Obama Draws Small Crowds in Ghana, Avoiding Events in Public

ACCRA, Ghana -- The lucky ones saw him waving from behind the bulletproof glass of his passing vehicle for a few fleeting seconds. The others, like the rest of the world, just watched President Barack Obama's visit on TV.

The huge excitement surrounding Obama's first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as president was met with a muted response and disappointment by many here disappointed they never got a chance to see him.

The absence of public outdoor events and roads blocked amid heavy security conspired to keep large crowds away and meant there was no interaction with the public.

"I came all the way here to see Obama, but I can't see him," said 35-year-old Kodjo Seddoh, a native of Togo who traveled here for the event.

"Nobody has seen him except on TV," he said as he and a few hundred other people watched a small convoy in which the president passed in a black limousine, headed toward Ghana's presidential palace. "It's been a disappointment."

Obama's visit had been eagerly anticipated, but Obama did not speak at Independence in part because of fears over rain, and so his main speech was delivered indoors at a conference center.

During his 21-hour sojourn, no big public event was planned -- in part for fear it could cause a celebratory stampede, as a 1998 stop by President Bill Clinton nearly did. A surging crowd toppled barricades at the city's Independence Square after Clinton's speech, prompting him to shout, "Back up! Back up!", his Secret Service detail clearly frantic.

When former President George W. Bush visited Accra last year, he spoke to tens of thousands of people at the square.