US President Barack Obama is back home after a whirlwind visit to Ghana.
He arrived at Andrews Air Force Base early yesterday morning, soon after midnight.
Before departing, Obama addressed residents of Ghana at the airport in the capital Accra. He said the message Ghana sends to the rest of the world every day is that democracy can thrive in Africa.
Earlier, Obama had condemned the African “strong men” who enrich themselves and urged the continent’s people to demand stronger government in order to decide their own future.
Obama brought a message of hope laced with warnings on a landmark first official trip to the heart of Africa.
The president vowed more US help to battle disease and said conflicts such as the “genocide” in Darfur and terrorism in Somalia were “a millstone around Africa’s neck.”
Obama, whose father was a Kenyan goat herder who became an academic in the US, also took his wife and two daughters on an emotional visit to a fort used to send countless slaves across the Atlantic.
“Africa’s future is up to Africans,” Obama said in a keynote speech to the Ghanaian parliament, which he hoped would resonate across the continent. “I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world. After all, I have the blood of Africa within me.”
He said that “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 potential and that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.”
“Repression takes many forms and too many nations are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty,” he said. “No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers.”
“Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions,” he said to applause. “Africa is not the crude caricature of a continent at war, 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.”
The US president also spoke of a “comprehensive, global health strategy” to help Africa confront the AIDS pandemic and other diseases which kill millions each year on the world’s poorest continent.
“When children are being killed because of a mosquito bite and mothers are dying in childbirth, then we know that more progress must be made,” he said.
He said it was up to Africa’s young people to change the continent.
“You have the power to hold your leaders accountable and to build institutions that serve the people,” he said.
“Yes, you can,” he said, using a variation on his own election campaign slogan.
He and his wife Michelle, a descendant of African slaves, and their daughters Malia and Sasha, toured Cape Coast Castle, west of Accra, once one of Africa’s main outposts from where slaves were shipped to the Americas.
He said a walk through the dungeons was a reminder that “sometimes we can tolerate and stand by great evil, even as we think that we think that we are doing good.”