World joins America in celebration

People in Kenya,Iraq and as far away as Indonesia witness Obama make history

Written by The Los Angeles Times | Jakarta | Nairobi | New York | Published:January 22, 2009 11:45 pm

It was America’s moment,the swearing-in of Barack Hussein Obama,the nation’s first African-American President. But Americans shared the event with the world on Tuesday as people gathered from Las Vegas to London to Kabul,Afghanistan — inside casinos,at restaurants and on street corners — to witness this chapter of international history.

A hush fell across parts of the globe as the 44th President of the United States placed his hand on the Bible and took the oath of office.

Inside New York City Hall,where 2,000 people had gathered to watch on a big screen,a blind man nodded his head and broke into a wide grin,a Republican war veteran in a wheelchair clapped,a gay rights activist wept,and a black seventh-grader jumped to her feet and screamed.

In other parts of the world,there was a feeling of kinship for this President,whose roots lie beyond America’s shores.

In Jakarta,where Obama lived from 1967 to 1971,people in formal attire gathered at Model Primary School 1 in the Menteng neighbourhood. “The fact that a black man is elected as the President of the most powerful country in the world is something to celebrate,” Enda Nasution said.

In Kenya,a country where most people don’t have electricity,thousands crowded around public TVs,including the giant screens erected at Nairobi’s downtown convention center and battery-powered monitors set up outdoors in remote farming towns.

As America celebrated,those in war-gripped regions clung to Obama’s words.

At the Al Asad air base west of Baghdad,Marine Staff Sgt Trent Nichols of New York paraphrased his new commander in chief. “He said it would be a long hard road and we have to endure. He knows what needs to be done,and it’s not going to be easy.”

In the muddy streets of Kabul,there was a ripple of excitement. “We think he is a good man,” said Hamidullah Sharif,who was selling oranges from a wooden cart at a downtown intersection.

“And that Bush was a bad man!” a customer sang out.

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