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Monday, July 27, 2009

The Cop is Lying: Laurence O'Donnell Reveals the Lie

Here is a great report on the Gates affair. Check it out!!!

Walters on the President and the "Gates Affair"

While addressing the limits of Presidential "truth telling," Ron Walters puts the "Gates Affair" in perspective. He points out that black students in and around Cambridge are often subjected to the racism of the police. Walters does not make a point of the fact that racial profiling has been on the Presidents political agenda for some time, which might explain his outrage. Even so, as Walters observes, there are limits to what and how the President must frame things and events.

The President seemed to lay blame on both Gates and the police officer, even though the officer was behaving in a way that fits a pattern when it comes to the white police interacting with black men. Having been in a situation similar to that of Professor Gates, I have a keen sense of what happened.

In May of 1989, I was leaving my office on the 7th floor of MacKenzie Hall at Wayne State University. When the elevator reached the 1st floor, a police officer was standing there. He signaled for the Asian, who was on the elevator when I got on, to pass on by. He then approached me, asking if he could ask me a few questions? I was indignant that I was being singled out. I queried, "why me?" He then stated that someone matching my description was seen on the 8th floor going through offices. I challenged him on this point. I asked how was the person described? He would not say. I then informed him that unless they said the person had a grey beard, I did not meet the description, knowing that is my most distinctive feature. As a result of that challenge, I found myself in handcuffs. It just so happened that a sociology colleague had walked down the steps and was at the scene when the policeman's supervisor arrived.

Still handcuffed, the supervisor informed me that officer was following orders as a result of a report to the campus police. He then went on to provide the discription of the person going through the offices. He was black male about 30 years old, weighing about 150 pounds wearing sneakers and blue jeans. My weight is about 180 pounds. I was wearing Khaki colored dockers and my shoes were loafers. The Sargent who came to the scene apologized, released me, and invited my to come to the station house to hear the report to the police. (I declined.)

In Gates' case, it is very strange if not "stupid" to arrest someone in his own house for breaking and entering. While Gates may have been indignant, Sgt. Crawley was not going to tolerate that attitude from some black man, particularly an "uppity" Harvard Professor.

While the President may have stepped into the briar patch when it comes to the politics of being presidential, he spoke for us all who have to endure the "stupidity" of racial profiling. RGN

Race, Power and the Gates Affair
By Ron Walters

As a Professor who spent a some years both near Cambridge and at Harvard let me testify that student run-ins with the police were not an unusual affair, and at his press conference on health President Barack Obama was trying to say honestly that Harvard is/was no different than any other place in America. Trouble is that he is President and there is a limit to his truth-telling, exquisitely witnessed in a later visit to his press room where he “recalibrated” his initially honest sentiment in which he said that the Cambridge police acted “stupidly” in arresting Professor Henry Louis Gates. His latest statement distributed equal blame for the incident on both Gates and the arresting office Sgt. Crowley and in one fell swoop, Gates the victim, a distinguished professor and personality, was transformed into Gates the perpetrator with the equal power of the police to have created this racist incident.

I conceive of the police action to have been racist because Gates was provably in his own home which should have eliminated the charge of breaking and entering; he posed no threat to the police given his physical disability and his diminutive stature; and in my own career, I’ve never heard of a white professor being arrested unless they were deliberately protesting, but I have known black professors to have been arrested in their own offices for subjective reasons. So, rather than leave, Sgt. Crowley’s subjective judgment to arrest Gates was more likely to have been made on the traditional racist grounds of using his power to silence a black man, no matter how important, in order to confirm the ultimate authority of white power in society.

Indeed, the transformation of Gates from victim to perpetrator fits the dominant model of power in racial matters that profiles blacks as perpetrators, so that even if he did not break and enter, he somehow ended up with that status. In my book, The Price of Racial Reconciliation, I argue that the voice of the victim of racism has been devalued and the voice of the perpetrators of racism is elevated because of the power they hold over the interpretation and treatment of racial events. This is the curious way in which whites, who by every study I have seen experience racism far, far less than blacks, end up having the dominant interpretation over events. They control the power over the voice that interprets events and control over the resources dedicated – or not dedicated --to resolve them.

