Obama in Africa: Why he chose Ghana
The visit is seen as a reward for Ghana's commitment to good governance and democracy. There's also newfound oil and a photo-op at a former slave fort.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Analysts say the setting itself sends a non-verbal acknowledgment of Ghana's democratic successes – and a non-confrontational scolding of the third-term presidents and corrupt dictators that preside elsewhere in Africa.
"It seems to me he chose Ghana for its symbolism," says Steven Ekovich, a policy analyst at the American University of Paris. "He's making his first visit to a country that has had successful democratic transitions where the opposition won. That's a very powerful message to other African populations, and to other African leaders."
Ghana – associated afar with Kente cloth, African liberation, and ruined slave dungeons like the one Obama will visit – finds itself at the center of African intrigue, after five consecutive elections, including a major upset last December.
"If he visited, say, [Zimbabwean President Robert] Mugabe, he would feel obliged to at least indirectly hector Mugabe about his human rights abuses," Ekovich said. "Since he doesn't like to do that, he can come to a country where the country itself is taking that road to human rights and democracy. He doesn't have to say anything."
The State Department calls Ghana "one of our most trusted partners in sub-Saharan Africa" – a compliment matched by the size of its one-acre, four-story Accra embassy, and returned by the number of restaurants Ghanaians have named after Obama, some scattered along Accra's George W. Bush Motorway.