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U.S. Blamed for Somali Conflict

quarta-feira 24 de janeiro de 2007, por ,

The U.S. came under heavy criticism on the third day of the World Social Forum (WSF). Delegates held demonstrations, blaming the U.S. for fueling the current conflict in Somalia. The U.S. has been backing the Ethiopian forces who occupy Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and who recently ousted the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) government.

Elsewhere, Kenya’s Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai appealed for debt forgiveness to African countries. Delivering a keynote address at the World Social Forum on illegitimate debt dialogue, she noted that slum dwellers die because they cannot access medicine as their governments continue to repay debts.

Maathai observed that the debt crisis remains one of the key obstacles on the African continent. "Despite improved democratization process and improved governance in many countries, the debt burden continues to impede the empowerment of people on reduction of poverty in many countries of our developing nations," said Maathai.

She lamented that the loans now being repaid were not for the benefit of the people but were used to oppress them instead. "It is no secret that a number of the loans given to many dictatorial, unaccountable and irresponsible leaders in African countries were never intended to be of the benefit of the people," she observed.

Meanwhile, women and children in the slums bear the heaviest brunt of the HIV/AIDS scourge according to U.N.-HABITAT Executive Director Dr. Anna Tibaijuka. Noting that the slums pose serious challenges to action to prevent, treat and effectively address issues related to the pandemic, Tibaijuka warned that the fight against social injustices could only be won if special attention was given to human settlements.

She regretted that some women were condemned to poverty, as they do not own land and property. "Others turn to prostitution as a survival strategy, which exposes them to HIV/AIDS, sexual exploitation and abuse, and the dangers of being trafficked across boarders," she noted.

The 7th World Social Forum (WSF) being held in Nairobi, Kenya under the theme "People’s Struggles, People’s Alternatives" has brought together activists, social movements, networks, coalitions and other progressive forces from Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean, North America, Europe and all corners of Africa. This is the first time the forum is being held in Africa. This five-day forum of cultural renaissance and celebration involves panel discussions, workshops, symposia, processions and film nights.

Rallying under the call of "Another World Is Possible," the WSF aims to place social justice, international solidarity, gender equality, peace and defense of the environment on the agenda of the world’s peoples. The WSF also aims to collectively expand the democratic spaces of those seeking concrete, sustainable and progressive alternatives to imperialist globalization.

According to the organizers, the WSF is, to use a Kiswahili word, a global Jukwaa — in other words, an international platform. To quote from the Porto Alegre Charter it is "an open meeting place where groups and movements of civil society opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism, but engaged in building a planetary society centered on the human person, come together to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action."

The WSF Nairobi 2007 also aims to be an opportunity to showcase African social movements, Africa’s history of struggle against foreign domination, colonialism and neo-colonialism as well as Africa’s rich heritage of natural wealth, cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity.

The forum opened on Jan. 20 with a peace march from Kibera, the largest slum settlement in Africa. The march was flagged off at the Kibera District Officer’s grounds by Zambia’s former president, Kenneth Kaunda. "We are aiming for a world in which all people, white and black, rich and poor, shall be seen equal in the eyes of God. A society in which man shall not be exploited by fellow men," said Kaunda.

Italian peace organizations Tavolla de la Pace and Amani Onlus funded the peace march, which was co-ordinated by Africa Peace Point (APP), an umbrella organization of grassroots peace initiatives in Kenya and Koinonia Community, a lay Christian organization. APP drew on its extensive experience of organizing such events, especially the annual Nairobi International Peace Rally held to mark the U.N. International Day of Peace to literally deliver the slum dwellers to the opening ceremony at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.

The forum organizers could not have chosen a better venue for the launch. Gripped by tensions ahead of this year’s general elections to be held in December, Kibera is set to benefit from the peace initiative.

The World Social Forum, taking place in Africa for the first time, is a forum that brings together activists, social movements, networks, coalitions and other progressive forces of cultural resistance and celebration. Key continental figures including South Africa’s Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu are attending the forum.

Ver online : Zachary Ochieng (Zach)