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On Historic Visit, Obama Says Africa Won’t Be Sidelined

U.S. President Barack Obama greets residents during breakfast at the Presidential Castle in Accra.
(RFE/RL) -- U.S. President Barack Obama has called upon Africans to seize opportunities for peace, democracy, and prosperity and assured the continent that it would not be excluded from world affairs.

Addressing the parliament in the capital, Accra, Obama said Africa is not separate from world affairs.

He urged Africans to take greater responsibility for their future, saying they had a role in shaping the 21st century.

"I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart," Obama said. "I see Africa as a fundamental part of our inter-connected world - as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all our children."

Obama also argued for democratic values and that Western aid must be matched by good governance. He said corruption and conflicts hinder Africa's development.

Meeting with President John Atta Mills earlier in the day, Obama said his 24-hour visit to Ghana, on Africa's west coast, is intended to show that "Africa is not separate from world affairs."

He also said the United States had a continuing interest in Africa's development, and that Ghana could be a model of success for other African countries.

Ghana was chosen as the destination for the president's visit because of its strong democratic record.

Mills said Obama's visit sent positive signals and encourages Ghana to sustain democratic gains.

Ghana’s president was elected in a peaceful, transparent vote last December, while economic reforms helped bring unprecedented investment and growth before the impact of the global financial crisis.

Thousands of people poured onto the streets of Accra as Obama launched into his visit to the former British colony. Walls and utility poles were plastered with posters depicting Obama and Mills and the word "change" -- the mantra of Obama's election campaign.

Ghanaian businesswoman Nana Ampem Darkoa is among millions of people across Africa for whom Obama's election inspired a lot of hope.

"For a black man to be the president of the United States, I am excited," she said. "And it is like a dream coming true to every young person, male or female, that being ambitious is the first thing anyone should pursue."

Obama was due to visit Gold Coast Castle, a seaside fortress on the Ghanaian coast where slaves used to be held before being transported to the Americas.

But no big public event was planned, in part for fear it could cause a celebratory stampede.

Obama has said he decided to visit Ghana because the country is a functioning democracy, its leaders are taking action to reduce corruption, and it has seen economic growth.

Obama, who took office as president in January, is the son of a Kenyan man who immigrated to the United States. His wife Michelle is the descendant of Africans who came to America as slaves.

Obama, his wife, and two daughters arrived in Ghana hours after the conclusion of a Group Of Eight summit in Italy, during which the leading industrialized countries pledged $20 billion over three years to help poor countries, including some in sub-Saharan Africa, develop their own agriculture and food production.

Obama visited sub-Saharan Africa while a U.S. senator, making a trip to Kenya, his father's homeland, in August 2006.