Yes, we can, Obama tells Africans

2009-07-11 22:08

Accra - US President Barack Obama said on Saturday as he wrapped up his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office that the trip had been "particularly meaningful for me".

"As somebody whose father comes from Africa I am pleased this visit has been particularly meaningful for me," he said moments before he boarded his plane to depart for Washington.

"America wants to partner with people and nations of Africa but we all know the future of Africa is in the hands of Africa."

Obama earlier said after visiting a former slave fortress on the coast of Ghana with his family that he hopes it shows his daughters that history can take very cruel turns.

Eleven-year-old Malia and eight-year-old Sasha accompanied Obama on a tour of Cape Coast Castle on Saturday.

Speaking afterward, Obama said his daughters are "growing up in such a blessed way".

He said one of the things he hopes they picked up from the tour is a sense of their obligation to fight oppression and cruelty everywhere.

Cape Coast Castle was the place where shackled Africans were held in squalid dungeons before they were shipped off into slavery.
Good governance

 The US president said in a speech on Saturday in Ghana's Parliament that Western aid must be matched by good governance in Africa and urged Africans to take greater responsibility for stamping out war, corruption and disease.

Fresh from a G8 summit where leaders agreed to spend $20bn on food security in poor countries, Obama spoke of a "new moment of promise" but stressed that Africans must also take a leading role in sorting out their problems.

"Development depends upon good governance," Obama said in a speech to Ghana's parliament. "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."

In an address that offered the most detailed view of his Africa policy, Obama took aim at corruption and rights abuses on the continent, warning that growth and development would be held back until such problems were tackled.

He said America would not impose any system of government, but would increase help for those behaving responsibly.

Encouraging corruption-fighters

The visit has enormous resonance for Africa because of Obama's roots as the son of Kenyan immigrant.
He laced his speech with tales of his background and the struggles of his forebears in the face of poverty and colonial rule.

"It will give encouragement to those fighting corruption and for democracy," said African affairs commentator Joel Kibazo.

"He said it in a way that perhaps other presidents could not because he started by outlining his own connections," said Kibazo, while noting Obama was less specific on promoting good governance than with a $63bn health spending pledge.

'Yes, we can'

MPs chanted "yes, we can" before Obama started and the president ended his address with that phrase - his old campaign slogan. The crowd's response was much warmer than the cordial but mostly chilly reception in Moscow earlier in the week.

The language and cadence of Obama's speech was a mix of church sermon, campaign rally and university lecture.

"We like the positive signals that this visit is sending and will continue to send," said Ghanaian President John Atta Mills.

"This encourages us also to sustain the gains that we have made in our democratic process."

Reforms in the cocoa and gold producing country, set to begin pumping oil next year, helped bring unprecedented investment and growth before the impact of the global financial crisis.

Ghanaians, many dressed in Obama t-shirts, packed into the streets of Accra in hope of glimpsing the president. They clustered around television sets in homes, bars and backyards to follow his words.

"The message he gave was covering the ways in which we should change our lifestyles. I believe when we do that we will prosper," said engineer Joseph Aboagye. "We need to change." - Reuters, AP