With a renewed vigour and fresh intensity, the World Social Forum feels like it’s beginning to hit its stride. Thanks to the Kenyan activists’ inspiring agitation, there is a feeling of genuine possibility in the air. WSF Organizers have made good on some of their assurances that the Forum will be a more open space and those unable to pay will be allowed in. Vendors from nearby areas are now selling food, water and wares and the prices have dropped substantially. There are more Kenyans participating and leading workshops here, and even inquisitive street kids from nearby are here seemingly dazzled by the spectacle that is the Forum. As Wangui Mbatia, one of the Kenyan activists from the People’s Parliament said: ‘They went to Kibera (ed. Nairobi’s largest slum), and saw the worst part of our poverty. Now we want to come here for the Forum to see the best part of us.’
It is unfortunate that things couldn’t have started out this way, as there is now a residue of ill-feeling and questions remain particularly with regards to the corporate sponsorship and the future of the World Social Forum. These questions were being asked by a group of around 100 protestors gathered around one of the main gates to the Kasarani stadium, chanting slogans and holding placards reading: ‘Multinationals profit, empty plates at the WSF!’ and ‘Celtel sell-outs!’
Meanwhile, a group of Pakistani activists setup a food operation nearby where they sold much more reasonably priced ‘anti-capitalist curry’ and ‘chapatis against Bush’, which were both delicious, and perhaps tasted all the better thanks to their anti-imperialist flavouring.
Spontaneous protests seem to erupt all around. Whether it be against the war in Iraq or violence against children, they have a celebratory air about them as people relish the genuine feelings of solidarity and unity that are on tap here. The work continues, and the challenge now is to make the most of the little time we have left.