Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Tuesday 23rd January 2007, Moi International Sports Complex

So much has happened I don’t know where to begin.

However, I think I’ll start with a huge ARGH in relation to internet access here. I wasn’t expecting it to be easy to get online, but I thought it would at least be occasionally possible; however, the network is constantly down both here and at Jenny’s house; as the Forum runs from 8.30am to 8pm each day, we never have a chance to look for internet access anywhere else. It’s looking as though this blog is all going to come in a lump on Thursday – that’s the earliest that we’ll be able to look for an internet café or summat. Ho hum.

Anyway, back to the far-too-much-happening thing. This morning, a deputation of Kenyans who’d been unable to afford the $7 entry fee marched up to the Forum gates and demanded entry…just as Jess and I were arriving. They blocked the traffic on the entrance road until the guards opened the outer gates to let them in. Cheering and singing (African demonstrations beat UK ones hands down), the crowd marched into the complex, and I immediately realised that this was far more important and exciting than the workshop I was meant to be going to, and joined the procession (who were singing “This is wrong, this is wrong” in Kiswahili, with harmonies and ululations and, most importantly, without a megaphone or a bad rhyme for “Bush” or “Blair” to be heard or seen).

The best possible placard - direct, to the point, and not featuring a "Socialist Worker" logo.

The T-Shirt reads: "We are POOR but...we come together, we save daily, we make collective decisions, we negotiate with these Strengths - Kenyan Slum Dwellers Association,"

The inner gates parted and the demonstration poured in. After some (well-managed) internal debate, the procession of disenfranchised Kenyans (plus various media types and other hangers-on) decided to march to the office of the organising committee. The committee weren’t there – they were in a press briefing downstairs. The march duly marched into the press briefing, and took it over.

Remember that guy Charles we met back in Uhuru Park? Well, here he is again (holding the flag), this time triumphantly marching into the Forum with the procession. Afterwards, we had lunch and he nearly fell asleep into his rice as I wittered on enthusiastically about how amazing they all were (he'd been up marching since 5am all the way from Kibera). Finally, he had to head home and I told him I'd learned a lot from him, and he sort of smiled wryly, and now I'll probably never see him again.

A brilliant moment where the march met another march (full of dispossessed people) coming the other way.

At this point, there were some incredible speeches from representatives of the “People’s Parliament”, most of whom seem to live in the Nairobi slums. “How can you start this Forum with a march through the slums, and then deny those who live there a chance to attend? If you visit the slums, you see the worst of us – you see only our misery and our poverty. You do not see the best of us. We have come here to show you the best of us – our energy, our ideas, our experiences. We have so much to contribute to this Forum - how can you have a debate on the solutions to poverty and exclude the poor?”

Thus spoke one amazing young woman from Kibera (later identified as Wangui Mbatia) - or words to that effect. Jess and I tried to film some of it – we’ll try to put it up online (if we ever get online).

The organisers listened, and responded, and now Kenyans can get in for free, and free water and cheaper food is going to be available. The whole thing was utterly brilliant and inspiring and what the WSF is all about, even if it never should have had to happen in the first place.

Since then, I’ve linked up with students activists from across the world, as well as communities feeling the impact of oil and extractive mining projects…the accomplished missions are clocking up. Still LOADS to do here though, and so much to report, and too little time…

Hope to post again soon with more hot news,


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