Around the Globe, a Pause for the President

People in the U.S. and around the world mark the inauguration of President Barack Obama on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009

People around the world gathered in homes and public places to watch President Obama's inauguration -- from Kenya, the land of his father, to Iran, where state television ignored the event.


Crowds of students -- future doctors, politicians, engineers and others -- gathered hours early on the sprawling green lawn of Nairobi University, where three big-screen TVs were set up to broadcast the inauguration of Barack Obama, whose father was Kenyan.

The mood was celebratory. Homeboyz Entertainment, a group of deejays, would be on later. Red, white and blue ribbons were tied to big white canopies. Vendors sold postcards of Obama and the words, "I do solemnly swear." A young man walked around with a homemade sign that read, "From Black Power to Barack Power."

Engineering students Ntabo Maranga and Wycliffe Ogega said they felt a sense of relief that the day had finally come. Like many young Kenyans, they said they identify more with Obama than with their own political elders, whom they hoped Obama would shake up by example.

"His election has already offered a great challenge to leaders here, through his values," said Maranga, 27.

In particular, students said they hoped Obama would shame politicians into rising above tribalism.

"When people speak of Obama, we don't say he's Luo Obama," said Ogega, 27, referring to Obama's Kenyan ethnic group. "We say he's Kenyan. We hope he will help us see each other as Kenyans instead of certain tribes."

Not far away, Kadiro Ganemo, an Ethiopian immigrant, suggested that such hope stretches beyond Kenya.

"He's not just for Kenya -- he's for the whole world," said Ganemo, 28, who is not a student but joined the celebration because he didn't want to watch alone at home.

He confessed that he had not believed Obama could be elected, given the racism that exists in the United States. When the results came in, he said, he cried, as he expected he would again later Tuesday. "Maybe Africans can unite like people in the U.S.," he said.

-- Stephanie McCrummen

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