Obama urges good governance in Africa

U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking to Ghana's parliament Saturday, called upon African societies to seize opportunities for peace, prosperity and good governance.

U.S. president tells Ghana's youth 'yes, you can'

U.S. President Barack Obama sings his country's national anthem before addressing Ghana's parliament in Accra on Saturday. Ghanaian President John Atta Mills is at left, next to Speaker Joyce Bamford-Addo. ((Charles Dharapak/Associated Press))
In his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office in January, U.S.  President Barack Obama on Saturday encouraged people in Ghana and elsewhere on the continent to seize opportunities for peace, prosperity and good governance.

Obama deployed a riff on his presidential campaign slogan, saying "Yes, you can," as he urged young people to build a better society in a speech to Ghana's parliament.

"You have the power to make your leaders accountable and to build institutions that serve the people," he said. "You can serve in your communities and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world."

Obama said good governance is the "the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long."

"That is the change that can unlock Africa's potential," he said.

"We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans," the U.S. president said. "I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world. I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family's own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story."

The president also said the United States has a responsibility to work with African countries on security issues.

"When there is genocide in Darfur or terrorist attacks in Somalia, these are not simply African problems, they are global security challenges that demand a global response," Obama told legislators in Accra.

President Obama and his family toured this 17th-century slave fortress in Cape Coast, Ghana. ((File photo/Associated Press))

"That's why we are ready to partner through diplomacy and technical assistance and logistical support, and we will stand behind efforts to hold criminals accountable."

Obama said conflict is too familiar in much of Africa and in some places is "as constant as the sun."

He also said leaders without conscience can manipulate infighting among religious groups and tribes, adding that such instability is "a millstone around Africa's neck."

Obama family visits slave trade fortress

After his speech, Obama took his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters on a tour of Cape Coast Castle, a fortress the British used as a transit point in the slave trade during the 17th century.

Hundreds of thousands of Africans spent time shackled in its dungeon before boarding ships for foreign lands, including the U.S.

The president said the site reminded him of a recent trip to a Nazi concentration camp in Germany.