Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Sunday 21st January, 3pm, Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani, Nairobi Outskirts

Just a quick update in between sessions…

I’m sitting on the grass in the shade of a huge concrete stairwell leading up into the nearby stadium. Various people are drifting onto and away from the grass around me, but this is a fairly quiet corner to write a paragraph or two.

The Moi International Sports Stadium (in the background here) is essentially the big boss alien's base that you have to blow up at the end of the game. Moi himself was of course a particularly oppressive and corrupt President of Kenya, which probably just goes to show, or something.

It’s amazing here. I knew it would be, but, well, that doesn’t make it any less true. The sports complex where the main Forum events are being held is an extraordinary place, a huge concrete beast built in 1982 (by the Chinese) for the Pan-African Games, and then not been used since. Apparently the place was largely derelict, and several offices and corridors had to be cleared of rubble and debris in advance of the Forum.

This huge, immediately obsolete sports arena greatly improved President Moi's popularity throughout the 80s and 90s, and all the imprisoned anti-government protestors hailed it as a great use of their tax money.

The main stadium is the venue for most of the events, with stalls from different organisations arranged in a ring around the outside. There are literally hundreds of clashing events going on, from a bewildering array of organisations. The whole place has the feel of a festival, complete with that feeling of Festival Panic (“There’s just too much! I’ll never see it all! Argh!”). I’ve just been to my first proper workshop – a look at possible future global trends in technology, democracy and corporate power, with an amazing selection of speakers – Walden Bello, Vandana Shiva, and Larry Lohmann amongst others. Extremely interesting (and scary/inspiring) stuff, even if the audience was the whitest place I have been since arriving in Kenya…I managed to fight through the scrum of “independent media” that had clustered around Dr Shiva at the end, to ask “What should UK activists be doing to support grassroots movements in India?”. Her answer was simple: “Shell and BP are threatening to take our land to grow biofuels. They need to be challenged. That land is needed to grow food for the people of India.” She gave me some contacts to follow up…so yes, the missions have already begun.

Vandana Shiva listens, enthralled, to Larry Lohmann's speech

Anyway. I’m now being chatted up by some Kenyan girls so I’d better get to the next session before Jess spots me.

Plenty more to say later!


Yes! It's me! I'm actually here! And so is my good friend the huge cardboard crocodile!

PS Internet access is a real problem. Don’t know when I’ll be able to post this.


Anonymous said...

Kasarani Sports Centre is not obsolete! It is used by Kenyan Premier League football sides, Tusker FC & Mathare United, for some games of the Kenya National Football Side (along with Nyayo National Stadium (also named after President Moi)), and for many athletics trials and meets. The adjacent sports complex is also used for various sporting meets for competitors throughout Kenya.

Danny said...

Thanks anonymous - I honestly did not know that.

Good to know it's not a total white elephant (thanks in part to Tusker FC) - but it definitely needed a lot of work before the WSF could take place there. Large sections of it were out of use and needed clearing of debris to create meeting spaces.

I guess a better description would be overspecified rather than obsolete - a smaller sports centre would have done the job just as well, but would have served as less of an ego prop for an authoritarian President.

Anyway, thanks for the bit of education there!