Julian Assange spoke to the World Social Forum via internet from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, but the room had no electricity and hence no
amplification and few people could hear him. Here is the audio of his comments
. As soon as he was done speaking, the electricity came back on.
Others spoke on the panel about other topics, including the role of wikileaks in the Tunisian revolution. An independent
journalist from Morocco said,
“Without internet there would have been no Arab Spring in Morocco. Without
internet I would have been imprisoned.”
Five Years On: Voices from the Margins
Five Years On – Panel
I: Success and Failure of Strategies for Political Change in the MENA Region
Panel II: Voices from the Margins: Youth activists from the non-center in
Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco.
(Notes from a World
Social Forum panel, March 27, 2015. I have audio with speakers in Arabic if
anyone wants it.)
Demands were jobs, freedom, and dignity. Mostly economic demands. No other
alternative but immigration. Second demand was for freedom, political
liberties: free elections, trade unions, form associations, protests, freedom
of opinion, expression, religion. Third slogan: national dignity, most difficult.
Not all agree on definition, but all opposed to tyrannical regime. Wanted to
show civilization and culture that goes back to Carthage. Dictatorship tries to erase
Tunisian cultural identity and history. Purpose was to fragment people. What
has changed since the revolution? Freedom was major achievement. Everyone is
able to express themselves: freedom of expression and belief. All forms of
freedom, including collective and individual. Employment hasn’t improved. State
action not enough, also see civil society. In terms of dignity, better than
others. Before some Tunisians rejected citizenship, but now more dignity.
Were political demands, both republicans and monarchs but agreement to oppose
oppression. Economic demands for jobs, salaries, etc. What have we achieved?
State has been smart in way it has dealt with protests: open and accept
demands. Violent repression. King promises reforms. Continued until adoption of
2011 constitution, but wasn’t democratic. Wanted to please everyone. King still
controls army and judicial system. Chapter on rights and liberties,
universalities. Constitution that was meant to improve situation was not
implemented and practices did not change, no legislative reforms. Protests:
broke wall of fear. Moroccans no longer afraid to ask for rights. People still
protest once a month. Youth still convinced that much needs to be done. People
still encouraged to protest.
Repression of freedom of expression. No peaceful alternation of power. Opposition
is repressed. Issues of employment and immigration. With fall in salaries, half
live under poverty level. Tribal conflicts. Education and health: High
mortality rates, lower level of education, difficulties in accessing education,
esp. in rural areas. After fall of communism, attempt to unify north &
south but massacres and state violence. New demands repressed. Conflicts
between Muslims. Spontaneous revolution without ideology and we are still suffering
today because of lack of capacity to manage process. Interests imposed over
social demands. Badly managed revolution because of lack of education and
accountability. No clear understanding of what demands mean. Former regime has
fallen, but we still have remnants of it. Military leaders accountable to
former regime what halts change. Revolution reveals type of thought that
totally ignored before. Clean revolution in sense that it did not fall into
violence. Regime defeated, but the regime’s people are still where they are and
behind situation. We still don’t have a constitution: serious issue. Lack level
of awareness to reorient action. We don’t have a govt, ministers. Totally
isolated state from external world. People have to know how to Achieve demands.
Panel was also to include a woman from Egypt, but she was injured just
before it started.
Fishbowl discussion. Student from Tunisia. Question of unemployed
graduates. Will state ever be able to provide jobs? Do graduates have appropriate
training? Level of education is going backwards. Will we be able to go forward by
relying on past?
Answer: Need for radical reforms. First step is to make administrative
procedures lighter. Not optimistic for necessary reforms.
Question (political science student, Tunis): What did revolution achieve? For example,
becoming ally of US. Tragedy of Iraq?
What about development? Nothing achieved. We need more than freedom to develop
country. How can we change this world, and to achieve dreams of youth?
Political science student, Italy: Need to build new state, not
replicate western democracy. We need real change. We have good history. Can’t
understand how we talk … should we replicate economic models of west.
issue of political alliances with Islamist parties and also with labor unions. Tunisians
don’t trust politicians and political parties, and we need to work on this.
Question of alliances between all political players, including radical left and
Islamic parties because they agreed on common demands of state. Also alliances on
Without revolution and constitution we couldn’t be here discussing without
threat to our lives.
Law professor: Constitutional assembly refused to accept
proposals. No will for change.
