January 21, 2007

Report from the World Social Forum-Nairobi [21 January, 2007]

[This is an initial report from two folks from the agricultural US Midwest who are delegates attending the 2007 World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. If they flag in reporting over the next few days, Fire on the Mountain will post some material they wrote on the plane from NYC to Nairobi with background on their participation.]


Hello, this is A. sharing my experiences in Nairobi, Kenya and at the World Social Forum.

Yesterday was a bit confusing--we had a hard time finding the La Via Compasina tent and getting a program but finally we did. We ended up being really tired because of the walking around, but it was wonderful in another way seeing all the people from around the world and lots of Black participation. There were over 1200 workshops being presented on any given day, a little overwhelming of course. My strategy was to stick to food sovereignty, small farmer and landless related workshop, mostly go with the La Via Compasina program and to try anc peek in on Grassroots Global Justice, and the US Social Forum.

Ag missions held a workshop on 1/21 on strategies for food soveriengty , and it went really well. S gave an excellent presentation, outlining the history of National Family Farm Coalition and Missouri Rural Crisis Center, highlighting some of their victories and strategies.

I got my hair twisted by some young Kenyan friends I met here in Narobi, Diana Kamidi, Pemimah Adeyo, Abigael Kigasha and Monica Yhienma. Diana comes from a dairy farm family, and does varies things, including braiding hair to make money. I have collected their contact information for further communication. One of the young ladies had a degree in nutrition but she said her expertise was dairy farming, her parents owned a dairy farm so she was interested in what we were doing here and would like to come to the US to teach Swahili. I think I will invite them to the GGJ reception tonight.


A short post.

There are not nearly as many people, or as much energy, as in previous WSFs. A very wide diversity of people, of course, but generally dominated by NGOs and various forms of reformist politics. The only socialism I've run across so far was the "Socialism from Below" group, a Trotskyist group that had some people here. I attended briefly a session on "Socialism in the 21st Century" in the Amilcar Cabral space. Given my significant appreciation of Cabral from back in my study days, I was very disappointed to hear nothing but very superficial talk about the working class, socialism, communism, what they are, the fact they to get there we need an international revolutionary organization, but NOTHING about how to get there. Mainly the Trotskyist group was represented. There were about 29 people there, and only two women, neither of whom spoke.

The delegation from La Via Campesina (LVC), however, is kickass. We finally found their tent and hooked up the Kenyan and Ugandan peasants who are part of our delegation with them. They immediately welcomed the Kenyan farmers into their Action Planning meeting (one of 3 units at work during the WSF), which they hoped to have a focus on Kenyan farmers. It was an interesting dynamic, in that the Kenyans are fairly isolated from farmers in the rest of Kenya, as well as from revolutionary, activist politics. The Kenyans did come forward with some ideas for an action, but tended to be cautious about what can we pull together by Friday, whereas the LVC activists are quite experienced in knowing how to reach out and make things happen even in new territory.

The Kenyans and Ugandans did return for the LVC delegation meeting at the end of the day today, though they had nothing to say, but it was a good sign they returned. LVC meetings are always translated into English, Spanish, and French, plus today, special translation to one person from Indonesia and another in an African dialect. The LVC delegation is about 30 people plus another 30, including our group of about 10, joined in the meeting. Farmers from several African countries, though previously no Kenyans. From Europe, especially France. From Latin America. From Indonesia and Nepal. From the US. The Brazilians brought in the Minister for Racial Equality from the Lula government who spoke about their 0f hunger policy and the new efforts at racial equality. Very impressive to see a woman Minister of Racial Equality speak, and then be thanked and acknowledged by the woman leader of LVC.

Two other short tidbits for now:

I ran into some people from, I believe it was, GWIU (General Workers Independent Union), or something like that, from South Africa. Their t-shirts proclaiming that democratic, worker-controlled unions make workers STRONG caused me to stop and talk with them. They had broken from COSATU some years back, but claim they are now 15,000 strong and in negotiations to rejoin COSATU. Anyone else know about them?

The Kenyan Government Workers union delegation talked with us for some time. One leader, in particular, talked about trying to run for parliament. He would represent the poorest slums in Africa, but said he had not yet been able to convince voters there that he, a worker, could represent them better than the incumbent who has never been poor and lives miles away in the rich man's zone in Nairobi. He said the people are overwhelmingly focused on "can you give me some money or some food", in one form or another, which he cannot do but the incumbent can do. Until people get at least two meals a day, it's hard to get them to vote using the brain rather than the stomach, he said. He hoped to eventually turn this around by working with young people to develop a generation that could use their brains.

Too tired to do more now.

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