Accra - Even as Barack Obama is heaping praise on Ghana for its anti-corruption battle, the Ghanaian police seem completely unaware that they are supposed to be clean and honest by now.
Mr. Obama is arriving in Ghana Friday for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa. He chose Ghana because he sees it as a bastion of freedom, democracy, and what he calls "good governance" - the fight against corruption.
But while Ghana is making progress on those fronts, there is still a long way to go, as I found out this week.
On two consecutive days, Ghana's finest were happily demanding bribes from me and my driver on the same stretch of highway between Accra and Kumasi, the two biggest cities in the country.
On the first day, the police stopped me on the highway and began inspecting the car and the bags in our trunk, making it clear that the search would be a very long process, until my driver produced a couple of Ghanaian cedi (the equivalent of about two dollars) for "lunch money" for the police.
On the second day, they stopped us at a checkpoint and said we were speeding - which we probably were. Instead of giving us a ticket or a fine, they insisted on another two- cedi bribe - no receipt provided.
(The policeman who demanded the bribe was one of the fattest men I have seen in Ghana.) My driver and interpreter paid the bribes without even asking me. "This is how things work in Ghana," they said later.
As for political freedom: yes, Ghana has become democratic, its elections are free, and it has independent media. But powerful people still like to throw their weight around.
When I visited the famed Cape Coast Castle, the former slave-trading fortress, I interviewed a tour guide and asked him about Mr. Obama's planned visit to the castle. It was standard journalistic practice - I had wondered what the tour guide would think about the visit to a slave castle by the first African-American president. But he seemed nervous, and later I found out why.
As I was leaving the castle, I was stopped by two Ghanaian men who did not bother to identify themselves. I soon realized they were senior agents in the national intelligence bureau - the secret police.
"We were monitoring you," one of the agents said in a menacing tone. "We do not like your questions."
He demanded my identity documents and threatened to cancel my press accreditation. What he disliked, apparently, was a question I had asked the tour guide about whether Mr. Obama would be giving a speech at the "Door of No Return" - the most famous place in the castle, the gateway from the slave dungeons to the ships that took them to America.
Everyone knows that Mr. Obama will visit the slave castle - the White House and the Ghanaian government have both announced it. Yet the intelligence agent seemed to think that nobody should ask questions about it. Did he think that journalists are a threat to the security of the U.S. President? Did he think that nobody should ask questions about a visit that had already been announced? Or - more likely - did he just enjoy the process of intimidating people and demonstrating his power?
I'm not completely certain of the answers. But when I left the castle, the agents followed me for a while in a car. I walked into a book store. They hung out of the car windows and stared at me for a while. Then they disappeared, apparently satisfied with their work.
My interpreter, meanwhile, had a word of advice for me. When the intelligence agents gave me back my documents, he whispered to me: "Make sure they didn't take anything."