ACCRA (Reuters) - Melania Trump cuddled a baby, handed out teddy bears and beamed smiles on her first day in Africa on Tuesday, kicking off a four-country visit and receiving a warm welcome on a continent her husband once referred to derisively.
The U.S. first lady touched down at mid-morning in Ghana’s capital, Accra, where she was greeted by her counterpart, Ghana’s first lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo, and a young girl who offered her flowers.
A welcoming ceremony of drums and dancing by men and women dressed in traditional attire followed. Trump clapped her hands for the performers and waved at a group of schoolchildren who had gathered for her at the airport.
The trip is Trump’s first major solo outing abroad as first lady. She has accompanied President Donald Trump on foreign visits, but she chose Africa for her first multi-nation trip alone. She will visit Kenya, Malawi and Egypt before returning to the United States at the end of the week.
Her immediate predecessor Michelle Obama also made a solo trip to the continent when her husband was president, visiting South Africa and Botswana.
Trump’s trip did not generate the same fanfare.
“I did not know she’s in town until I heard about it on the radio a few minutes ago,” Cynthia Brobbey, a saleswoman at a popular retail shop near the airport told Reuters, three hours after the first lady’s arrival in Accra.
But she received a warm response at a local hospital, where she cooed over children, distributed stuffed animals and held a baby in her arms. She later joined Akufo-Addo for tea.
Trump has focussed on children as her signature issue and plans to promote child wellbeing during her four-country tour.
President Trump has been quoted as saying immigrants from Africa came from “shithole countries”. He denied making the remark.
He recently weighed in on South Africa’s efforts to fix racial disparity in land ownership, saying on Twitter he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to study the country’s “farm seizures” and the “killing of farmers”.
Reporting by Jeff Mason and Kwasi Kpodo; editing by Andrew Roche