Question: We are ready to be colonized.
ignorance provokes slaughter and beheadings. Revolution is an ongoing process.
Imperialism sees it as a game that can be achieved in a week or month, but
takes time. A prize. But we must not forget challenges. Revolution has to be
efficient, but is a long term ongoing process.
Too early to talk about efficiency. Too early to even tell whether French revolution
is successful. Still going on. Look to implement solutions.
very pessimistic questions. Revolution is not a strategy, but just people going
out in the streets. Revolution means getting rid of dictatorship. After revolution
we can call it what we want. But revolution is just getting rid of what was
there. Many civil servants think same as before. Can we really talk of a
revolution in that case?
Question (response from Tunisian): not independent event,
but process. Need new system. Can’t ignore that.
Question: what does solidarity mean? What can you expect from
Answer: Must convince Tunisian voter. Voters will decide whether to accept it or not? Don’t
replicate western models, but we need to know about them and we can be inspired
by them. Can still chose what is most appropriate to our context. That is not a
reject intervention or imposition of lessons, and that is what the US is trying to
Secular regime is the only solution, and needs to be accepted by everyone
including religious parties. Need to stop confrontation among various stake
holders. Street belongs to everyone. Need to resort to peaceful protest, and we
should have that right.
Debate law to access information. No democracy without economic development.
3d: stability and security is most important. Terrorism is a global issue, and
impacts our present and future. All Tunisians should overcome differences to
counter terrorism. Welcome everyone to rally tomorrow. Ask for solidarity
NIGD Future of the Forum
NIGD Future of the
(March 25, 2015)
(Some very partial and
fragmented notes from a session at the World Social Forum)
Virginia Vargas (Peru): need for more inclusivity,
Never gain consensus about forum because things are
Teivo: Framing broad issues of forum. Debates: who
participates? Political parties? Where/when? Canada,
Greece, back to Brazil?
No longer meets at same time as WEF. Do we lose impact from that, and do we need
to rethink those issues?
Francine Mestrum: Need for new, updated analysis. Things
continue to go in direction of more privatization. Need new analysis to address
new situation if we want to include new movements such as Occupy. 3 major lines
divide: ?, ?, nature. Link Social Justice and Climate Justice.
Tensions between eastern and western Europe.
Need fewer rather than more sessions. We need convergence between
organizations. Make the convergence conscious in terms of how it happens. Make
process more open.
Concerned about who is not here. Need
better strategy and structure. We need new strategy to deal with new
Gina: Lack of young people in International Council.
Youth representative of investment: difficulties of emerging
economies. We have the same facilities. We need to work on mind. [How does this
relate to the WSF?] WSF has many challenges to overcome.
Q. of structure and funding of forum. Is the point for
everyone to come and express views? Or point of convergence? Forum should be
space of debate and to bring people together to peace. Q of spaces for debate
Coast: Q of translation. We are in
francophone Africa and should speak French.
Katrina: problem of language colonialism. I come from a
small language. Rather than politics of language, it’s important that we
understand each other.
Rafael: We need time and space and good energy to create
dialogue and to confront challenges. An opportunity to build another
relationship to another world. WSF will not change the world, but people in the
forum have to do that. Engage new and innovative methodology.
Ruby: scales, local, regional, national
Nicolas: 3.5 yrs of speeches at WSF. Waste of time, or does
everyone have the right to speak? But this is not enough. After Belem, new issues of
extractivism, etc. introduced that now become core of forum. Every forum brings
new issues that then become core. How do we maintain that with fewer activities
and speeches? Need more agglutination, but it never really works. People want
to organize their own activities, and justify expenses to funders with picture
of speaking at their panel.
We need more space for convergence. WSF not an event, but a process. Lots of
results by the time it exists. Need for convergence. WSF needs to continue to
exist because we still have many struggles.
First time I’ve attended forum: Need new ideas and analysis.
Torbjörn: 2d WSF, but to very many other forums. In other
words, another social forum is possible. Fights between organizers and
grassroots. Need leadership with more trust, and willingness to make assemblies
more attractive. Canada
would be even more exclusionary—it would be a joke. Only anti-imperialist
event. Leadership afraid to take action. We need assemblies where we can engage
Gina: Don’t like tone or accusations. Want convergence.
