Between University Campus and Banlieue… with an eye on Egypt.

As the forum finds a more regular pace than the halting initial, commotion and emotion is brought by dramatic confrontations between supporters of the Saharawis people and Moroccan activists allegedly on the books of the Moroccan Interior Ministry who forcefully impeded that an event to which two European parliamentarians were participating could take place. Yesterday afternoon the organisers of the forum gave a passionate press conference to engage a troubled audience indeed shocked that such events could happen in a social forum.

Taoufik ben Abdallah and Buuba Diop responded to the questions of concerned activists and explained the measures taken to keep the forum a safe and non-violent space. They also clarified the reasons for some of the chaos that is sweeping the university campus and causing some frustration in those activists who were committed to particular events and seminars that were hard to locate given to last minute allocation of rooms and time slots.

Who has been to a forum before is not particularly discouraged by the logistical confusion and fully enjoy the jamboree in the alleys and avenues of the solidarity village in which colourful performance of impromptu theatre and dances, music and organic agriculture demonstrations are provided by enthusiastic artists and activists. It seems at time that the table games organised by the hosts of this huge party have been left unattended by the guests who cannot stop mingling, chatting and dancing. Among activists from the four corners of the planet, students touchingly blasé about the chaos around the rooms in which they are taking, would you believe it, term exams in these very days. And when the day is over they join in the dances or roam the campus invaded by thousands of smiling faces.

And these days activists are well versed in the new tactics of flash communication whose irresistible power has been shown in the streets of Egypt. When a meeting place is decided light-fast rounds of sms messages are fired and people converge where the activities are held. This practice might indeed be a practical training for fast and effective communication, horizontal communication at that, for organising events, activities, protests. And the quality and nature of communication in this day and age is what I seem to hear the most not only in the buzzing alternative communication centre on the second floor of the central university library where media activists file their pieces and discuss communication strategy for the new millennium, but in the streets of the campus as well where.

Young activist Salma el Naqqash from Egypt told us how the longest and more powerful protests, the world revolution starts seeming less inappropriate by the day, for decades (and not only in Egypt or in the region) has been coordinated with cellphones and text messages. Watch her interview

and the second part on our youtube channel

And whereas some in the press room points accusing fingers at supposedly unbridgeable generational gaps between the TV generation and the Internet generation, the smart team, and young indeed, of the WSF International Secretariat is wildly using cellphones to reach out. This is how I heard of the extemporaneous press conference by Ben Abdallah and Diop yesterday, thanks to a message sent by Thais Chita and Helio Menezes. Among the many things the WSF is learning along the way, this might one of the most in line with the experiences of XXI century activism as developed by activists, on the ground.

Away from the campus, activities are not less vibrant. Yesterday morning I left the comfortable centre of Dakar and I joined a group of right to the city and right to housing activists. Members of Habitat International Coalition, guided by the cheerful and most efficient Secretary General, Ana Sugranyes and her team of valiant co-organisers, converged to the Hamo salle des fetes by the municipal library of Guédiawaye to join activists of the International Alliance of Inhabitants, Cerpac (the host organisation in a sense as it is based in the neighbourhood), ENDA, AITEC and No-Vox.

The opportunity was provided by the desire voiced by the organisers of the event to give a strong symbolic message to the WSF by showing at least some of its unaware activists that solidarity spaces can and indeed should be constructed where people most suffer the inhumanity of urban alienation and precariousness and that the people living in those distant neighbourhoods where they are pushed by the force of serial evictions and unaffordable decent housing are indeed among the most valuable cultural, political and human partners in the WSF fight for another, better, more just and equal world.

On the bus there and back Ana Sugranyes told me about the World Assembly of Inhabitants and the double tension it wanted to represent within the WSF space: an opportunity to symbolically link the centre and the periphery of the city through a set of decentralised initiatives. Activists from dozens of countries visited the banlieue of Dakar and dozens of citizens from the Banlieue were and will be in the next few days welcomed in the Village of Inhabitants in the core of the University. Back to the campus in the afternoon I joined a workshop on resisting forced evictions. Activists from a dozen countries, US, UK, Zimbabwe, Ghana, the Dominican Republic, Kenya and Russia to mention just a few, shared their experience and knowledge on how to deal with the traumatic experience of forceful eviction and of living under its constant threat.

Among the hard stories a note of excitement for the success of a demonstration organised on the 7th afternoon in front of the Ghaneian embassy to protest against the forced eviction of 25,000 people from railway owned land. The coordintor of the inhabitants of the Old Fadama neighborhood finished its speech with a note of hope that if all people at risk of forced eviction on the planet (and their number is growing daily as municipalities all over the world compete ruthlessly to achieve neoliberal urban ideals of “world class cities”) join forces they could indeed contribute to reformulate a development model that is no conducive to humane, just and sustainable communities.

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One Response to Between University Campus and Banlieue… with an eye on Egypt.

  1. Geoffrey says:

    Excellent text and great interview. The atmosphere, challenges and pleasure of the Dakar forum, altogether in a few lines. Very well done Giu!

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