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Michelle Sieff: Banquets and Battles

Since I finished my article, “Africa: Many Hills to Climb,” for World Policy Journal’s 25th anniversary issue in October, the world has changed dramatically. A financial crisis has engulfed the developed economies. The American populace elected Barack Obama as president. And, Africa (the continent, not the country!) is a part of these world historical events.   Kenya declared a national holiday in honor of the election of Barack Obama, whose father was born in rural Kenya. Obama's hybrid identity is a powerful symbol of Africa's complicated relationship with the West. America's most inspiring modern politician is but one generation from rural Kenya. This week, the African media outlet Allafrica.com had a blogger in Kisumu, in western Kenya, who reported on the outpouring of joy at Obama's election. If Kisumu sounds familiar, it should, for the city was the site of violent conflict after Kenya's disputed election last December. But, this week, Kisumu's residents were unified in their joy over Obama's election. Though Africa is intimately connected to American politics, fortunately, its growing economies have not been undermined by the financial crisis.

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