Forum in Canada
would not be an imperialist forum. USSF is one of the best forums that we have
had, from the grassroots, from the bottom. Also anti-imperialist forces in US,
and Brazil can also be seen
as an imperialist force in South America.
Luna, 18 yrs old: youngest in the room. Few young people in
forum, and we need to work to include more young people.
is expensive, lots of visa problems.
Nicolas: Problem is that panel on SF in Canada was
scheduled for the same time as this panel.
Whitaker: Just came from panel on Canada SF panel. World is changing very
quickly, and we need to think new and different things. Problem of dates: We
want to return to same dates as WEF, but that would mean January in Canada. But we
also have thematic forums. Should we do a symbolic even in Porto
Alegre in January, and then another forum in Quebec in August? Panel tomorrow on the
future of our struggles. Canada
panel was not a decision making panel.
Attended SFs since 2004, and it has changed my life personally and
professionally. More youth would benefit from this. Without forum we would need
another way to come together. In Quebec, would
need forum to raise new issues, consolidate struggles, and show world struggles
that we face in Canada.
Need to address issues. Need networking.
Torbjörn: need to be pragmatic. More process and
French: World is changing, and we need to inform ourselves.
Role of independent media. Movement Alternativa. Don’t just wait for other
people to act. Future is now.
Workshop 3pm tomorrow: on new strategies at Mini Anfin
Sat morning convergence on future of forum.
WSF Opening March
The 2015 edition of the World
Social Forum began on Tuesday, March 24 in Tunis, Tunisia.
About 5,000 participants joined the customary opening march in a pouring rain. Marchers
advanced a variety of causes and themes to be discussed at the forum. Particularly
present at the march were the themes of Palestine,
women’s rights, and opposition to terrorism. The march was rerouted from the
original path to end at the Bardo museum, the site of the previous week’s
attack on a group of international tourists in which 22 people died. 10,000s of
participants representing 4076 organizations from 130 countries are registered
for the forum. The World Social Forum runs through Saturday, March 28 in Tunis.
More pictures at https://www.facebook.com/marcbecker2/media_set?set=a.10100431257483702.1073741839.36107131&type=1&pnref=story
A reaction to WSF statement
Here is one reaction to the WSF statement:
We are writing to express our alarm at the position adopted by the
Preparatory Commission in its comunique regarding the tragic events at
Tunisia's Bardo national museum. In particular, its announcement that
the opening World Social Forum march will come under the theme of
"Peoples of the world united against terrorism". We are seriously
concerned that the Preparatory Commission may be facilitating the
usurpation of the World Social Forum by the "war on terror" agenda.
Progressives around the globe view the World Social Forum as an
alternative space in which they can critically reflect upon and
challenge dominant narratives of state, capitalist and imperialist power
that keep peoples from imagining and achieving "another world". The
first principle of the original WSF charter is to bring together civil
society organizations "that are opposed to neoliberalism and to
domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism". For the
past 15 years, the discourses, policies and practices of the "war on
terror" have played a key role in (re)producing the various hierarchies
(of socio-economic status, of citizenship, of sovereignty, etc) that
perpetuate capitalist and imperialist power. We believe the role of
progressives should always be to express empathy and solidarity with
innocent victims of crime, regardless of the perpetrator, whether states
or non-state actors. We also believe there are times when "civil
society" may find it in their strategic interests to work with
governments to achieve certain aims. However, in a context in which
clarity is lacking and where it is difficult to access accurate
information, it is incumbent upon progressives to challenge official
narratives and propose emancipatory alternatives.
The global justice movement cannot allow itself to be used for a
domestic and geopolitical agenda that seeks to manipulate the emotions
of the public to justify a further militarization of Tunisian society
(and the world) in a way that only benefits the
security/military-industrial-complex. It also enables the entrenchment
of racialized counter-terror practices that marginalize whole
communities, criminalize dissent and, most importantly, divert attention
away from the most pressing social, economic and political issues that
were at the heart of the uprisings in Tunisia and elsewhere in the world.
We believe the raison d'être of the WSF is to speak truth to power, not
to collude with power. In light of this, we hope the WSF Preparatory
Commission statement will be redrafted to take our concerns into
consideration in a cooperative and consultative fashion.
