Africa Cries For Michael Jackson

News of pop star Michael Jackson's death has been greeted with a mixture of disbelief and sadness across Africa. In Nigeria, a presenter on Radio Continental broke down live on air and could not continue her programme. A woman in Ghana burst into tears in the capital, Accra, when told by a BBC reporter about the musician's death. In 1999, he was presented with a lifetime achievement award by South African icon Nelson Mandela at the Kora All Africa Music Awards. Michael Jackson first visited the continent at the age of 14 as the lead singer of the Jackson Five. Emerging from the plane in Senegal, he responded to a welcome of drummers and dancers by screaming: ''This is where I come from." He returned for an African tour 19 years later, when the king of pop was crowned chief of several African villages. But the trip quickly turned into a public relations nightmare amid allegations that police had beaten the crowds who went to see him and complaints in the local media that the pop star had been seen holding his nose, as if to keep out a bad smell. Ghanaian journalist Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, who says she was a huge Jackson Five fan as a girl, covered the visit. She said he spent most of his time locked away in his plush hotel or hidden in his limousine when out. When his car window wound down for a brief minute for him to greet fans, she asked him about his trip to Africa, and he replied limply: "Beautiful, I love it." It was "a spectacular disappointment in many ways", Ms Quist-Arcton told the BBC's Network Africa programme. But the crowds who lined Abidjan's streets during his visit were testament to his huge popularity across the continent where fans have been expressing their shock at his death. The BBC's Tom Oladipo in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos said the Radio Continental presenter broke down sobbing live on air after hearing the news and her co-presenter had to take over. One of Michael Jackson's brothers, Marlon, is planning to develop a controversial luxury resort, a mixture of a slave history theme park and a museum dedicated to the Jackson Five in Nigeria. He also had passionate fans in Ghana. "It's not true, no it's not true," a woman in Accra wailed as her companion accused our correspondent of lying about the news of Jackson's death. "He's a legend, he's not supposed to die," a woman in the Kenyan capital told the BBC. But others expressed concern about his obsession with his appearance. "He was not proud to a black American, he wasn't, he wanted very much to be white," a man in Nairobi said. The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Johannesburg says Michael Jackson's most tangible contribution to Africa came at the peak of his career in the mid-1980s, when he co-wrote the charity song We are the World with Lionel Ritchie. Sung by a group of leading artists, the single topped charts around the world raising awareness and more than $50m for famine relief in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.