There was a massively positive response to Obama’s decision to visit Ghana in early 2009. Coming right after his historic presidential victory, his visit was the perfect PR opportunity for Ghana’s fledgling democracy. Similar to the uniting power of football, political and ethnic divides were put to one side and the general buildup to the event was pleasant.
They say that Ghanaians are hospital people – Ghanaians generally go out of their way to make a foreigner feel at home. Welcoming the first Black president of America on his first trip to Africa was always going to be a big deal. The government rolled out the proverbial red carpet in anticipating a splendid display of hospitality. The decision by his wife Michele to leave Accra for a while and travel with the family to experience the Cape Coast Castle was also significant due to obvious reasons.
So Cape Coast got some of the spotlight. The government prepared the city to play its part by renovating the Cape Coast chief’s palace and sprucing the city up.
Sprucing the city up included a massive clean-up exercise. Unsurprisingly the exercise focused on the Chapel Square area and the Castle. All the rubbish was cleared. All of it. The neighboring beaches in particular got a nice makeover, rivaling some of the world’s best in terms of look.
As mentioned earlier, preparing a place for a visit by a foreigner is not a new thing in Ghana. What caught my attention nevertheless was the Cape Coast Metropolitan Assembly‘s announcement concerning the clean-up exercise. The leaders announced that the clean-up exercise wasn’t limited to the occasion of the Obama family’s visit. The first family of America’s call on the city was to rather act as a catalyst for a consistent clean up exercise. The news item was probably lost in the euphoria of the visit, and that should tell us something.
Then the Obama family stopped by for a couple of hours, and after an intensely emotional experience of the Castle returned to base.
What happened to the clean-up exercise afterward? Which clean-up exercise, you ask? No, seriously which clean-up exercise? After two days it was as if nothing had been cleaned up in Cape Coast. The rubbish returned with a vengeance and has not left since. The same beaches are back to what Cape Coasters know – there no need to describe any of it especially if you are eating.
But who do we blame? With no sustainable and publicized environmental cleanliness policy rubbish will continue to pile up not only in Cape Coast, but in other urban centers all across the country. The sad part is that places like Kumasi, Takoradi and Accra grapple with worse filth problems.
I recently found out on my Facebook news-feed that Sweden no longer has any garbage due to pragmatic environmental practices. Maybe we can start exporting to them. From Cape Coast (Ghana for that matter) with love.