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Egypt inspires others at World Social Forum in Senegal

The uprising in Egypt gave a positive boost to the closing of the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal. Participants said Egypt had showed that people can change their world for the better.

Women marching with banners

The event opened with a mass march through Dakar

At the 11th World Social Forum in Dakar, participants gathered under the motto of "another world is possible," and in the shadow of the regime-changing events in Tunisia and Egypt.

The WSF is an open meeting of people from social movements, networks, NGOs and other civil society organizations who all come under the umbrella of being "opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital."

Egypt 's example

"The protests show that there is some truth to what we have thought over the last ten years," said Taoufik Ben Abdallah, a member of the World Social Forum's organizational committee. "The will of the people must be strengthened and supported. I believe the Forum has exactly these functions: to abolish dictatorships and to change policies."

Protesters in Egypt

The success of protests in Egypt encouraged the WSF

For the Egyptian participants at the Forum, hopes of change were high. People have been inspired by the protests they have seen take place in their country.

"The movement in Egypt is full of political young people who are organizing themselves in their millions," said Egyptian economist Samir Amin.

He wants the people themselves to determine the future of their country. For example, to define their own foreign policy away from the influence of other countries like the United States.

Promoting social movements

At the meeting, several issues affecting African countries were on the agenda – democracy, the exploitation of African natural resources, the debt burden that weighs on African countries. Also, various human rights groups gathered to create a so-called "African consensus" to counter the market-dominated "Washington consensus."

Emancipation from industrial northern nations is also what many of the African participants are wishing for.

Bolivian President Evo Morales speaking

Bolivian President Evo Morales was a key speaker

"We need new leadership in Africa," said Demba Moussa Dembelle from the Sengalese Social Forum. "Leadership that is pan-African and can speak on behalf of the interests of the African people."

At the heart of this year's Forum was the idea of developing global social movements to develop democratic alternatives and move out of political, institutional and economic deadlock. Dembelle argued the World Social Forum could have done more to promote social movements in Africa. He believes social movements have become stronger in recent years and points to the spontaneous protests against ongoing electricity shortages in Senegal.

Student Abdourahimoune Bassirou from Niger attended a meeting about dictatorships on the last day of the conference. He too thinks social movements are the way forward, so people can "take matters into their own hands."

"African governments are accomplices of the capitalists and the companies that represent these capitalists," Bassirou said.

Talking shop?

Participants like Dembelle argued the World Social Forum is just a talking shop – discussing much and doing little. Organizers countered this criticism, saying the Forum is a platform for future, worldwide mobilization. For example, various organizations met on the last day of the Forum to declare December 18 a worldwide day of protest against racism against migrants and refugees.

Despite big plans and visions for the future, the meeting highlighted great deficiencies in the present. The venue for the meeting – a university in Dakar – did not have enough free space for the event, and students also complained about a lack of information or of not being included in the debate.

Author: Renate Krieger (cb)
Editor: Kyle James

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