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Ghana 1, Kenya 0.
Barack Obama’s first visit as U.S. president to a sub-Saharan state will be Ghana, not Kenya, the birthplace of his late father.
Like selecting Joe Biden as vice president, Ghana is the safe choice. Why not Kenya? Obama already has a recent Kenya visit under his belt, while he was a U.S. senator. He was treated as a hero, but a trip there as president might tip the nation into a frenzy, which seems too intense this early in his first term. Throw in a little post-election violence at the end of 2007, and Kenya gets bounced off the short list.
Meanwhile, Ghana is the continent’s model democracy, having just completed its fifth consecutive problem-free presidential election. More importantly, the election resulted in the second successful transition of power, the hallmark of a true democracy. English is Ghana’s official language, which is another plus for White House planners.
Liberia would have been the “edgy” pick. It was founded by former American slaves and the U.S. strongly supports its president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state. However, Liberia is just a few years removed from civil war and lacks basic amenities such as reliable electricity.
The president and First Lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to visit Ghana on July 10-11, following visits to Russia and Italy on the same trip. Obama will talk shop with Ghanaian President John Atta Mills. The White House statement said Obama looks forward to “strengthening the U.S. relationship with one of our most trusted partners in sub-Saharan Africa, and to highlighting the critical role that sound governance and civil society play in promoting lasting development.”