AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari
President Barack Obama is greeted in Accra, Ghana.
AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari
President Barack Obama has landed in Accra, Ghana, marking the first trip to sub-Saharan Africa of his presidency.
It was a historic moment, the first African-American president, the son of a Kenyan father, arriving in Black Africa, the Motherland.
The president, First Lady Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia were greeted by beaming Ghanian officials as well as traditional dancers at the airport. At one point, the president could be seen rhythmically swaying among the crowd as he momentarily joined the dancers.
The White House chose Ghana for the president's first visit to sub-Saharan Africa because he wants to hold it up as a model for the rest of the continent for its relative stability and democratic institutions.
Michelle Gavin, a presidential aide for African affairs, recently explained to reporters the thinking behind the Ghana visit:
GAVIN: And the President wanted to stop in Ghana particularly because he's interested in emphasizing themes of governance -- the importance of governance for making development progress, the importance of governance for stability. And Ghana is a truly admirable example of a place where governance is getting stronger, a thriving democracy. They just had an extraordinarily close election at the end of last year, decided ultimately by about 40,000 votes, that remained peaceful, power was transferred peacefully, and they continue to pursue a development agenda and bolster the rule of law.
And this is worth pointing out, because far too often discussions of Africa are focused on crisis. Ghana is not in crisis, and it's an example for the region and more broadly.
So while he's there, the President will obviously meet with his counterpart, President Mills, and they'll have bilateral discussions about a number of important issues. It's a strong bilateral relationship, and not only will we discuss governance issues but Ghana's challenges as a new oil wealth is slated to come online within the next couple years, which always creates an interesting governance challenge; development priorities, including agricultural development. Ghana will be a focus of the food security initiative, and this will be a great opportunity to talk about how that's going to create new opportunities for young Ghanaians and young Africans when it's rolled out more broadly.
One of Ghana's key priorities is maternal health, trying to bring down their maternal mortality numbers. And the President will be doing some work on that, as well.
And of course regional issues, again, relating to stability, governance, counternarcotics, which is an important issue in West Africa.
The President will then give a speech about some of the themes that I just articulated at the Ghanaian parliament, again, sort of sending the signal that this is a bolstering of an important institution of governance. But he'll also be talking a lot about how governance isn't just an agenda for political (inaudible) for elected officials, and it's not just an agenda for citizens when it's voting time. It's a constant process. And it involves civil society and local initiatives, and the message is about how the people of Ghana are driving their countries forward, and more broadly how Africans can be driving their country forward, and more broadly how Africans can be driving their countries forward, rather than a notion of donor countries in the driver's seat.
And so then after the speech, the First Family will be off to the Cape Coast. Following that, they'll come back to the airport for a departure ceremony that will allow (inaudible) an opportunity to participate in the visit. And that will be it.
The White House issued the following guidance to the media traveling with the president. The term "pool spray" is essentially a photo op. "Pooled press" refers to a representative group of journalists who, for logistical reasons, will be allowed access to the president and whose reports will be used by the rest of the media. "Open press" means all the reporters traveling with the president are allowed to attend.
In the morning, the President will attend a bilateral meeting with Ghanaian President Mills at Christianborg Castle in Accra. There will be a pool spray at the end of the meeting. President Obama and President Mills will then attend an expanded breakfast. There will be a pool spray of their entrance.
The President and the First Lady will then attend an event on maternal health at La General Hospital. The event is pooled press.
The President will then deliver remarks to the Ghanaian Parliament at the Accra International Conference Center. The remarks are open press.
The First Family will then travel to Cape Coast, where the President and the First Lady will meet with Head Chief Osabarima Kwesi Atta II at his residence. The meeting is closed press. The First Family will then tour the Cape Coast Castle. The President will then deliver remarks. The tour and remarks are pooled press.
The President and the First Lady will then return to Accra, where they will attend a departure ceremony at the Kotoka International Airport. The event is open press. The President and First Lady will depart Accra to return to Washington, DC, arriving early Sunday morning. The arrival on the South Lawn is open press.