World reaction: New American dream shared around globe

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The Independent US

KENYA

In Kenya, the land of Mr Obama's late father, the peeling blackboards of Kibera's makeshift movie houses were wiped clean of football matches and pirated blockbusters. Almost everyone in Africa's biggest and most deprived slum wanted to get a spot in front of a television to see history being made in Washington. "There is real excitement here," said Kepha Ngito. "Everyone wanted to watch whether they had a television or not.

"To us Obama's inauguration is not just an event, it's a breaking point, a great testimony that anything can happen. Something from below can get to the top."

While the former professor of law is wildly popular throughout Africa, his Kenyan roots accord him folk hero status here. Night had already fallen in Nairobi when the address began in far away Washington but hundreds of thousands of Kenyans stayed up. These are the same Obama supporters who kept an all-night vigil on election day last November.

Mr Ngito, a 25-year-old youth worker in the slum for Cafod, said: "He is someone who carries a message of hope which is important for people living in slums." But despite the excitement, few Kenyans expect much change. "People know there's nothing much he can do for Kenya," Mr Ngito said.

Daniel Howden

BRITAIN

In London, the emergence of Barack Obama into the Washington sunlight, broadcast on a giant 12m by 15m screen, drew shrieks of joy and a three-minute standing ovation at the Bernie Grant arts centre in Tottenham where 400 people had gathered to watch. By the time the inaugural speech was over, several dozen women had collapsed into tears. "A new time is born, a beginning of something truly great," said Simone Jarrett. Another reveller, Cyril Tokun, said: "Nobody thought this would happen in our lifetime."

It was a scene replicated across Britain, where dozens of "Obama Day" events were organised. The lobby group Operation Black Vote turned 800 people away from celebrations at Millbank in central London attended by Gordon Brown, Tory leader David Cameron and Vince Cable of the Liberal Democrats.

Democrats Abroad, the international off-shoot of President Obama's party, held balls in London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford, Cambridge, and Cheltenham, and black singers Kelly Rowland and Mica Paris led a star cast at a "Yes, We Did" party in a London hotel.

Party guests at the Chicago Rib Shack in Knightsbridge, London, knocked back American beers and chewed on applewood-smoked ribs as they watched the TV. Tables were scattered with stars and stripes confetti and the walls and ceilings were adorned with flags, banners and balloons.

In Leeds, the West Indian Centre in the heart of Chapeltown played host to nearly 300 Obama fans. The centre's secretary, Ian Charles, said: "Old men like me never thought it could happen." Choirs from local churches sang the new President's praises as Mr Charles and members of the local community looked on. "We just kept hoping nothing bad would happen. And it didn't."

But Newcastle residents Amit and Emer Chatterjee outdid them all. They named their newborn son, Art Barack. Mrs Chaterjee said: "I think part of why we found Obama's victory inspirational was because our children are mixed race," she said. "We thought it would be nice to look back in 20 years when Art can know he's named after someone who changed history."

Amol Rajan

ASIA

In the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, where Mr Obama spent four years as a boy, former classmates at Menteng 1 elementary school gathered to hear the speech, delivered by a man they remembered as a rather chubby boy called Barry. They had also been learning the words to "The Star Spangled Banner".

"I'm proud the next President is someone I have shared time with," Rully Dasaad, a former Obama classmate and fellow Scout, said yesterday. "It was a crucial time for children our age; it is when we learned tolerance, sharing, pluralism, acceptance and respect of difference in cultures and religions."

In the Japanese town of Obama, people held an "Obama for Obama" party outside a Buddhist temple, featuring hula dancers and speeches by local dignitaries. In this small town of 32,000, when he secured the election victory in November, 1,000 people held a noisy party. In Japanese the town's name means "Little beach".

Andrew Buncombe

MIDDLE EAST

Many in the Middle East welcomed the inauguration, and praised Mr Obama for reaching out to Muslims, but expressed doubts as to how much the new President will change a regional policy that has placed US's energy concerns and the security of Israel as its priorities. "I'm sure Obama will not make a change outside the United States but he's a positive person and his face shines with hope," said a reader of the daily, Al Arabiya. Such doubts have increased since the attacks on Gaza. Through the Arab world there were questions about whether President Obama would continue his predecessor's "blind support" for Israel. Arab websites were full of recommendations for him, but hardline Iranian students burnt an American flag outside the former US embassy.

Iraqis expressed mixed feelings about Mr Obama and his agenda of change. Muna Abdul-Razzaq, a 37-year-old primary school teacher in Mosul, said Iraqis have bad memories of President George Bush "who destroyed Iraq". She added: "We hope that Obama will be more responsible."

Pakinam Amer

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