Preview: Reflecting the spirit of peoples who have refused to die Print E-mail
 Nairobi -- Friday January 19 2007

Forum embodies resilience

Official says it is a manifestation of people’s struggle


Katiba Watch lobbyists Ms Wahu Kahara and Mr Martin Shikuku flee as tear gas canisters explode behind them during a July 2004 rally demanding constitution reform for Kenya.

By NICK THIONGO

The World Social Forum (WSF) is a manifestation of the spirit of the people who have refused to die, a Kenya activist Wahu Kahara has said.

These are the people who have refused to be excluded from participating in the global economy, yet they are not about to give up the struggles for a better live, Wahu said in an interview yesterday.

She spoke as tens of thousands of delegates from around the world continued to arrive in Nairobi for the historic WSF meeting.

The themes for the seventh WSF is ‘People’s struggles, people’s alternatives ­ Another world is possible’. Topics to be addressed include HIV/Aids, gender, privatisation, landlessness, peace and conflict, youth issues, debt relief, free trade agreements, labour and housing.

The forum styles itself as an open gathering where ordinary people, groups and movements opposed to the forces of capitalism can reflect and exchange ideas to further social equity.

“The World Social Forum is not a conference but a space where issues at the centre of concern find graphic presentation,” said Oduor Ong’wen, one of the civil society organisers. He said there would be hundreds of activities, including open debating sessions, seminars, workshops, processions, cultural presentations and screening of documentaries.

The forum is also intended to counter the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where leaders from business, politics, academia, the media and civil society discuss how to improve the world economy. Since the poor majority have virtually no voice at Davos, according to the WSF, their concerns are not taken into consideration when global economic and social policies are formulated. The WEF will take place from January 24-28.

The hosting of the WSF in Nairobi is being seen in Kenya as a major boost for local tourism, but the presence of between 80,000 and 120,000 visitors will put pressure on the city’s infrastructure.

According to Ong’wen, Nairobi’s hotels can only accommodate 42,000 people. Alternative accommodation such as tented camps and hostels will hold another 37,000 guests. Private homeowners were also offering accommodation at a fee, and enterprising Kenyans are still expanding facilities at tented campsites on the outskirts of Nairobi.

The opening ceremony will be held at Uhuru Park tomorrow. Most of the other activities will take place at the Kasarani Sports Stadium, about 10km east of the city centre.

Towfique ben Abdallah, a social activist from Tunisia, challenged governments in developing countries to respond to the wishes of the people and adopt policies that improved their welfare.