World Social Forum Comes to Africa - so what? - Al Kags
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World Social Forum Comes to Africa – so what?

by Al Kags

The 7th Edition of the World Social Forum is going to be held in Africa for the very first time – in Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Conference Centre no less. At least 70,000 delegates from around the world are expected to descend upon Nairobi from the 20th of January this year until the 25th of January.

The WSF Kenya website wsf2007.org says this of the conferece:

“From its modest origins in Porto Alegre in the year 2001, the World Social Forum has mushroomed into a global counter-force challenging the assumptions and diktats of imperialism and its associated neo-liberal policies that have over the decades, imposed colonialism and neo-colonialism; devastated Southern economies; bolstered the disastrous and repressive reigns of assorted tin pot dictatorships; marginalized women; disenfranchised youth; intensified the destruction of the environment; unleashed bloody, inhuman and needless military conflicts in nation after nation, region after region and deepened the exploitation of poor peoples around the world.

Rallying around the clarion call of Another World Is Possible, the World Social Forum has placed social justice, international solidarity, gender equality, peace and defence of the environment on the agenda of the world’s peoples. From Porto Alegre to Mumbai to Bamako to Caracas, Karachi and now Nairobi, the forces and the contingents of the World Social Forum have collectively expanded the democratic spaces of those seeking concrete, sustainable and progressive alternatives to imperialist globalization.”

 I don’t know what this means. I have read and reread it several times and I find it difficult to identify with the words I am reading – probably because I don’t understand its profoundness.

I understand that is an infinitely wonderful thing for Kenya that the conference is coming in – it says we are doing some stuff right. It says that Phillip Kisia ad his team at KICC, Bwana meya at his Parlour and the city are doing their jobs well.

But I wonder about the expediency of the conferece after all is said and done. It sounds to me like a talk shop that does not have real deliverables at the end of the day. It is indisputable that the world and especially the third world has had to suffer poverty and marginalisation and despots and all. Africa knows these problems intimately.

But what actual deliverables are achieved out of these expensive talk shops? what is done  that actually makes a world of difference to our social makeup? I am told that Dialogue is a central take out from the conferences of this nature and that the more we talk the more we shall solve our problems. Really?

Will the World Social Forum save Zimbabwe from Comrade Bob or Southern Sudan from the Janjaweed? Will the World Social Forum or any other one of the miscellenious forums actually change the lives of the Somalis and the other suffering masses? I suspect it will for the five days or a month after, sort out a few Kibera dwellers Ugali and a few beers for the more opulent Nairobians involved but will it change our lives?

To put it in a nutshell, I am not convenced that this conference has any more utility to Africa and the world as it is touted to have.

Be that as it may, talk shops are a good break and for the people that attend them, a nice experience.

Comments

comments

Al Kags
alkags@good.co.ke
19 Comments
  • Vee
    Posted at 14:32h, 12 January

    What is wrong with “talking shop”? I think that is the fabric of society, it’s what keeps us together. If Kenyans stopped talking, arguing and discussing the political situation in Kenya I think we would have died. I don’t think that WSF has any use to Africa until Africa has use for itself. No one will bring us solutions, but we have to hear what others have to say until it’s drummed into us and we start believing we have our own destiny in our hands. And if any African thinks we shall be saved from our vices because of this five-day-forum then that’s the plague of ignorance that will send us to our graves.

    Personally I appreciate the mission for WSF coming to Nairobi; which is as follows:

    “WSF Nairobi 2007 will be an opportunity to showcase Africa and her social movements; Africa and her unbroken history of struggle against foreign domination, colonialism and neo-colonialism; Africa and her rich heritage of natural wealth, cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity; Africa and her reputation for embracing communities from around the world; Africa and her contributions to world civilization; Africa and her role in the quest for another possible, more progressive global human society.”

    I don’t believe that the more we talk the more we’ll save the world. Will talking save Zimbabwe from the atrocities happening to its people? NO. Will Somalia find peace at last just because of a five day shop talk as people throw ideas back and forth about the possibility of that very peace happening? NO…

    Personally, despite the people & traffic jams that will occur in Nairobi, I say World Social Forum Karibu Kenya Karibu Nairobi. Come let’s share, discuss, meet… let’s have a moment to believe that we can make a difference… because we just might. Let’s believe in idealism. Let’s connect in one way or another because disconnect is what is causing people to be hang (despite vengeance being the Lord’s), disconnect is helping us forget that we are human and that we hurt when your brother/sister hurts.

  • Onyango Oloo
    Posted at 07:21h, 13 January

    Greetings.

    It is a pity that we still have not had a chance to meet even though I have been in Nairobi (after my 18-year sojourn in Canada) for more than a year now. Please email me your mobile # again.

    I appreciate and respect your opinion. You are among millions of people around the world who share and propgate the “WSF is mere talk shop” theory.

    The mere fact that the coming of the World Social Forum to Nairobi, Africa has compelled you to pen your piece above shows ironically that you take it seriously enough to waste your valuable time adding to the “talk” about the World Social Forum.

