Obama to visit slave castle

2009-07-09 19:05

Accra - US President Barack Obama during his 24-hour visit to Ghana on Saturday will, along with his family, tour one of the continent's former largest slave trading posts.

Here are some key facts related to the Cape Coast Castle:

The former slave trading fort lying some 160km west of the capital Accra was built in the 17th century, originally as a timber and gold trading post.

But it soon turned into a thriving trans-Atlantic slave trading castle.

With black cannons facing to the sea, the imposing whitewashed ocean-side castle is built around a trapezium-shaped courtyard. It sits atop underground dungeons that used to house slaves ready for shipping across to the Americas.

'Look like cupboards'

Ghana's central regional minister Ama Benyiwaa Doe says the horrifying "dungeons make the cubbyholes on the Goree Island (of Senegal) look like storage cupboards".

Slaves would be locked up in the dark dungeons for between six and 12 weeks waiting for ships to dock.

The town in which it built was first founded by the Portuguese in the 15th century. In 1637, the Dutch came up with the idea of a castle. Then the Swedes acted on it, erecting first a timber structure in 1653.

Then known as the Swedish gold coast, it was captured by the Danish in 1663. A year later the British conquered the Danes.

The fort then remained in the hands of the British throughout the 1664-1668 Anglo-Dutch before it was turned into a British administration centre for what was then known as the Gold Coast, now Ghana.

Britain occupied it for the following centuries, when it became capital of the Gold Coast in 1700 until 1877 when the city was moved to modern day Accra.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, Cape Castle monuments are among some of the oldest European-built structures outside Europe.

It is one of the biggest slave-trade posts along Ghana's 300km-long coastline, which is dotted with 60 forts, most of them now in ruin.