Use the catalog to search for primary sources contained within articles and books.
The New York Times creates country profiles with a chronology of news stories and sometimes links to other sources. This can give you a good overview of current affairs in that country. Here's an example on Kenya. To find profiles, do a search on the name of the country.
Full text NYT articles are only available online back to 1980 in the Nexis Uni database. To find older articles, go to the NYT website and use the search box on the top left side of the page. On the results page you can click "Restrict by Date Range" and sort articles by date. Articles from the 1880s to current are available. Unless you have a subscription to online content, you are limited to viewing 10 NYT articles a month.
Some articles at the NYT website are not available full text. The library owns microfilm of issues from 1923-2005 which can be viewed and printed on the first floor of the library.