|President Barack Obama, Speaker of Parliament Joyce Bamford-Addo, left, greet crowd following address, 11 Jul 2009|
U.S. President Barack Obama says Africans must take more responsibility for wiping out poverty, war and disease on the continent. In a speech to the Ghanaian parliament, the president said we need - what he described as - a new moment of great progress.
The first African-American president of the United States received an enthusiastic welcome in the Ghanaian capital, where he was embraced as family.
He responded with some tough talk - the kind of talk only a family member can provide.
The president - the son of a Kenyan father - spoke of his personal connection to Africa's tragic past. But he said the time has come for Africans to take control of their own destiny.
"Yes, a colonial map that made little sense helped to breed conflict, and the West has often approached Africa as a patron and a source of resources, rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants," he said.
He called on a new generation of Africans to build democracy, create opportunity, fight corruption, and end the long cycle of strongman rule and conflict on the continent.
"It is the death sentence of a society to force children to kill in wars. It is the ultimate mark of criminality and cowardice to condemn women to relentless and systematic rape. We must bear witness to the value of every child in Darfur and the dignity of every woman in Congo," he said.
The remarks came in a speech at a packed convention center attended by members of the Ghanaian parliament. The president said Ghana has become an example for the rest of the continent - a country where development is spurred by 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," he said.
President Obama offered encouragement - especially to the young.
"You can conquer disease, end conflicts, and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes you can," he said.
Earlier, Mr. Obama met privately with Ghanaian President John Atta Mills. He also visited a hospital, a symbolic stop designed to highlight American support for development efforts in Africa.
But the emotional highpoint of his visit to Ghana came at the end - a tour of a coastal fortress, where for 300 years, countless Africans boarded ships bound for death at sea or a life in slavery.
His wife and young daughters accompanied him to the site. First Lady Michelle Obama is the great-great-granddaughter of African slaves
"I think as Americans and African-Americans, obviously, there is a special sense that on the one hand this place was a place of profound sadness. On the other hand, it is here where that the journey and much of the African American experience begin," he said.
The president arrived in Ghana late Friday, and the welcome was fairly subdued. But as he prepared to board Air Force One for his long flight home, throngs gathered at the Accra airport.
Ghana's president spoke at the send-off. "He wants us to take our destiny into our own hands. And there is hope, because hope is a very powerful weapon," he said.
There was drumming and dancing and an exuberant farewell for a man many here see not just as president of the United States, but a son of Africa.
|Click here to see of President Obama's visit to Ghana