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WSF 2007 Nairobi Press Briefing January 22

(These are my notes from a January 22 press briefing. Sorry, my spelling of names is off; can someone please correct?) Prof Edward Onyugi? (Sunet), lead organization of Nairobi forum Moema Miranda (IBASE) Taoufik Bin Abdullah? (Enda), secretariat of African Social Forum Omar? (South and East Africa Trade Institute, Seatini)

Highlight history and direction of forum, and where it is going.

Edward: Forum opening w/ march and ceremony in Uhuru park, and discussions began in earnest yesterday. Several hitches, things not in place in time. But we console ourselves that the forum is a process that always faces challenges but then settles down. We’ve sorted out transfer of registration from KICC to Kasarani, and problem of translation equipment not arriving on time. Several experiments this year, esp. “4th day” when groups come together to plan and strategize future directions and actions. We hope it will add value to momentum and growth of forum. People will come with proposals that they will discuss. Help us analyze this at end whether it is an experience worth keeping, modifying, improving. This year 14 co-organized large events that are not self-organized (2 versions in program that is a bit misleading–the one in middle is more accurate). Some speakers are already listed, but others will be added. It will be worth visiting these.

Taoufik: African social movements full engaged in organizing of forum. Many consultations on African level. It came as a result of a long process in Africa, and strong discussions within IC. After Bamako began discussions to take advantage of forum. Most important event on continent in 50-60 years. Not only committed, but want to succeed. Expectations: 1. Large groups of Africans are here, and we want to build and construct idea of African unity among people (not only among states). Part of social process of unity of continent. 2. We want to reinforce our voices. We are suffering because we are not part of discussions on future. Nairobi gives us an opportunity to reinforce voices, to tell leaders that there is no future w/o us. 3. Position ourselves in continent in context of different forces trying to take control. We say no, and we want to be in control of our future and decisions. There is no future unless we are included in process. Finally, the world is here. This is not a charity forum. Be we ask others to be with us as we discuss how to shape Africa. We want to be part of the alternative agenda that comes out of this forum. Africa was present in decision-making process, but also in attendance. All countries represented–all Africa represented.

Moema: Important, and thank you all for being here. This is important after long struggle to be here. Not a miracle, but a result of long, deep, and engaged work to be here. It is easy to do the forum in Porto Alegre where we have support of a PT government and a history of working together on struggles. But it is harder here in Africa where there are more divisions. For those of us from alter-world movement, we are proud though it has not been easy. But we are proud, and we need to work together. Another world is not possible without Africa being part of the solutions. From here, working together we will make another world possible. We are inventing new ways to make forum, for example 4th-day activities. We will give visibility to all campaigns. South-South dialogue that engages the north opens avenues. What comes out of the forum? Engaging, acting. New and visible ways are coming out of Africa. It helps change and recreate world. We are building a common future with hope and justice. Recognize Kenya and Africa in organizing forum.

Q of # of delegates & registration fee: Omar: yesterday we had registered 46,000 delegates. We would have had many more Kenyans (with affordable entrance fees). But if you look at program, not all events are taking place here. Some activities taking place in slums, etc. 46K not attending, but those registered. What most people don’t realize is that all of the costs of the forum have to be met by the OC. There is no central pot of money. Forum has cost us $5M USD, and we still have pending bills. In our organizing efforts, we expected support from solidarity organizations. We received some, but fell far short of the cost. We needed to meet expenses. Some on resource committee wanted to charge more, which would have made it prohibitively expense. In October we met with social movements in Kenya, and do appreciated that most live on $1USD a day, and charging them $7USD makes it impossible to attend. So we set up solidarity fund. 7,000 members have social movements have benefits from this fund. We also promised daily entrance passes for 50 KSH, so they can attend the events they most want to. I know that there is a lot of pressure to open the gates and let everyone in. But the same people who are saying this are also saying that we are losing control–that people are losing their purses, laptops, etc. I’m not saying that poor will cause more problems, but we would know less of who is here. There are tradeoffs.

Moema: Under capitalism, everything has a price. Someone needs to pay for it. It is easier when the government pays for something. But we don’t want to compromise our autonomy. If we relied only on friendly governments, that would compromise out positions. And it is not just Kenya’s responsibility. It is our responsibility. Don’t ask what are you doing, but what am I doing. If we want a social forum, we need to find ways to support event.

Q on relation of forum to Kenyan government: Edward: we informed government, and approached minister and approved a year ago. Govt came on board as a partner to provide things like security. Meeting with police, immigration, foreign affairs, and others that we thought would have something to do with the holding the forum. In that way, our relationship is in order. They have not put in money, but in-kind with police. Coming elections: don’t want to engage in party politics. It has not interfered with our work, and we have not allowed candidates to use forum as platform for their campaigns. This is in accordance with WSF charter. (One exception, but he has long been involved in social forum process. It is important to include people who contribute to memory of resistance; not invited as opposition leader.)

Q on conflicts around Kenya: Omar: Sudan, Somali, Uganda raised resources to be here. In some cases, organized caravan to be here. Co-organized on conflicts and peace. Strong expectations that forum will help create social momentum in region. On official level, there are problems. But people here have worked to organize themselves.

Q of Palestine flag: Omar: But there are other flags. As long as it is not in conflict with Charter, it is ok. If it is, then we will react.

Q common message for Davos? Moema: another world is possible Edward: militarization needs to end. War next door is US war by proxy. This message needs to go to Davos. Moema: demonstrate deep solidarity of south. Not only deepen resistance, but look for alternatives. We need organize struggles. From old left, we thought that at teleological end the answer was there. But now the focus is on the struggle. We need to be connected and build common community. Omar: one life is worth one life. We need to stop one-way flow of resources. Mobilizing forces, and one day this will change.

Q what themes well define alt-globalization movement in years to come. Taoufik: Take responsibility–if we want to be part of new world, we need to take action to be part of that.

Q key challenge: Taoufik: before it was just a country, but here it was the entire continent which means difficulties of mobilizing social movements in 53 countries and become stake-holders in forum. If we just take example of transport, we face barrier of lack of awareness in certain sectors–and need to talk to civil society. Some did not find it necessary to take up invitation (members of regional African institutions).

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