Photo: Bush doll during a march in WSF 2005, by Marcello Casal Jr/ABr
The road to this event has been long and arduous. Members of the Social Forums in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda attended the 3rd African Social Forum (ASF) in Lusaka, Zambia, in December 2004. It was during this Forum that the idea of the Eastern African countries jointly applying to host the World Social Forum in 2007 was tabled by the Kenyan delegation, which had earlier informally expressed interest. Hosting the WSF the bidders observed, “would enhance closer cooperation of East Africans at the social movement level because social movements in the region were at various levels of political mobilisation and conscientisation. The hosting of WSF would catalyse the politicisation of social movements in the region”
Space for dialogue
The WSF is a movement that seeks to challenge corporate globalisation and “offer progressive forces in Africa the opportunity, following the huge range of popular resistances during the nineties, to significantly set their fights and their alternatives in a global society seeking the construction of a fair world with more solidarity and respect for People’s sovereignty.”
The goal of the WSF is not to produce agreements on specific policy positions but to offer a space for dialogue and engagement, with resources to strategise, network and plan joint ventures for the future. It has been successful in creating a loose network of forces around the world who advocate for social, political and economic justice. It has often been called an “anti-globalisation” movement, but is in fact one of the most globalised movements in the history of social justice.
What is one to expect in Nairobi 2007?
Release Political Prisoners Pressure Group, founded in the early nineties by parents, comrades and supporters (some of them former political inmates) of political prisoners, to press for the unconditional release of political prisoners a feat they achieved phenomenally will be parading their fourteen years of militant, socialist leaning world view in patriotic cultural performance that no one should miss.
Bunge la Mwananchi a forum formed during the upsurge of the push for multi-party democracy in 1992, to champion issues of concern to the common man will be showcasing their struggles around for example its opposition to the one Nile Treaty that favoured Europe as opposed to bequeathing more water rights to East Africans who lived around the source of one of the world’s longest and politically most strategic waterways. The group will be sharing its struggles against the Magadi Soda company- a subsidiary of a multinational- arguing that the lopsided lease to the company should not be renewed because it was high time Kenyans benefited from their natural wealth. The group will be carrying out its fierce daily open air “parliamentary” public debates on matters of national importance that they have been holding in public parks all over Kenya.
The Kenya Land Alliance will lead the land-based Kenyan movements who have spearheaded the national debates and struggles around land-grabbing, land occupations and agrarian reform in the country to exhibit the daily struggles of landless people in Kenya. There will be many others in the street festival; the Youth Agenda that has been organizing the youth of Kenya, the Coast Social Forum and the Ujamaa movement that has led the struggles of the marginalized coastal communities, the Yiaku Peoples Organisation an indigenous peoples forum of a community under threat of extinction, the Kenya Human Rights Network a national lobby of human rights organizations in Kenya, the Forest Action Network a leading network on environment, the Friends of Yala Swamp a lobby that is fighting against the destruction of Yala Swamp a wetland by a multinational Dominion Group of Companies among others.
The All Africa Conference of Churches, Justice and Peace Commissions of the Catholic and Anglican faiths, the National Council of Christian Churches in Kenya, Young Muslims Association, The Muslim Human Rights Forum, Muslim for Human Rights and other faith-based bodies flowing directly from Kenya’s history of anti-colonial struggle and faith based social justice oriented formations which often defy the conformist tendencies of the various pro-state religious hierarchies will lead the ecumenical platforms against globalisation.
A long row of issues
The WSF Nairobi will not be simply a popularized gathering of wealthy NGOs and funders as critics have labeled past forums. The forum will address topics such as war and militarisation, security and peace; globalised neoliberalism; aggression against peasantry; the alliance between patriarchal and neo-liberal systems; culture, media and communication; destruction of ecosystems, biological diversity and resources control; international order and the role of the UN; international trade, debt and economic and social policies; social fights, human rights, social organisations and political rights; alternatives all with meaning for Africa. This movement will be entrenching itself in Africa a continent most affected by injustices of capital.
Thousands of people from across the world who work in many different areas and have diverse outlooks, not only about the problems that the world faces, but also in their beliefs about how these problems should be tackled will invade Nairobi marching, singing, shouting slogans and doing debates in a world where neo-liberalism has run riot and poverty continues to deepen by the day. These actions alone will be a big statement for Africa.
Patrick Ochieng is Ujamaa Center and Steering Committee Member KSF