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‘It’s like night and day’

In their home, north of Accra, Ọbadele Kambon and his son, Kwaku, are using an interactive computer game to practice counting of numbers in Yoruba language.

“Meta, merin, marun (three, four, five)”, the young Kambon recites.

Even though Yoruba is not widely spoken in Ghana (except among the large Nigerian immigrant community), Kambon who speaks Yoruba, hopes his three children would learn to speak it along with local languages such as Twi and Ga.

Born and raised in the United States, Kambon permanently moved to Ghana with his wife and daughter in 2008 from Chicago.

He had visited a decade earlier with his mother, who organises spiritual tours for African Americans. He spent his study year abroad at the University of Ghana, where he now teaches at the Institute of African Studies.

As a black family, Kambon says life in Ghana is very different compared with the US.

“One time, I was holding my son in my arms … and I just thought for a second that I don’t have to worry about my son being shot down on the street. This was not too long after the Tamir Rice incident,” he told Al Jazeera, referring to the 2014 killing by police of the 12-year old black boy.

Leaving behind the reality of racism and police brutality in the US also rings true for Tweneboa Kodua.

Cape Coast
Obadele Kambon became a naturalised citizen along with 33 other ‘returnees’ [Edem Robby Abbeyquaye/Al Jazeera]

“I don’t have to deal with racism on an everyday basis. I don’t have to deal with my cultural identity being challenged and questioned. The level of violence is incomparable – it is like night and day.”

In December 2016, Kambon’s relationship with Ghana was further strengthened when he became a naturalised citizen along with 33 other “returnees”.

“I have only restored to you what rightfully belongs to you and was painfully taken away,” Ghana’s then-president, John Mahama, said after conducting the naturalisation ceremony. The current government has announced plans to grant more citizenships later this year.

While the reception in Ghana has been anything but hostile, it can be tricky sometimes.

“For some Ghanaians, their approach to me is as an ‘other’ because the moment they hear me speak they are like: ‘Ah, she’s not from Ghana.’ But once we have a conversation [and] they understand who I am, they are very accepting and welcoming and supportive of me being here,” Tweneboa Kodua told Al Jazeera.



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