The consequence of this unequal power distribution in racial affairs is that there cannot be a “frank discussion” that can meaningfully resolve such issues because, in the power equation, the President must “calibrate” such events from the side of the dominant class. The president, even if he is a black president and probably more so, is part of and amenable to the power structure that influences racial issues because he has to get elected and to govern with the assent of the majority. The only historical link in this chain was broken during the Civil Rights movement when blacks mobilized their own power and imposed it on the political system to confront America with their interpretation of racial events and demand for resolution. This alone forced change, because if left to their devices, neither Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, nor the Congress would have done it.

President Obama, Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley will have their beer in the White House, but it will only be a symbolic gesture, lacking the force to confront the monumental crime of racial profiling by the police perpetrators that has locked up tens of thousands of blacks in American prisons. The Senate has just passed a resolution apologizing for slavery I have been reminded. Yes, but that is a crime conceived to have been in the distant past, while the issue of blacks and the criminal justice system is current and fixing it will require current costs.

So, what we now know from the Gates affair about having a black president is that his initial honest sentiment has been interpreted as a political blunder to conform to the political power of the interpreting class, because it dared to privilege the voice of the victim and through him all black men who had been racially profiled. Does this tell us something about the limits to which a black president can go in dealing with race in a majority white country with respect to other racial issues that are crying out for resolution? I believe it does.

Dr. Ron Walters is Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland. His latest book is: The Price of Racial Reconciliation (University of Michigan Press)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Karenga on Obama's Ghana Trip

Maulana Ron Karenga’s take on Obama’s trip to Ghana is an important analysis. He points out the progressive character of Obama’s visit. Obviously, Obama is there to promote U.S. interests in the region, even though it is done with with the extended hand “on the basis on mutual respect.” Karenga observes that “Obama has the capacity to share and shape a new way the world could understand and engage Africa.” Unlike recognizing the role of the CIA in the Iranian overthrow there was no recognition of the CIA’s role in the overthrow of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. Karenga expresses real concern that the imperialist interests in the U.S. may be attempting to mask their attempts at business as usual. This has to be a major concern. His visit no doubt was a matter of affirming the dignity of the African people, Karenga points out. Given the struggles of these people against tremendous odds, Obama’s visit buoyed the spirits of the people of Ghana. For an informed, sound analysis check out this piece by Karenga. RGN

Obama in Africa: Rethinking Reality and Responsibility”
Dr. Maulana Karenga

In spite of the current usefulness of his color, the progressive
character of his consciousness and his early and often-stated desire to
repair and remake the country and the world, Barack Hussein Obama is
first and foremost President and thus, protector and promoter of U.S.
state interests. And given the absence of a broad-based, multicultural
progressive movement as a countervailing force, these interests are
often in conflict with the best interests of the country, the people and
the world. So, regardless of how we Africans—continental and
diasporan—want to view and value his trips to Africa, it is important to
keep in mind his primary and overriding purpose.

President Obama’s second visit to Africa within a month, first to Cairo,
Egypt to speak to the Muslim world and then to Accra, Ghana to speak to
Africa as a whole, indicates the importance the U.S. puts on Africa as a
site of strategic, ongoing and urgent interest. U.S. policy toward
Africa is shaped by its interest in Africa as: 1) an expanding source of
resources—oil, gas, minerals; 2) a strategic base for military activity
in Africa and around the world to impose its will, attack its enemies
and protect its markets; 3) a contested terrain for economic competition
with emerging economic powers like China and India as well as the old
economies of Europe; and 4) a source of political allies and/or client
states to be engaged and used as needed.

These realities were obscured or at least half-hidden in the PR
presentation of him as Obama omowale (son returned home), a source of
pride and promise, a champion of change and a harbinger of hope. But
within a 24-hour turnaround, Obama pursued state interests in private
and then in public read from a familiar template, one in which the
corrupt elite are lumped with the oppressed and the whole people
condemned, and one in which history is revised or even erased so that
the international primary predators are hidden, their local
representatives propped up and protected and those preyed on are
preached to about the virtues of a good life they are systematically
prevented from living.

