From Davos to Dakar: Carnival of oppressed begins

By Manish Chand, IANS
Monday, February 7, 2011

DAKAR - Days after the global elite’s jamboree at the Swiss resort of Davos, a week-long carnival of the oppressed and the marginalized, and those speaking for them, has begun in the capital of this western African nation, with thousands of left-leaning activists declaiming against globalization and its discontents.

The 11th edition of the annual World Social Forum (WSF) kicked off here Sunday with drumbeats of rebellion against lords of global capital and those who control the neo-liberal globalisation.

Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Dakar carrying colorful banners and chanting freedom songs, reminding the world that is still reeling from the blowback of the global meltdown that “another world is possible” - the original rallying cry that led to the founding of the WSC in Brazil 2001.

They had a long roster of grievances and spoke with the fury of righteous indignation about all the ills plaguing the global system and manipulations by the powerful, including land grabs, restrictive immigration law and, agricultural subsidies in Europe and the US to oppress and subjugate the developing world.

The march began near the offices of Senegal’s public broadcaster RTS and ended at the Cheikh Anta Diop University, the main venue for the weeklong open-ended gathering.

The popular uprising that threatens to overthrow the three-decade rule of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has galvanized a motley crowd of rebels, social justice entrepreneurs and intellectuals with a thousand pet causes.

“There must be awareness and a mobilisation to put an end to capitalism and clear away invaders, neocolonialists and imperialists,” Bolivian President Evo Morales, a former trade unionist, told the crowd, exhorting his counterparts from poor countries to stand up for the beleaguered people.

“I support the popular uprisings in Tunisia and in Egypt. These are signs of change,” he said, to much applause from the crowd.

Nearly 50,000 activists, grassroot workers and intellectuals from 120 countries are participating in the WSF which began in Brazil in 2001 as an open space where those “opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking.”

The WSF has returned to Africa after four years - it was held in Nairobi in 2007 — and is taking place in the shadow of the Egyptian revolution in the making and the rage on the Arab street that has spread from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen and Jordan, challenging entrenched dictatorships in the region.

The debates will revolve around resistance and struggles of the peoples of Africa for sustainable development as the continent zooms back into global focus, with some of African economies doing better than the developed world.

“The marginalization of Africa is an important theme at the forum. Land grabs have put the focus back on issues of social justice,” Sanusha Naidu, a South African of Indian origin, who heads Emerging Powers in Africa programme at Fahamu, a global NGO, told IANS.

“Land grabs will be an important topic of discussion. We plan to put forth an Indian perspective,” said Ajay Jha, an activist with Pairavi, a New Delhi-based NGO, who is among 40-50 Indians participating in the forum.

“It’s a chance for all those who represent the world’s downtrodden to speak amongst themselves,” said Senegalese historian Boubacar Diop Buuba, a professor at the Cheikh Anta Diop University.

“We are calling for an end to injustice in our country where the government is robbing communities of their land,” added Philip Kumah, a Ghanaian social worker who works for Amnesty International.

Besides Morales, Alpha Conde, president of Guinea (Conakry) and former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, have confirmed their participation to the meeting.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at

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