Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Conflict within WSF

As I'm typing, we are hearing reports that there has been a hijacking in Sudan and that the plane is still in the air. Things become a little more real when you are in the same continent. We heard the news while a group of us were in a minibus on our way to the World Social Forum activities.

"I just pray that everyone here gets home safe," a woman on our bus said. And there was silence on the bus, perhaps everyone was thinking about their loved ones like I was.

Amidst the inspiring disscussions, networking and work towards global solidarity here at the WSF, we find internal conflict within our own forum. In order to attend the conference a registration fee must be paid. The fee is lower for Kenyans-500 shillings or approximately $6 USD. But that is still too much for many Kenyans to afford.

This week Kenyans organized a parallel World Social Forum that is free of charge and has become a symbol of protest. A group of Kenyans who did not pay the registration fee came burst through security yesterday, managed to get in and protested against the lack of Kenyan voices within the forum. Security guards pulled out their batons, but there was no violence. Erika was a witness to this confrontation and I hope to post her pictures soon as well as a guest commentary.

Another point of frustration is the way the some Kenyan government officials have pushed it's own local people out of the forum. Within the stadium where the conference is being held there is one restaurant for about 60,000 plus people. In the last couple of days we have learned that Kenya's Minister of Defense owns this restaurant and has forced all local food vendors to set up their stalls outside of the stadium (near the parking lot). For the first couple of days no one even knew those food stalls were out there, and so had no choice but to eat at the Minister's restaurant. Local Kenyans also protested this during the confrontation yesterday, which witnesses say got extremely intense.

A conference participant just told me that another intense demonstration occured just hours ago. She said that a group took over the restaurant and demanded they feed the local Kenyan children. Both locals and conference participants stormed the kitchen and began giving food away to the Kenyan children.

"We were literally serving the kids food in their hands, on their shirts...anyway they could carry it, she said."

1 comment:

Pedro said...

Hi Nancy, I'm really enjoying your blog. Say hi to Erika for AZ and I and take care of yourselves over there.

Pedro R.