Reactions from Kenya

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The New York Times, reporting from Kenya, where the government has declared Thursday a national holiday.

This town, in the epicenter of Kenya’s Obamaland — the same area where Barack Obama’s father was from and where some of his cousins, half-brothers and a very gregarious 80-something step-grandmother still live — exploded into cheers when the news broke that Mr. Obama had won the presidency.

Thousands of people sang, danced, blew whistles, honked horns, hugged, kissed and thumped on drums — all down the same streets where not so long ago huge flames of protest had raged.

“Who needs a passport?” people yelled. “We’re going to America!”

…The last time this many Kenyans were riveted by an election — their own, in December 2007 — riots erupted after the opposition candidate lost and Kenya’s incumbent president won. Widespread allegations of vote rigging sent tens of thousands of young men into the streets, to loot, burn and kill. Much of Kisumu, usually a relaxed town along the steamy, hippo-infested shores of Lake Victoria, was ravaged.

But on Wednesday, many of the same young men who had been doing the burning, the looting and worse, were all smiles, part of the happy wave of emotion that coursed through Kisumu… “This has restored my faith in democracy,” said Duncan Adel, a computer technician who had been part of the election protests last year.

The Times adds that there is an old joke in the regions of Kenya that are dominantly Luo, an ethnic minority group that claimed Obama’s father. A Luo man will be president of the United States, the joke goes, before president of Kenya. Improbably, that joke has come true.

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