Obama had the capacity to share and shape a new way the world could
understand and engage Africa, and rethink and reconceive Africa’s
historical, current and future place in the world. He could have built
on his model crafted to appeal to the Muslims in his Cairo speech. There
he acknowledged that current realities and relations between the U.S.
and Muslim countries and peoples are rooted in centuries of history,
that the U.S. had committed wrongful actions against Muslim governments
and people, that Islam has been a positive and creative force in the
world and will continue to be, and that a new beginning must be based on
mutual respect, mutual interest and benefit and the shared capacity to
listen to and hear each other.

But he did not mention Africa’s role as the home of the fathers and
mothers of humanity and human civilization, its contribution to the
crafting of basic disciplines of human knowledge in the Nile Valley or
its intellectual history in the civilizations of Western Sudan. Nor did
he speak of the heroic struggles of the people for the liberation of the
continent. Also, he did not acknowledge the U.S. role in overthrowing
the democratically-elected government of Kwame Nkrumah, the founding
father of Ghana or in the overthrow and assassination of Patrice
Lumumba, the founding father of today’s Democratic Republic of Congo,
and other leaders and groups which the U.S. designated as hostile to
willing submission or shameless service.

Nor did he concede that it is the U.S. (and its allies) that introduced
and sustained military coups and now stands ready to militarize Africa
in undercover ways, shifting funding, building and training for formerly
civilian projects t
o military sources and trying to establish a central military command in
Africa. He did not call to task corporate plunder of the wealth and
resources of Africa, nor condemn their and other countries’ use of proxy
armies to destabilize countries; terrorize, murder and rape the people;
and facilitate the brutal robbery of their resources.

Obama’s litany that good governance and the end of corruption lead to
investment and development flies in the face of current practice where
corporations and countries bribe their way to African riches, cultivate
the corrupt collaborator, and eagerly invest in Africa to its great
disadvantage. In a word, corruption is a collaborative affair involving
the very countries and corporations publicly condemning it, but
privately pursuing it for all its worth. And this has gone on
historically and since independence in various forms leading to brutal
exploitation of African labor, the progressive impoverishment of African
people, environmental degradation and the ironic reality of Africans
having the richest of resources and the poorest of peoples. Thus, Obama
cannot seriously dismiss the effects of the Holocaust of enslavement,
colonialism, neo-colonialism and the current destructiveness of
international agencies and corporate exploitation.

The Obama administration and its corporate colleagues must take
responsibility for the rational and ethical contradiction of condemning
corruption and collaborating in it; calling for democracy and supporting
pliant dictators; advocating development and sustaining unjust global
agricultural practices and unfair trade; expressing the need for
improved human services and infrastructure and imposing restrictions on
the development of these through aid and loan policies; calling for an
end to armed conflict and funding it, the end of child labor and not
challenging the corporations that practice it; and impoverishing the
people and condemning them for being poor.

The question is clearly one of responsibility, but how that is defined
is critical not only to understanding and resolving the issue, but also
to dealing in a dignity-affirming way with African people, their
centuries of suffering and their life-and-death daily struggles to
sustain themselves, push their lives forward against all odds and build
the good societies we all want and deserve to live in. Obama’s statement
that “Africans are responsible for Africa” is not only true, but a
well-established principle of any serious emancipatory and developmental
theory, philosophy or project. But there are two levels of
responsibility involved here and we must be rightfully attentive to each
and their interrelationship. As we say in Kawaida philosophy, the
oppressor is responsible for our oppression, but we are responsible for
our liberation. And part of our responsibility for our liberation is not
only being responsible to and for each other, our lives and future, but
also holding the oppressor responsible for the various ways he oppresses
us and dares to deny it.

Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor of Africana Studies, California State
University-Long Beach, Chair of The Organization Us, Creator of Kwanzaa,
and author of Kawaida and Questions of Life and Struggle: African
American, Pan-African and Global Issues, [; and].

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Obama visits Cape Coast

The photo (left)is a picture of a tour by Central Michigan University student teachers. This tour of Cape Coast Castle was taken in early December 2007. The interesting note here (right photo)is that the president had the same tour guide. Blankson had been described as the best. Obviously, the Ghanaians assume him to be the best in that he is the tour guide for the President.

