When Barack Obama had to decide which one country to visit in Africa on the way home from Europe, his choice was strictly limited. Since he had probably already decided that the benefits of democracy would be one of the main themes of his speech the short list of countries where that message would match local circumstances probably proved to be very short indeed -- Botswana, Ghana, Namibia and South Africa, probably. A visit of less than three or four days would not be acceptable to the new government of South Africa and of the other three countries Ghana must have been the obvious choice. It was the first colony in Africa south of the Sahara to achieve independence, in 1957, and after almost three decades of decline it has recovered strongly - in the “free and fair” elections last December the incumbent president was very narrowly defeated but immediately handed over to the victor without any argument or delay. Kenya and Nigeria might in different circumstances have been Mr Obama's choice. His father was Kenyan and he still has family there but both the government and the opposition have blotted their democratic copybooks since the racial riots that followed the elections there last year. Nigeria, potentially an equal of South Africa, always seems likely to do better democratically speaking but too often fails to deliver its promises. Perhaps these countries and others will note the recognition that Ghana has received and act accordingly to improve their own performances.


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