Obama and the Cape Coast Clean-Up Exercise that (Once) Was

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.

If only our beaches always looked like this. If only…

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.

About Kwabena

Career Student
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16 Responses to Obama and the Cape Coast Clean-Up Exercise that (Once) Was

  1. Kenny Rogers says:

    Maybe we ask Obama to visit us every week. Obviously, that will solve that problem forever. On a more serious note, I have always wondered why Cape Coast is very dirty especially looking at the number of educational institutions we have over there. But I think it all boils down to individual behaviour and there will be the urgent need to start fining people for filth on their compounds. Such moneys can then be channeled into the cleaning of the beaches.
    Nice piece of article though. Keep it up

  2. awura abena says:

    Sad but true. And to think we hardly recycle our waste which we have so much of! Thanks for writing, Kwabena 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    Very insightful piece but sadly it applies to most African cities :-((

  4. Akosua says:

    Great piece Kobby. I like your suggestion of exporting our garbage to Sweden best. Having all that garbage in our country isn’t attractive, why keep them when we can make money of it? 😉

  5. Atta Yaw says:

    In the 1990s I lived in Techiman, Brong-Ahafo. In the town was a real rubbish mountain, which I named “Kilimanjaro”. When I returned in 2006 the whole mountain was gone. I was astonished and asked around what had happened to that usual eyesore…. “Hmmm, okay, they cleared it because nobody liked it there. They simply took it away”. Whereto remained unclear to me. It was 95% plastic, so burning it would have been a major problem, healthwise.

  6. Queen says:

    I was holiday with daughter and her fiancé (broni). We went on tro-tros. We couldn’t help noticing that the 3 of us were the only ones who held onto their rubbish to be safely disposed of later at an appriopirate place or home. All others simply chucked theirs out of the the windows regardless of where the vehicle was. On the spot fines might help.

    • Kwabena says:

      The will of the authorities tends to be lacking. There have been campaigns about placing small trash cans in the tro-tros yet these projects are not enforced. Not to knock our police force but usually the spot fines turn into bribes which defeat the purpose. Good observation though.

  7. Possetive says:

    good piece bredrin! recently visited gh. the [garbage] situation was so ‘dread’, i found myself bawling – in shock – and holding my head. if this is where ‘development’ has brought us, then “give i back i traditional ruler”. zoomlion is pathetic. they’ve got no ideas.

    an aggressive new for of education [program] and some serious corporal punishment should get into gear. but i doubt how this is going to be successfully implemented. and why? because there’s no political will. so i continue weep.

  8. David Schuman says:

    Some thing drastically needs to be done, and I am wanting to be apart of that solution, once I have clearly examined, and looked over and identified where the problems stem from,…and how the country and its communities function as a whole, and this will begin to happen and come together within my next visit to the region. This is not a blame thing but an offer to provide solutions, to better provide a Series of Viable Out Comes, and better give this great Nation a sense of National Pride, and become the bench mark, for Neighbouring Country’s, perhaps put out a reward, recycle two cents, for each plastic bottle handed in, not just a recycle centre, but a p lkace where p erople can slowely derive an income for recycling, and a small fine the the dumping of brubbish.

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