The article below is the most comprehensive report on the President's trip to Ghana. The photos are personal takes. RGN

Obamas Visit Former Slave Port in Ghana By MARK S. SMITH,

ACCRA, Ghana (July 11) - America's president and Africa's son, Barack Obama dashed with pride onto the continent of his ancestors Saturday, challenging its people to shed corruption and conflict in favor of peace. Campaigning to all of Africa, he said "Yes you can."

"I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world," Obama told a riveted Ghanaian Parliament. "I have the blood of Africa within me."

For the full story:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why Ghana: Ghana Deserved to be First.

The question has often been asked: Why Ghana? President Obama's visit to Ghana for his first trip to Sub-Sahara Africa is the most appropriate. Ghana under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah was the first Black African nation to rid itself of its colonial status. In 1957 Ghana became an independent nation. Ghana was in the leadership of the anti-colonial independence movement. This honor deserves attention.

Intellectually, there are other ties that bind the U.S. and Ghana. Nkrumah was educated at Lincoln Univeristy in Pa. W. E. B. Dubois, as an American ex-patriot, spent his dying years in Ghana. His home is now a museum and center for scholarly activity.

These are reasons enough for the Presidential visit but the "why not" other Sub-Sahara nations is explored in this news analysis by Adam Nossiter. He suggests that Ghana was one of few choices if there was to be a Black African visit. He makes the case for a "continent in turmoil." That being the case, Ghana became the first choice.

The photo captures the Ghanaian entreprenueral spirit. Young people selling goods at intersections. RGN

July 11, 2009
News Analysis

Ghana Visit Highlights Scarce Stability in Africa

NIAMEY, Niger — Amid the fever of excitement over President Obama’s first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office, the debate over why he chose Ghana has been almost as prevalent as the many bars, stores and barbershops bearing his name across the region.

Was it a not-so-subtle snub of Kenya, his father’s homeland? Even more broadly, was he giving short shrift to other African governments and citizens by visiting a single country on such a diverse continent?

Mr. Obama says he chose Ghana to “highlight” its adherence to democratic principles and institutions, ensuring the kind of stability that brings prosperity. “This isn’t just some abstract notion that we’re trying to impose on Africa,” he told He added: “The African continent is a place of extraordinary promise as well as challenges. We’re not going to be able to fulfill those promises unless we see better governance.”

With that as his objective, a harsh reality emerged: Mr. Obama did not have too many options. From one end of the continent to the other, the sort of peaceful, transparent election that Ghana held last December is still an exception rather than the norm, analysts said. The same is true for the country’s comparatively well-managed economy.

“The choice was, in fact, quite limited,” said Philippe Hugon, an Africa expert at the Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques in Paris. “It wasn’t huge.”

Countries like Botswana, Namibia and South Africa have consistently received better-than-average global scores for their governance in recent years, according to rankings based on World Bank research.

But a cartoon in this week’s Jeune Afrique, the French magazine widely followed on the continent, seemed to sum up Mr. Obama’s dilemma: John Atta-Mills, Ghana’s president, is depicted holding back the door of a hut labeled “West Africa” from which blood, a grenade and explosions with the names of various countries in the region are bursting.

The list of exploding countries, unstable countries, corrupt countries, is long. Military coups still break out with regularity, as in Guinea and Mauritania within the last year. Journalists in a number of countries continue to be killed, jailed, tortured, forced into exile or otherwise muzzled. A day after Mr. Obama’s visit to Ghana, the Congo Republic will hold elections that have already been attacked as flawed, after the country’s constitutional court recently rejected the candidacies of opponents to incumbent Denis Sassou-Nguesso, leaving the president as a heavy favorite.

Mr. Obama seemed to acknowledge as much in his interview, saying that the democratic progress in recent years had been accompanied by “some backsliding.” He even singled out Kenya as a worrisome example, noting the political paralysis that had plagued the country since its bout of postelection violence last year.

Despite the obvious wincing such criticism may cause, many Kenyans not only seem to understand Mr. Obama’s choice to visit Ghana, but endorse it. Kenyans often follow politics like a sport, so it was not uncommon to hear them in recent weeks describing Mr. Obama’s choice as a savvy one, insulating him from any accusations that he was favoring his father’s country.

