By DAVID KUMAGAI
Sun. Jul 12 – 4:46 AM
Richard Zangba waited for six hours Friday night and another five hours Saturday morning to catch a glimpse of Barack Obama’s African homecoming.
When the American president’s motorcade sped by the crowd waiting outside the conference center in Accra, Ghana’s capital, Saturday, Obama gave a brief wave through a heavily tinted window.
Zangba, an 18-year-old from a small town in Ghana’s Upper East Region, whooped wildly.
“He is a great African,” he said.
A day earlier Obama landed in Ghana for a 24-hour visit. It’s his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as President of the United States.
The streets in Accra were lined with signs welcoming the Obamas. Vendors made a fortune selling their Obama wares. By Saturday, those who hadn’t bought an Obama shirt were being handed ones adorned with his picture.
Many Africans expected Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, or Kenya, the land of Obama’s father, to be the president’s first stop.
While an Obama sighting was hard to come by, the people in Ghana were oozing with affection for America’s first black president.
Friday night, 68-year-old Feea, Daughter of Zion, arrived in Accra from Jamaica for a three-day visit, just to see Obama.”I couldn’t miss him coming to Africa,” she said. “This is a great moment for us as a people. It used to be impossible for a black man to become president.”
Under a light drizzle and the night sky, people frantically searched the airport Friday night for the best spot to see Obama. When a handful of Ghanaians strayed from the crowd everyone followed.
Zangba, hesitated to move from his station at the front, but thinking he was missing his chance to see Obama, he broke into a sprint.
“Obama is here!,” he shouted.
But it was a false alarm.
The crowd met a police barricade and turned back.
A young boy, dubbed an Obama-look-alike, was interviewed by a television reporter and swarmed by a mass of amazed Ghanaians. Later, the boy had to seek police protection.
When the crowd heard the roar of a plane engine around 9 p.m., people rejoiced. The hustle for a better vantage point intensified.
In the end, the crowd never saw Obama, yet the mood remained festive.
On Saturday Obama addressed Ghana’s parliament in Accra, but the crowd of about 200 people outside the parliament wasn’t the throng one might have expected.
Only those with good connections or wily enough to outfox Ghana’s police got near the site.
Zangba was one of them. He took a taxi to the lightly policed back entrance where he waited patiently for a crowd of people to distract the officers. When they did, he scurried past to join the crowd.
The rest of the people roamed the streets in confused excitement. Wearing Obama shirts, toques, buttons and belts, people were eager to see the president’s motorcade, but most Ghanaiains’ hopes for an Obama-sighting went unfulfilled.
Not everyone was eager to see Obama.
David Pessey, of Ghana’s National Reform Party, believes Obama’s just a fresh face for the same American policies: “He’s riding a tiger.”
Pessey suspects Obama visited Ghana in the hopes of placing an American military base in West Africa. But Zangba isn’t worried about America’s foreign policy.
Inspired by Obama, the recent junior-high school graduate dreams of becoming Ghana’s president.
“Obama gives us all hope that we can do anything. He gives us encouragement to lose our inferiority complex,” Zangba said.
David Kumagai is a journalism student at University of King’s College. He is an intern at a radio station in Ghana this summer.
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