The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: World Welcomes 2013

FIRE WORKS were displayed in major cities across the world, including Rio de Janeiro, Nairobi, Moscow, Madrid, Pretoria, Paris and London to usher in 2013.

In Kigali, thousands of people gathered in different spots and waited until it clocked midnight to welcome the New Year. Hundreds of worshipers flocked churches and other places including Amahoro National stadium for prayers. Apart from nightclubs and bars, others also gathered at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs grounds for a huge party dubbed Happy People.

In the United States of America (USA), New York marked the New Year with the traditional New Year's Eve countdown and ball drop over Times Square.

Steep tax rises and spending cuts, the so-called fiscal cliff, did not put off a general festive atmosphere as year-end celebrations continued as usual. But, as 2013 begins, Americans still suffer shades of gloom after a gunman recently massacred 20 school children in Connecticut and Hurricane Sandy ravaged parts of the East Coast.

With the city of Auckland, in New Zealand, having held the first major events of 2013, celebrations continued around the world to mark the New Year. Sydney was one of the first cities to see 2013 with its famous fireworks display but big shows were also planned in many other cities worldwide.

For the first time, New Year merriment also engulfed Burma, where large public gatherings were banned by Burma's previous military rulers.

Hundreds of Burmese attended the celebrations in Rangoon, which featured a fireworks display and performances by Burmese entertainers.

In Kampala, Uganda, the Police cautious over a possibility of terrorist attacks reportedly asked that fireworks to be displayed in celebration to welcome the New Year should be kept in its custody as a contingency measure. But this did not dampen 2013 revelry.

However, the mood in India was more subdued as India scaled back New Year celebrations, as it mourned the death of a 23-year-old female medical student who was gang raped on a bus a fortnight ago.

The Indian army as well as several states cancelled all official celebrations, and the president of the governing Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, said she would not celebrate. Instead of the usual countdown festivity, protests continued on Monday in the capital, Delhi, where the student was assaulted.

In Berlin, Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel in her annual New Year address published Monday, warned Germans that Europe's biggest economy would experience a 'more difficult' 2013 and also cautioned that the eurozone debt crisis was far from over.

Merkel said: "In fact, the economic environment next year will not be easier, but more difficult. The crisis is a long way from being beaten."

In London, a huge firework display marked the start of 2013. About 250, 000 people reportedly braved the weather conditions as they gathered along the banks of the River Thames to watch the display under the London Eye, triggered by Big Ben's chimes.

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