That said, the gulf separating the West and many African leaders on fundamental issues like human rights was on display just last week. The African Union announced that it would refuse to cooperate with the International Criminal Court in its attempt to prosecute the Sudanese president, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, for crimes against humanity, over the mass killings in Darfur. Even Mr. Atta-Mills was reported to back the refusal as “best for Africa.”

Human rights groups denounced the decision, as did some African leaders on Friday, when a smaller African Union panel headed by South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki, backed the court’s indictment and called on the accused to appear in court, news agencies reported.

Despite the various rejections of the court, Mr. Obama’s top adviser for Africa, Michelle Gavin, praised for the African Union, telling reporters that it “has really been sort of forging ahead, commenting much more strongly than in the past on unconstitutional transfers of power.”

Yet some of the recent evidence from the continent only partly supports Ms. Gavin’s point. African leaders, for instance, flocked to the funeral of the recently deceased president of Gabon, Omar Bongo, lavishing praise and benedictions on a long-ruling autocrat widely seen in the West as having stolen his country’s oil wealth on the way to becoming immensely rich himself, while his country remained impoverished.

This region’s recent history underscores the extent to which Ghana is now an odd man out on the continent, after its own long history of dictatorship and coups: The election in December was extremely close, there was no violence, and the loser, the candidate of the party that had been in power, Nana Akufo-Addo, accepted his defeat without fuss.

Mr. Obama is expected to meet with Mr. Atta-Mills on Saturday, then deliver a speech to the country’s Parliament, after which he will visit Cape Coast Castle, a former slave trading post. And while his speech is meant for that audience, it will also be about his administration’s hopes to engage with the continent, including the responsibilities of both parties.

“It’s a big picture sort of framing of the way the president sees this relationship going forward,” Ms. Gavin said. “It’s definitely not a sort of laundry list of sets of programs.”

Peter Baker contributed reporting from L’Aquila, Italy.

New York Times 7/11/09

Ghana Thrilled with the Arrival of the President and is Family

The people of Ghana are thrilled that the President is making his first visit to Sub-Sahara Africa to their nation. It is a visit well deserved. Obama said the main reason for choosing Ghana was because of their democracy. The people of Ghana are very proud that they do not suffer the ethnic strife of other African nations. The folk knowledge in Ghana is that they are a peaceful nation. Ethnic strife in Ghana is at a minimum. The word on the street is that Ghanaian ethnic groups can tease one another, whereas in Nigeria and Kenya such joisting might lead to war. The potential for development in Ghana is ripe. It is a wonderful nation. The spirit of its people is incredible. They deserve being able to succeed, improve their conditions.

The major stumbling block to Ghana's development is reputed to be corruption. No doubt Obama will address this when he speaks to their Partliment. Not to minimize this major problem, Ghana is in desparate need of development. Since their are telemarketeers in India and the Phillipines, why not Ghana? Their English is impeccable.

Being the first Sub-Sahara nation to have gotted its independence in 1957, Nkrumah set the stage. Intellectuals lament that Nkrumah was before his time. On the other hand, we can thank the U.S. that the CIA undermined his governance. Instead of dominance, today the African American President of the United States is extending a hand in prtnership.

The photo is the statue of Kwame Nkrumah at his memorial grands and museum in Accra. RGN

Obama lands with wife and kids

HISTORY WILL be made today when the first ever black President of America, Barack Hussein Obama, touches down from Air Force One at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana’s capital city, at exactly 8:30pm.

President Obama, who turns 48 this August, arrives with his wife Michelle, and two kids, Sasha 8, and Malia 10. He would be the third incumbent American President to have visited Ghana in a row but Obama’s very first visit to black Africa. His choice of Ghana has earned some noticeable envy for the developing country.

President John Mills and a host of the crème de la crème of Ghana’s government officials would be at the airport to welcome the First Family of America, after which the two Presidents would hold brief consultations.

The visit has been heralded by a wild euphoria across the country, most especially by residents in Accra and Central Region, the two places Obama would be visiting.