WSF statement on Tunis attacks
March 19th, 2015, Tunis
preparatory Committee of the World Social Forum (WSF) held an urgent
meeting this morning to consider the latest repercussions of the
terrorist operation that targeted the Bardo Museum yesterday.
that the Preparatory Committee recorded the size of the reassuring
messages and solidary statements with Tunisia from different social
actors and civilians across the world who renewed their full engagement
to participate in the Forum and their eagerness for it to be the meeting
of popular mobilization against terrorism in Tunisia, in the region and
in the world;
International public opinion announced that:
All international delegations confirmed their programmed participation
without any change, which stresses the actual size of the solidarity of
the alternative globalization movement activists with Tunisia, its
people, and the families of the victims of various nationalities, and
their extent of commitment to peace and solidarity principles among
peoples for freedom and democracy.
* The opening march is programmed to be on Wednesday, March 24th, starting at 4 p.m. from Bab Saadoun Square toward the Bardo Museum under the slogan:
'' Peoples of the world united against terrorism ''
* A special committee within the WSF International Council is established so as to formulate the Bardo International Charter of the alternative globalization movement in order to combat terrorism and call for a general gathering on March 26th, in the Campus University Farhat Hached around 12 p.m. for the announcement of the Charter.
in the role of social, civil, and democratic and peaceful alternatives
movements, in response to terrorism, the preparatory committee renews
its call to mobilize all energies so that the WSF held in Tunisia will
be a decisive turning point in changing the scales in favor of peace,
democracy and social justice strengths in the region and in the world.
Preparatory Committee of the World Social Forum:
In case anyone is wondering:
Tunis, March 18th, 2015.
After the terrorist attack today at the Bardo
Museum, next to the National Assembly, the 2015 World Social Forum
organizing committee declares that the Forum and all its activities are
Through this attack, terrorist groups attempted to
undermine the democratic transition Tunisia and the region are currently
experiencing while creating a climate of fear amongst citizens who
aspire to freedom, democracy and pacific participation in establishing
The quick response from the social movement and all
the political bodies in Tunisia opposed to terrorism, calling upon unity
to fight it, proves how tunisians care about their recent democratic
experience. The social movement in Tunisia and the region counts on the
global support of democratic forces to oppose violence and terrorism.
More than ever, the massive participation to the WSF
(Tunis 24th-28th March 2015) will be the appropriate answer from all
the peace and democratic forces towards a better, more fair and free
world made of pacific co-existence.
The WSF organizing comittee calls upon all WSF
members and participants to intensify their efforts in mobilizing and
making this moment a success, allowing the victory of civic and pacific
fight against terrorism and fanatism that threaten democracy, freedom,
For the 2015 Tunis WSF organizing comittee
From Legon to Hohoe and Wli on tro-tro
My last post on the Shai Hills
was to help me find that place again, but this post is designed more to help others make their way on public transit from the University of Ghana to the Wli waterfalls on the Togo border in the Volta Region. I was surprised how hard it was for me to find clear instructions on how to reach what must be one of the top weekend destinations for international students at the University of Ghana. In fact, Lonely Planet
only mentions the Metro Bus that leaves from downtown Accra in the middle of the afternoon and arrives in Hohoe after dark, and returns at an unreasonably early hour from Hohoe. What follows is a much better option, and there might be even better options:
1. Tro-tro from Legon to Madina station (50 pesewas). Personally I would recommend an early start in order to reach Wli before dark (the entire trip is about 6 hours).
2. Tro-tro from Madina to Hohoe (4 hrs, 12 cedis). The tro-tros to the Volta Region leave from the front part of the Madina station closer to the market. Hohoe seems to have several pronunciations, but ho-HOY seems to work for me.
3. Hohoe has a new lorry park and the tro-tros to Wli (most people seem to understand when I say "blee") leave from close to the entrance (30 min, 1 cedi).
When I left Wli, people told me that there were few or no tro-tros on Sunday. I don't know whether that is true or not. A taxi driver wanted to take me for 20 cedis, but I waited and took a shared taxi for 5 cedis.
The lower falls is an easy, flat 30 minute walk along the river. The upper falls is a bit of a climb, and takes about 2 hours longer than the lower falls. My guide Mr. Charles recommended a longer round-about hike to the falls, which was most definitely worth it for the views. We arranged a day in advance to leave early in the morning, which is what I would also recommend. The lower falls cost 10 cedis, the upper falls 13 cedis, and an accompanying guide is required.
