Ghanaians sporting Barack Obama hats and T-shirts and holding portraits of the US president danced through the streets of the capital Accra early yesterday in anticipation of his arrival on a landmark visit to the country.
Obama was due to arrive in Ghana late yesterday on his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since being elected president.
Despite tight security, which saw some 10,000 police deployed across the seaside capital, residents drummed and gyrated in the streets, with many dancing to a song about Obama composed by a radio presenter known as Black Rasta.
Street vendors did brisk trade in Obama memorabilia from keyrings and coffee mugs to huge colorful umbrellas with Obama and Ghanaian President John Atta-Mills’ portraits emblazoned on them.
From as early as 8am, police blocked off some of the major roads including the airport road, from ordinary motorists.
During his 24-hour visit, Obama and his wife Michelle were due to tour Cape Coast Castle, one of Africa’s biggest former slave trading posts.
Authorities in Cape Coast, a town some 160km west of Accra, even banned all funerals this weekend on account of Obama’s visit.
Before leaving Italy for Ghana yesterday, Obama was to meet Pope Benedict XVI for the first time, with their talks expected to both areas of agreement such as foreign policy and those that divide them, notably abortion.
Obama “recognizes that this is much more than your typical state visit,” his aide Denis McDonough said in L’Aquila, Italy, where a three-day G8 summit was winding up.
“There are issues on which they’ll agree, issues on which they’ll disagree, and issues on which they’ll agree to continue to work on going forward,” McDonough said.
Vatican expert John Allen said the two share a long list of common views: “There’s foreign policy, Islam, the environment, the poor, health care, and on and on.”