Giant bill boards showing the portraits of Mills and Obama and having the inscription ‘Akwaaba’ have sprung up across the city and various paraphernalia including cloths, T-Shirts, miniature flags and many more designed to welcome the US President are selling like hot dogs in the two cities.

Security arrangements are at their peak and a couple of ceremonial roads near the airport would be closed to motorists and pedestrians during the period.

Already, a number of US fighter jets have been spotted parading the skies and the Ghana Police Service have deployed several thousands of officers and men to take strategic positions across the country. The security agents of both countries are collaborating to provide maximum safety for the visiting President.

The US President would lodge at the Holiday Inn Hotel near the airport and would have a breakfast meeting with President Mills on Saturday morning before moving with his wife to visit the maternity wards at the La Polytechnic in Accra.

Hundreds of journalists from both within and outside Ghana would on Saturday pitch camp at the Accra International Conference Center where President Obama is expected to make a major statement on Africa when he addresses specially invited guests at midday.

The program was originally scheduled to be an outdoor event at the open-air Independence Square where Ghanaians from all walks of life would have trooped to, to listen to and catch a glimpse of the American President largely considered as the pride of Africa.

The unpredictable nature of the rains was what prompted State Protocol to shift the program to the enclosed and much smaller International Conference Center, which to the disappointment of many, takes a little below 2, 000 audience.

The event would however be telecast live on both national and private Television stations.

Obama and his family would, after the address, move to Cape Coast, capital of the Central Region, to attend a durbar of chiefs at the Palace of the Oguaa Omanhen, Osabarima Kwesi Atta II, who would himself sit in state with his sub-chiefs.

Michelle Obama would be honored with the title of a traditional queen at the durbar before joining her husband to visit the slave dungeons at the historic Cape Coast Castle.

Source: Daily Guide / By Halifax Ansah-Addo

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Obama's Ghana Visit...

It is great that President Obama is visiting Ghana early in his administration. Having lived in Ghana for two months in 2007, it is with some glee that he chose Ghana for this visit. The spirit of the Ghanaians people is like nothing I have witnessed. Against enormous underdevelopment odds, Ghanaians are survivors. In Accra, there is an Association of African Americans in Ghana with about 300 members. African Americans who have made this pilgrimmage are very pleased to be transplants. As title of a book by an African American who runs a motel and restaurant in Cape Coast states: “Returning Home Ain’t Easy, But It Sure is a Blessing.”

One of the great things that I wish I could see are the portraits in the Embassy. In 2007, the portraits were of George W. Bush and Condaleeza Rice. Today those portrats are of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. These portraits must bring smiles to visiting American citizens and Ghanaians.

As you know, W. E. B. Dubois is buried in Accra. There is a center in his name at his home. 2007 was Ghana's 50th anniversary for their independence. The center sponsored a major conference in celebration of that occurance. To revisit American history through Dubois and Kwame Nkrumah provides so much insight about our our nation.

The Obama family will be visiting the slave castles in Cape Coast. This is a chilling experience. The Obamas will be bringing the slave castles to America.
(Even Michael Steele left a wreath at the Cape Coast Castle.)

While there is considerable enthusiasm for the visit of President Obama and his family to Ghana, there are some skeptics as the article about why Ghana for this first visit to Sub-Sahara Africa as official visit.

The photo is of the Door of No return at the Cape Coast Castle. RGN

Peaceful vote draws Obama to Ghana
09 Jul 2009
President Obama flies to Ghana Friday in his first presidential visit to sub-Saharan Africa, where he is expected to praise the country's electoral successes and economic development, holding it up as a model for other countries on the continent.
But Africa watchers say Mr. Obama also is likely to use the visit to announce plans to strengthen security and commercial ties with the small but growing African nation.

"The official word is that we're celebrating democracy, but there are probably some ulterior motives," said Gerald LeMelle, executive director of Africa Action, a human rights organization in Washington.

"It has not gone unnoticed that oil was discovered, and Ghana has 600 million barrels under it and offshore. And many Ghanaian leaders think the U.S. might like Ghana to serve as a kind of capital for Africom," the U.S. military command responsible for African operations, he said.

Ambassador Amina Salum Ali of the African Union mission in Washington said the visit is important for the volatile region.

