THE WORLD SOCIAL FORUM 2007 OPENS AT NAIROBI
Nairobi. January 20, 2007. At 10 a.m. large numbers of WSF2007 participants began gathering at the poor neighborhood of Kibera to march through downtown Nairobi to the Uhuru Park. At about 2pm the official opening ceremony started with a welcome speech by members of the International Committee and of the Africa Social Forum. Solidarity statements from all continents were heard and magnificent performances by young African artists were presented.
The Boston Delegation was composed for this day by Jeanne Koopman, Dorotea Manuela and Sergio Reyes only. Thomas Ponniah is expected to arrive tonight and Jesse Diaz next Monday. Our day began with picking up our credentials as participants. This process took place at the Kenyatta Conference Center and it was well organized, with about 12 young Kenyan volunteers processing registration on-line armed with laptops. Nonetheless, the process took about an hour to completion.
After registration we joined in the opening ceremony in progress and unfurled our banner, which called the attention of many in attendance, who took pictures of the banner and some picked copies of our proposal, "Transnational Unity in the Struggle for Migrant Workers Rights".
Later on we took a long trip to Kasarani about 15 miles from the Kenyatta Conference Center, to survey the place where workshops and presentations will start tomorrow, Sunday. Although the distance from one point to the other is not that far, the typically congested traffic in Nairobi, accompanied by pretty bad pollution, made the trip painfully slow. The Moi sports complex has been transformed into a conference center by erecting tent ceilings in some areas of the stadium balconies, and full tents on the grounds surrounding the gigantic oval building. As of the time that we visited the place, tent construction was still going on.
While the solidarity messages were clearly in favor of progressive politics and "Down with Bush, Down!" slogans were heard frequently, no major announcement of great significance was part of the program. I calculated between 5000 to 8000 people in attendance at the rally. The organizers still expect about 80,000 including 50,000 participants, although it didn't feel like so at the rally or the registration. The majority of those expected are from the African continent, and that was apparent although there was plenty of presence from the U.S. and Europe. With the exception of Brazil, not many where noted from Latin America.
The expenses of the forum are expected to run at about $200 million shillings, about $3 million dollars at the current exchange rate. The Kenyan government promised to contribute $368,000 dollars. In terms of contributions, registration and others, the organizers have already collected about $1.8 million dollars.
The Boston Delegation work will continue tomorrow Sunday, with our members attending different presentations related to the subject of migrant workers rights. We will continue to report daily unless we have problems accessing the Internet.
Report submitted by Sergio Reyes