President Obama leaves tonight on a week-long foreign tour. Even though his visit to Russia is grabbing all the headlines, and his trip to Italy for the G8 summit is the real motivation for even going abroad in the first place, his decision to drop in on Africa is ruffling some feathers.
Let's set aside the fact that Obama's already been to Africa - visiting Cairo, Egypt to give his milestone speech to the Muslim people - this is the first time Obama's visiting Sub-Saharan Africa, the birthplace of his father. But instead of his father's homeland, Kenya, Obama's picked Ghana as the site of his first visit. And that decision has rubbed some people in Kenya the wrong way (not to mention folks in Nigeria as well).
But there's a good reason behind Obama's choice of the small West African nation. In a continent where, historically, military coups have outnumbered free and fair elections, Ghana's held five straight peaceful elections, including one late last year where power was successfully transferred between rival parties. Obama even told the website allafrica.com that "highlighting" Ghana's peaceful elections was the motivation for his visit.
By contrast, the coalition government in Kenya between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga has inspired a sex strike and a popular TV show with puppets mocking the country's leaders, but has produced little in actual good governance over the past year and a half. The same goes for Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, which also thought it should have been given the honor of Obama's first visit. But their last presidential election was so rigged, even local officials wouldn't vouch for the results, and President Umaru Yar'Adua has so far failed to even start to tackle corruption or any of the other serious problems facing Nigeria.
So Ghana gets the honor of Obama's first visit to the heart of Africa, the administration hopes the rest of the continent will get the message.
1 hour ago