Make us your home page

World's reaction to President Obama is mixed

Tens of millions of people around the world watched Barack Obama take the presidential oath of office Tuesday with a mix both of hope that he would bring peace to a war-torn world and skepticism about what one man could accomplish.

Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who also inspired millions, sent a letter to Obama on Inauguration Day.

"Your election to this high office has inspired people as few other events in recent times have done," Mandela wrote. "Amongst many around the world a sense of hopelessness had set in as so many problems remain unresolved and seemingly incapable of being resolved. You, Mister President, have brought a new voice of hope that these problems can be addressed and that we can in fact change the world and make of it a better place."

In Kenya, where Obama's father was born, hundreds of people from all walks of life and ethnic communities sat in the great court of the University of Nairobi, counting the hours and minutes until the inauguration.

When Obama took the oath, the crowd leapt to its feet, erupting in cheers of "Yes we can!" and "Obama! Odinga!" Both Obama and Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga are descended from Kenya's Luo tribe.

"There are no words to describe how I'm feeling," said David Osienya, a 24-year-old literature student.

A similar scene played out in Jakarta, Indonesia, where Obama lived as a child with his mother for four years. About 1,000 excited people crowded into a hotel ballroom in the Indonesian capital to watch the ceremony.

Among the most excited was Ati Kitjanto, a former classmate of Obama's at the Muslim Jalan Besuki school. Kitjanto said that an Obama-led White House would surely look on countries in Asia and around the globe with greater sympathy than the Bush administration did.

"We're very happy that someone who understands and respects other nations leads America," she said.

Obama's message sparked a different reaction in the Middle East, where Arabs said they didn't see much change on the way for a U.S. foreign policy they blamed for unpopular actions such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the recent Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Ahmad Abdul-Raheem Mezel, 30, a resident of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, voiced a common view, that Obama would do little to improve the lives of everyday Arabs.

"I do not think that Obama will bring any good or prosperity to our life since the former administration spent six years promising that without making any of that come true," Mezel said.

Official Russian media also struck a skeptical tone, predicting the state of U.S.-Russian relations would remain shaky for years to come.

"In my opinion, Russia does not trust the United States at all now," read a newspaper opinion piece by the head of a pro-government research organization.

"The experience of the last 20 years has borne a strong and widespread conviction that constructive policy, concessions or support to Washington do not bear any dividends, are pointless and sometimes downright harmful."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

World's reaction to President Obama is mixed 01/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 10:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours