If you rattle the poor…

Following up on this posting, the daily newspaper here at the World Social Forum has a front page article on how the poor broke into the forum.

Centrally, the action took place right opposite a pricey cafe ($3 for a beer in a country where $8 is a week’s wage) owned by Kenya’s Internal Security Minister, John Michuki (aka The Crusher). Last year, he attracted worldwide attention by sending police to raid a newspaper critical of the government, justifying it with the words, “If you rattle a snake, you must be prepared to be bitten by it.”

Here’s the newspaper report, available, formatted, here:

Zarina Geloo

NAIROBI – It was no ordinary day at the Forum yesterday. An angry crowd protested, stopped the traffic, and created confusion.

This isn’t a meeting of the G-8, where disruptions occur daily. The WSF’s not supposed to be like that – it does not lend itself to anarchist protests. The phrases anti-globalisation and civil society define the Forum.

Yet, it was the worthy WSF that found itself at the end of the of the protesters’’ anger. Some 200 them from the slums demanded to be let into the stadium, forcing Forum organiser Jose Chacon to order the giant metal gates open.

The WSF organising committee had reached an agreement Monday night with Nairobi’s slums representatives to scrap fees for Kenyans wishing to join the Forum and allow street hawkers to compete against restaurants and bottling companies.

A new young activist star emerge during the short sharp slum uprising: her name is Wangui Mbatia, from the People’s Parliament, and she was coherent, calm and convincing.

“We have been congregating and waiting on the roadside for two days explaining to the officials that we cannot afford the fees. It is apparent that unless we use force, we will never participatein the Forum.”

“They went to Kibela, and saw the worst part of our poverty. Now we want to come here for the forum to see the best part of us.”

The protesters later disrupted the morning media briefing with their chant of ‘Free Everything.’

Most of the action took place around Gate 1, close to where the Forum’s privileged hang out – the Windsor café, an extension of a hotel whose owner is none other than John Michuki, Kenya’s Internal Security Minister.

This VIP is known in Kenya as ‘Kimeendero’ (the Crusher), for his alleged role during the British colonial times. More recently, he drew international condemnation for raiding one of Kenya’s major national newspapers, ‘The Standard’. He explanation for the raid: “If you rattle a snake, you must be prepared to be bitten by it.”

One Forum organiser told TerraViva that Windsor is “a Kenyan enterprise that we wanted to showcase at the WSF.”

In the evening police intervened during a meeting of Forum participants at Kibagare slum, west of Nairobi, whose residents are facing eviction, Boaz Waruku, a member of the Forum organising committee told TerraViva, “It seems our security agents were lurking close by, and they temporarily arrested two participants. When we challenged the police and asked under what law they were being arrested, they were released.”

Yesterday’s extraordinary events go the very heart of what Forum participants are talking about: about the future of this Forum that wants to change the world (see pg3); the need to provide the poorest a space on the international high table, and for anti-poverty policies to be driven by the poor.

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