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Wedding belles: The bride and her maid-of-honour in Merille 

Kenya is back in fashion. Prince William and Kate Middleton may well do more for East African development than Bono. Their engagement in Kenya sends a clear message to millions of holidaymakers that this is a beautiful, peaceful and romantic country, well worth a visit.

Three years ago, post-electoral violence, in which more than 1,000 people were killed and many more were displaced, scared away tourists and investors alike. It left the country not only in shock but also in deep economic trouble. 

Now things are looking up. Since 2009, Kenya has had a new constitution, which most Kenyans agree has a chance to tackle countrywide corruption more effectively. Justice is slowly being restored as the "untouchable" perpetrators of the violence face Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. Some of the accused will soon be on trial in The Hague. 

However, as the violence showed, Kenya remains a country divided not by "ancient hatreds" and "tribal prejudice" but by the lack of uniformity in the pace of economic development. The south-west, where Kate, William and most tourists go and where Nairobi's cosmopolitan aura reaches, is modernising fast. The east coast, with its Arabic influences and history of maritime trade, has always been unique and vibrant. But the north, nearer to the volatile borders with Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, is a different and in many ways a more fascinating story. Home to warriors, nomads and cattle-raiders, northern Kenya is only slowly entering the 21st century, and the confrontation of traditional and modern ways of life is captivating to observe. Apart from anthropologists, few Westerners penetrate these remote regions.

Merille, a village on the main road between Ethiopia and Nairobi, is the principal battlefield of this clash, struggle and eventual accommodation. Modernity gained a foothold here just over a year ago, when a Tarmac road was finally laid from Isiolo, shortening the 300-mile journey from Nairobi by five hours. Electricity, plumbing and mobile phone coverage, ubiquitous elsewhere, have yet to come to Merille. Water still needs to be fetched from bore-holes and there are frequent shortages. But at least the boreholes are now in the village itself and women no longer have to walk for miles every morning. Thanks to the new road, trade has picked up and cheap (mostly Chinese) wares abound: batteries, flip-flops, pots, radios, T-shirts and Bollywood DVDs. While many remain wary of China's growing political and economic involvement in Africa, in the short run it has had a transforming effect on the quality of life of many of the continent's poorest. 

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