the indignities visited upon Africans from the era of European
rule. He said his grandfather, a cook for the British in ,
was called "boy" by his employers for much of his life despite his
being a respected village elder. He said it was a time of artificial
borders and unfair trade.
But he said the West
is not to blame "for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the
last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants." Nor
for the corruption that is a daily fact of life for many, he said.
is not the crude caricature of a continent at war," he said. "But for
far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the
sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources. And it is still
far too easy for those without conscience to manipulate whole
communities into fighting among faiths and tribes.
"These conflicts are a millstone around Africa's neck."
started his day with typical calm. Wearing a gray T-shirt and gym
pants, he walked through the lobby of his hotel almost unnoticed at
7:30 a.m. local time on his way to the downstairs gym for a workout.
A short time later, his motorcade left the hotel, passed under
hovering military helicopters and arrived for a delayed welcome
ceremony with Ghanaian President John Atta Mills.
"I can say without any fear of contradiction that all Ghanaians want to
see you," Mills said. "I wish it were possible for me to send you to
every home in Ghana."
Before the flight home, Obama planned to tour Cape Coast
Castle, a seaside fortress converted to the slave trade by the British
in the 17th century. In its dungeons, thousands of shackled Africans
huddled in squalor before being herded onto ships bound for America.
The castle visit mirrored ones paid by Clinton and George W. Bush to the slave-trading post of Goree Island, — with the added impact of Obama's mixed-race background and history-making election.
In Ghana, too, Obama followed in Clinton's footsteps. In 1998, a
surging crowd cheered Clinton in Accra's Independence Square and
toppled barricades after his speech. Clinton shouted, "Back up! Back
up!", his Secret Service detail clearly frantic.
Bush's reception last year was less tumultuous, but equally warm. At a welcoming banquet, then-U.S. development aid and AIDS relief — and named a highway after Bush.noted huge increases in
Obama avoided scheduling large public events, wishing to keep emotions
in check in a singular moment in African-American diplomacy.
Obama flew to Ghana after the G-8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, approved a new $20 billion food security plan. It aims to help poor nations in and elsewhere to avert mass starvation during the global recession.
He also had a cordial first meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.
In their half-hour private audience at the Vatican, the two reviewed
Mideast peace and anti-poverty efforts, aides reported. They also
discussed abortion and stem cell research at length, subjects of disagreement between them.