"The visit is very significant for the whole of West Africa, since it is a scene of instability," Ms. Ali said. "Ghana has allowed democracy to mature, and they have a social network that allows a lot of peaceful dialogue to take place."

Ghana sits on the eastern Atlantic Ocean, on the southern side of Africa's western hump. The tropical nation of low plains and plateaus is home to 23 million people, mostly Christian and of various ethnic groups. About 55 percent of Ghanaians work in agriculture, and many work in gold and cocoa production, according to the CIA World Factbook.

The government is steadily privatizing state-owned industries, and production of petroleum products, discovered in 2007, will skyrocket within a decade. But right now, 30 percent of Ghanaians live on less than $1.25 a day, below the United Nations poverty line.

Economic development was an important issue in Ghana's presidential elections in December, when John Atta-Mills defeated Nana Akufo-Addo, the then-ruling party's chosen successor to outgoing President John Kufuor.

The election outcome was decided by less than 1 percent of the vote in a runoff. The ensuing transfer of power was peaceful, displaying the increasing success of democracy in a country and continent known for racial and partisan strife accompanying elections. Experts said the transition is the primary reason for Mr. Obama's visit.

"Peaceful transition of power is worth noting on a continent known for presidents seeking life terms," said Brett Schaefer, an Africa specialist at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. "It's not noted enough how significant this democratic transition is."

groups," which provide citizens a platform in elections by focusing on human or civil rights or issues such as debt forgiveness, in place of racial or tribal interests.

"Ghana has a great many educated people, and they recognize their strength to speak, especially internationally, is in numbers," he said.

The direct and peaceful involvement of so many citizens in Ghana's democratic process has reduced corruption and increased stability, even while the rest of West Africa struggles with drug trafficking, corruption and civil war.

That progress earned Ghana a Millennium Challenge Corp. grant of $547 million from the United States in 2006 to support the country's agricultural sector - a sector ironically hindered by agricultural subsidies that the U.S. and other industrialized countries pay out to domestic producers, said Mr. LeMelle.

"Compared to the region, they're doing extremely well democratically and fairly well in terms of economic development," Mr. Schaefer said. "I think its strengthening tradition of accountable and democratic government will help [Ghana] as it begins to export more."

Mr. Obama's choice of Ghana for his first official trip to Sub-Saharan Africa has triggered a bout of self-questioning in Nigeria and Kenya, where many see his itinerary as a deliberate snub, Reuters news agency reported.

Kenya is the home of Mr. Obama's father, and the president's grandmother and a half-brother still lives there. Nigeria is Africa's most populous country and has considerable oil reserves.

The first black U.S. president's choice of Ghana as his first stop on the continent has dented the pride of the two states, which consider themselves equally important and worthy of a visit.

"It's like him visiting [the Welsh capital] Cardiff, but not London," one disgruntled Nigerian resident told Reuters.

Mr. Obama visited Egypt in June for a landmark address to the Muslim world. While Egypt is in North Africa, traditionally it is considered part of the Middle East.

Besides Ghana's electoral success, Mr. LeMelle said the nation's strategic position will make a visit worthwhile.

"Using it as a hub would allow the U.S. to keep an eye on Nigeria and the whole Gulf of Guinea," Mr. LeMelle said, noting the United States already keeps a very large embassy in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

"I think he'll make all the right statements: congratulating them on the recent election, encouraging the economic improvement," Mr. Schaefer. "But the United States has been trying to convey these lessons to developing countries around the world for decades."

Ms. Ali said Ghanaians were not the only ones optimistic about the results of Mr. Obama's visit and speech.

"We are stretching our ears and cleaning our eyes before this speech in all of Africa," Ms. Ali said. "We hope it will enlighten and inspire people to improve economic development, poverty alleviation and peace in West Africa and the continent."

Authorities in Ghana have been preparing for Mr. Obama's weekend visit by deploying more than 10,000 police.

Assistant police commissioner Daniel Avorga told the Associated Press that the security forces would be deployed in both Accra and the town of Cape Coast, where Mr. Obama and his family will visit a former British fort once used to ship slaves to the Americas.

Source: Washington Times

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