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Obama's inauguration sells T-shirts, raises hopes in Ghana

Accra is certainly aware of the Obama inauguration, but the mood is more subdued than on election day or in Kenya, naturally.

Ghana is less than two weeks removed from its own presidential inauguration, when John Atta Mills took the oath of office, so there may be a hangover effect. Obama didn't make the front page of any of the daily newspapers. A proposed presidential pay raise OK'd in the final days, earlier this month, of the previous parliament, was the big news in several major dailies. That said (I hate when politicians say "that said" because it means the opposite of the prior point is coming) the Obama inauguration is the lead story on Ghanaian radio.

Dauda Abdullahi, 46, listened to Obama's speech on his car radio. He took a break from work — he runs Wadata Fashion store near Kwame Nkrumah Circle (named for Ghana's first president) — to sit in his car and listen to Obama. He marveled that white America elected a black person as president, but black Kenya struggles with tribal in-fighting. "They are all blacks," he said. "We should learn something about this."

Like everywhere, Obamamania has meant business in Ghana, whether it's selling T-shirts or posters. Not to be outdone, the Duplex restaurant in the Osu neighborhood erected a placard on the sidewalk that read: "Obama Inauguration, 1 Free Beer, 5 p.m." But I kept walking because there was an Irish pub, called Ryan's, just a block away. And you're bound to find a few opinions at an Irish pub. Sure enough, Ghanaian lawyer Kwabla Senanu, 50, and his friend, British businessman Roger Walters, 65, weighed in on Obama. Walters likened Obama's message of hope to that of Winston Churchill, who inspired war-battered Brits. But just as inspirational, he said, was Margaret Thatcher, who was the UK's prime minister from 1979 to 1990. He credited the conservative leader for stopping an economic decline, and putting the "Great" back in Britain, as Thatcher has stated. Senanu says Obama reminds him a bit of former Ghana president J.J. Rawlings, in a roll-up-your-sleeves way, not in a military coup way. Rawlings twice led successful coups, but eventually brought democracy back to Ghana. Senanu tried to attend the inauguration of Atta Mills on Dec. 7 in Independence Square, but he turned his car around because of the overflow crowds.

U.S. resident Colin Waugh watched the speech at Champs Sports Bar, which is popular with expats of all stripes. He wondered if Obama's slip-up during his swearing-in was "a sop to his predecessor, as if to say that everyone is human." Waugh, whose book "Paul Kagame and Rwanda" was published in 2004, says expectations are high everywhere, not just in Africa. "They're probably higher in America even. I think people are used to being disappointed more in Africa than at home perhaps."