NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - For many across Africa and the world, Barack Obama's election seals America's reputation as a land of staggering opportunity.
"If it were possible for me to get to the United States on my bicycle, I would," said Joseph Ochieng, a 36-year-old carpenter who lives in Kenya's sprawling Kibera shantytown, a maze of tin-roofed shacks and dirt roads.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared a public holiday Thursday in the country of Obama's late father, allowing celebrations to continue through the night and into a second day. From Europe and Asia to the Middle East, many expressed amazement that the U.S. could overcome centuries of racial strife and elect an African-American president.
"At a time when we have to confront immense challenges together, your election raises great hopes in France, in Europe and in the rest of the world," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a congratulations letter to Obama.
Skepticism, however, was high in the Muslim world. The Bush administration alienated the Middle East by mistreating prisoners at its detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison—human rights violations also condemned worldwide.
Some Iraqis, who have suffered through five years of a war ignited by the United States and its allies, said they would believe positive change when they saw it.
"Obama's victory will do nothing for the Iraqi issue nor for the Palestinian issue," said Muneer Jamal, a Baghdad resident. "I think all the promises Obama made during the campaign will remain mere promises."
But many around the world found hope in Obama's international roots.
"What an inspiration. He is the first truly global U.S. president the world has ever had," said Pracha Kanjananont, a 29-year-old Thai sitting at a Starbuck's in Bangkok.
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