    Get your facts right though: the WSF is NOT taking place at the KICC. I am surprised you are unaware of the real venue despite the tons of media coverage in the Daily Nation, Standard, Kenya Times and other media outlets- not mentioning the WSF 2007 site itself and my own postings on various Kenyan online forums.

    Here is the beauty of the World Social Forum Al Kags:

    No one will point an AK-47 at your head and force you to go to either Uhuru Park for the opening and closing ceremony or to the Moi International Sports Centre for the rest of the activities. In fact I recommend that you stay in your keja composing another piece for your blog about how pointless, useless, gutless and aimless the World Social Forum- even as tens of thousands of activists, social movements, marginalized communities network and strategize on concrete alternatives to neo-liberalism, poverty and other obstacles to sustainable development.

    It never ceases to amaze me how my fellow Kenyans rush to be the first to trash things happening in their own country with their fellow Kenyans at the core. Such self-hatred would be comical if it was not so tragic.

    Onyango Oloo
    National Coordinator
    Kenya Social Forum @ WSF 2007 Secretariat

  • Vee
    Posted at 08:37h, 13 January

    Mr. Oloo I know this is not the forum to ask but I have no other way of contacting you. I would like to have more information on the Kenya Social Forum. I can’t seem to find anything online. Please email me violcanic@gmail.com. Thankyou.

    It’s a sad reality that unless some prominent (read political) or foreigner comes to say that something in Kenya is good… Kenyans won’t appreciate what they have. Again I say that the WSF should be a positive indication that we are doing something right and that we are worthy of change, of healthy non-political discussions. That we can make a difference for myself.

  • Vee
    Posted at 08:38h, 13 January

    Mr. Oloo I know this is not the forum to ask but I have no other way of contacting you. I would like to have more information on the Kenya Social Forum. I can’t seem to find anything online. Please email me violcanic@gmail.com. Thankyou.

    It’s a sad reality that unless some prominent (read political) or foreigner comes to say that something in Kenya is good… Kenyans won’t appreciate what they have. Again I say that the WSF should be a positive indication that we are doing something right and that we are worthy of change, of healthy non-political discussions. That we can make a difference for ourselves.

  • Al Kags
    Posted at 16:38h, 13 January

    Onyango Oloo,

    Thank you for your response. I wish though instead of the angry response you would have enlightened me as to what the WSF 2007 is all about. I mean as the coordinator, one would expect that you would be able to say “Kags, what you don’t have right is that WSF is meant to…”

    See as a media practitioner I can tell you this for free: angry responses are coounter productive especially when they are as you imply based on ignorance. Maybe if I asked direct questions it would help?

    When you say this: “strategize on concrete alternatives to neo-liberalism, poverty and other obstacles to sustainable development.”

    What does it mean?

    I find that your baba sankie email box that i was accustommed to using doesn’t work. is there another?

    All the best brother.

  • Vee
    Posted at 07:09h, 19 January

    Al Kags it’s very simple: When you already go on the offensive it’s natural that Oloo would go on the defensive. Ask direct questions you’ll get direct answers.

  • Al Kags
    Posted at 08:10h, 19 January

    Vee,

    I’m sure you are right. This matter was taken up by a wider cross section of Kenyans in RCBowen (http://kenya.rcbowen.com/talk/viewtopic.php?pid=13383#p13383) and Kenyaimagine.com

    It became an interesting raging discussion, in which my friend Oloo himself, came and put in some comments. At the end of the day as someone remarked, NO ONE, not even Oloo himself, attempted to explain the WSF. Onyango Oloo is the coordinator Nationally for the event.

    As a media practioner myself, I see this as a faux pax of the highest order. See, The public – including myself, do not necessarily always ask direct questions but that they are ddiscussing it gives you a great opportunity to explain things to them and convert them into clients/ participants.

    This did not happen with WSF. I shall go to the event and take a look for myself. I might learn something. If I do, I will blog it here.

  • alkags
    Posted at 08:17h, 19 January

    Vee,

    Also look at this discussion for your information.

    http://kenya.rcbowen.com/talk/viewtopic.php?id=3466

  • Vee
    Posted at 11:18h, 19 January

    I’m sure it makes for an exciting piece of education and or entertainment; but I would rather wait and see what people have to say after the WSF 2007 is over.

  • Vee
    Posted at 14:44h, 22 January

    “A conference is a gathering of important people who singly can do nothing,
    but together can decide that nothing can be done.”
    -Fred Allen-

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    Posted at 00:51h, 08 March

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    Posted at 17:40h, 31 March

    300 is a great movie full of visual effects and graphics which made it different and much better.
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  • xztheericzx
    Posted at 04:00h, 05 November

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    eric

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    Posted at 06:43h, 09 November

    Holla,

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    Posted at 19:28h, 30 November

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    Posted at 20:10h, 20 May

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    Posted at 13:25h, 13 June

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  • Родион Абдулов
    Posted at 12:53h, 13 January

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    Posted at 04:31h, 27 March

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