The Waterfall Lodge
is 50 cedis a room, is close to the entrance to falls, and provides a quiet setting with excellent views of the falls.
This post is more for myself than anything, because my memory is not very good and if I ever want to make a visit again to Shai Hills these will be useful notes. In short, this is what I did:
1. Took a tro-tro from Legon to Madina Station (50 pesewas)
2. Then from Madina to Ashaiman Station (pronounced a-shaman; 2.40 cedis). Tro-tro leaves from far back corner of Madina Station and goes right past Legon, but it probably always leaves Madina full which makes it impossible to board at Legon.
3. Ashaiman to Shai Hills (pronounced shy hills). Tro-tro leaves from front of station by main exit. My tro-tro only went to Afienya and I had to pick up a second tro-tro to Shai Hills, which is by Doryumu Junction. First tro-tro was 1.50 cedis and second was 1 cedi.
Total travel time: almost 3 hrs, much of that waiting for tro-tros to leave & in heavy traffic in Ashaiman.
Shai Hills: 25 cedis for 1 hour hike, + 5 cedis for each additional hour. 2 hours (30 cedis) to Adwuku caves. 4 more hikes from far entrance which I should do next time, but that is best done with own transportation. Required to take guide, which makes hike less relaxing than it otherwise might be.
1. Tro-tro from Shai Hills did not go into Ashaiman Station, so they passed me to a second tro-tro that spent most of the time stopped in traffic in Ashaiman. First tro-tro did not charge; second charged 60 pesewas. We stopped by a tro-tro going straight to Accra, which probably would have made more sense (ie, go to 37 & then backtrack to Legon).
2. Ashaiman to Madina (2.40 cedis). Leaves from middle of station; quick trip on Tena highway.
Total return travel time: just over 2 hrs.
Total cost: 37.90 cedis (exchange rate USD = 2.10, $18 USD)
Shai Hills was nicer than I remembered, but that might be because I've spent very will time out in nature here. Still, 5 hrs exhausting travel time for 2 hr hike is a bit unbalanced.
Bradt is the best guide book; Lonely Planet is just way too thin.
Still a scab in Africa
This Monday, September 2 (appropriately Labor Day in the United States, although no where else in the world) I arrived in the history department just before 9 a.m. only to have one of my colleagues tell me that the Vice Chancellor (VC) finally had caved to union demands and that the strike was finally over.
My only problem is that I had class in half an hour, and I had done nothing to prepare.
I grabbed my notes and ran across campus to JQB where, indeed, a group of students were waiting for the lecture. So, we had class.
I texted my students from Missouri that the strike was finally over and that they should go to class. They started complaining that they were showing up for class and their professors were not there.
And then I started hearing rumors that the strike was not over.
On Tuesday, UTAG held a meeting to vote on the strike. Only this time I did not find out about the meeting until the next day. Apparently the only people who knew about the meeting were management from the university, and they promptly voted to call off the strike.
I should not have been surprised by management’s behavior.
Last Friday, August 30, the university held convocation with the VC chairing. He proceeded to insult the faculty, basically calling us a bunch of idiots who didn’t understand the issues and were acting in bad faith. He then tried to force the UTAG president to hold a union meeting right there and then to hold a vote on the strike (ironically the VC is also a member of UTAG). Obviously he thought he would win such a vote. I’m not so sure. Management was behind him, but the faculty seemed to be quite antagonistic to the jerk.
The meeting ended with the VC saying that he would make an announcement on Monday what to do with the university. As the weekend drug on, I was more and more convinced that he was going to cancel the semester.
Imagine my surprise on Monday morning when I was told that the strike was “discontinued” and we were back in the classroom.
But now I’m not so sure.
The strike is between a national union, of which Legon is only one branch, and either the Ministry of Education or the VCG (the Vice Chancellors of all the public universities in Ghana), I’m still not entirely clear on that point. But what this means is that the UG VC could not unilaterally call off the strike, and that neither could the management legitimately call a UTAG meeting on the Legon campus and vote to end the strike.
The signed agreement for the book and research allowance that UTAG is demanding must come from the VCG, and then the national UTAG must vote to end the strike. None of that has happened.
What this means is that we are still on strike, and I am still a scab.
And management at the University of Ghana, even though they are also members of UTAG, are acting like management always does—in the interests of capital rather than the workers…or students.
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