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At Close of World Social Forum, Activists Draw Inspiration from Uprisings

  • Julia Ritchey

Martine Aubry, first secretary of the French Socialist Party, at the World Social Forum in Dakar, February 9, 2011

Martine Aubry, first secretary of the French Socialist Party, at the World Social Forum in Dakar, February 9, 2011

The World Social Forum wraps up Friday in Senegal. The forum gives anti-globalization activists and civil society leaders a chance promote progressive causes.

Students and activists mingled on the campus of the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, for the last day of the World Social Forum - an alternative to the elite World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The Forum’s mantra of social change 'another world is possible' proved especially resonant as anti-government protests continue to rock Egypt and Tunisia in the northern part of the continent.

Many activists said they felt galvanized by the recent events.

A Brazilian activist, Luana Vilutis, said she mostly used the forum to network but also enjoyed meeting Egyptians and Tunisians to learn more about what's going on in their countries.

"I have a larger view about what's happening in Egypt and Tunisia, and here in Africa," said Vilutis.

A director of a Moroccan human rights organization Mohamed Ahmed said he was moved by two Tunisian activists who spoke about the revolt at a Maghreb panel.

"They were able to inspire many things to the other people," said Ahmed. "Normally their opinion encouraged me through the way they told us how they formed or they instigated that revolution, [it] encouraged us also to rethink about many things that are happening in our country."

At a tent in front of the library, music blared as Senegalese student Mamsour Njiaye collected signatures for a petition to protest military action in Ivory Coast, where tensions have brewed for months over its contested presidential elections.

He says maybe if Tunisia and Egypt could have had a forum like this to express themselves, they wouldn't have had these problems. The forum, he says, is an important place to allow people to communicate with one another.

Leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales and former Brazilian president and working class icon Lula da Silva, each made appearances, denouncing Western-style capitalism.

Of course, the forum is not without its contradictions, or capitalistic temptations. By the end of the week, the sidewalks of the university had been turned into a bustling market for attendees to pick up cheap, mass-produced souvenirs.