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Melania Trump tours former slavery outpost

Cape Coast, Wednesday

US First Lady Melania Trump visited a former slave trading fort in Ghana on Wednesday, the second day of her maiden solo tour of Africa promoting her children’s welfare programme.

“Akwaaba (Welcome) to Cape Coast,” read a sign hung from the whitewashed walls of the Cape Coast Castle, some 145km from the capital, Accra.

But there were signs that the soft diplomatic push was yet to take off locally, as comparisons were drawn to the visit of former US president Barack Obama and his family in 2009.

“The interest is very, very muted and subdued. There are a lot of people (in Ghana) who are extremely indifferent about this visit,” political commentator Etse Sikanku told AFP.

A relaxed and smiling Melania Trump arrived in Accra on Tuesday to a red-carpet welcome of traditional dancing and flag-waving schoolchildren.

In a day of engagements as part of her “Be Best” campaign in education and healthcare, she handed out teddy bears to newborns and met her Ghanaian counterpart, Rebecca Akufo-Addo.

The highlight of Wednesday’s itinerary was the tour of Cape Coast Castle, a major outpost on the Atlantic slave trading route, where she also met members of the local Fante tribe.

The imposing fort on the windswept coast, where untold numbers of people were kept in dark dungeons before being shipped overseas, is now on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

It has seen a steady increase in visitors since Obama and his family toured the site.

Obama — whose photo now adorns the wall of a hall renamed in his honour — said at the time that the cells were a reminder that “sometimes we can tolerate and stand by great evil even as we think that we are doing good”.

The first lady’s visit to Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt has been seen as an attempt to carve her own path and emerge from her husband’s shadow and his divisive presidency.

On Tuesday, Trump openly mocked the university professor who made the allegations, drawing scorn from critics who said such taunts deterred survivors of assault.

In Africa, interest in Melania’s visit is being watched to see if she can mend fences after her husband’s reported comment that the continent contained “shithole” countries.  —AFP

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