Indeed, as Air Force One carried President Obama and his family out of Ghana back to Washington DC, after the whirlwind visit to their first sub-Saharan African country since coming into office, I suspected that in the private apartment he and Michelle shared on the presidential plane, the mood was ultra-sombre. The president would have noticed that despite their bravery, something traumatic had happened to his wife and two daughters. Indeed, their distress, not too difficult to decipher, was captured in the photograph (above right) which shows a grim-faced Obama with his arms around his eldest daughter, comforting her, as they emerged from the Cape Coast Castle. A picture, they say, speaks better than a thousand words.
Why did he take them inside that castle? I have lived in Ghana almost all my life and I have never had the courage to go in there. For it is a personification of everything that is evil in human beings. It is also a whitened sepulchre that does more than justice to Christ’s depiction of the hypocrisy that men construct around themselves to hide the evil they do. Hypocrisy? Yes – there is a Christian chapel in the castle, just above the dungeons. After they had carried out their inhuman acts against their chained African captives, the Swedish, Dutch, Portuguese, and British slave traders who operated from the castle at one time or another in its history, went into the chapel on Sundays and at other appointed times of worship, and sang praises to their God “of mercy”. A God of mercy who had appointed them to make profits out of human misery; a God of mercy who created some people white and others black, endowed them with both consciousness and a conscience, and yet allowed the whites to turn the blacks into beasts to be beaten and chained and enslaved.