1 February 2011 by Pauline Imbach , Zinaba Aboudou Rasmane , Mike Krolikowski
CADTM Africa’s Social Movements Caravan is organized in collaboration with many social movements and associations including No Vox, the Malian association of expel-lees, the Togolese association of expel-lees, the NGO Mars Togo, Visions solidaires Togo, Grami Afrique, Central African ATTAC groups, ROAD…
At one stop after another, in emblematic places of social struggles, other organizations and citizens on their way to Dakar joined the Caravan. The path, strewn with activists’ meetings, became a real place of exchange and sharing. Raising awareness and organising.
10 days, 10 stopovers, 10 themes, hundreds of participants, 3377 kilometers! Pilots of capitalism beware! Peoples are rising up to show and demonstrate that a different world is possible!
The tour of activities began on 23 January in Cotonou, Benin with an opening ceremony followed by a press conference, then lectures on two central themes: Women’s rights and climate change. Two hundred people, mostly women, were present. Representatives of local authorities were also present and were interrogated about the dramatic flooding that hit the country last November.
This phenomenon is becoming increasingly frequent and violent as a result of global warming. It is the women who bear its brunt and they are also economically the most vulnerable sector of the population. They are the ones who grow the food, or shop for it, and it is they who have the charge of feeding the family.
No doubt among the activists at Cotonou: there can be no climate justice without social justice. Climate change aggravates inequalities between men and women. Any process of emancipating women involves the struggle against climate change.
Ouidah: Symbol of Africa’s stolen history.
The next day the Caravan headed for Ouidah: 42 km. Symbol of Africa’s stolen history. Ouidah was a major embarkation point for slaves to the Americas. Of the eleven million Africans exiled in the West, nearly two million left from the Bight of Benin. The Caravan participants, coming from Benin, Cameroon, Togo, France and Belgium, learned of these historic events, as recounted by a local CADTM militant. As though to ward off this terrible past the participants insisted on evoking, in this symbolic place, the links of solidarity that exist between them all. This was the shared history of a shared struggle!
The door of no return, which faces the ocean, inevitably calls to mind the current situation of so many migrants, forced to leave their country, their families and their friends in the hope of a better life. They too may never return, and in the best of cases, when they reach the “promised land” it is to serve as cheap labour to the slave-drivers of the modern world.
This visit was an occasion to remember that slavery is still not completely abolished; it persists in new forms, or in the words of Thomas Sankara, the people are subjected to “slavery to the taste of our time.”
Lome, capital of Togo
The Social Movements Caravan then continued its way, weighted by the memory of anti-slavery struggles, to Lome, to meet the youth of the Togolese capital.
For this second stop the honoured themes are youth, the global justice movement and the debt.
“We have chosen to make hope triumph over fear; we have chosen to say no to debt!” is the message that greeted the Caravan in Lome. About sixty people attended a play on this theme performed by activists of ATTAC / CADTM Togo, denouncing not only the issue of debt, but also the corruption and greed of the elites.
This first activity showed how the historic struggles against slavery tie in with the current struggles against the imposition of a unique economic and social model. The mobilization of youth in Lome shows that another world is already in the making.
The Caravan participants were welcomed by ATTAC / CADTM Togo into the magnificent premises of the popular education organization, “Vision solidaire”. There was a press conference on debt and issues of its cancellation. About forty people and media (radio and television) were present. Speeches from ATTAC / CADTM Togo, ATTAC France, CADTM Belgium, Social Forum of Togo, Cameroon GRAMI-AC, No Vox of Benin were followed by lively debate.
The question of ways and means to achieve the cancellation were discussed in depth. Skeptics questioned the speakers on the real possibility that such an alternative could be created. They answered, “ask the people of Tunisia whether they would have thought, a few months ago, that the fall of Ben Ali was possible”... The reply met with noisy approval.
Yes! struggles do get results, that is the message that must be brought to Dakar.
For some, the afternoon was devoted to playing a game called “insolent dinner” showing up the unequal relations between the continents. While the “WTO
World Trade Organisation The WTO, founded on 1st January 1995, replaced the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). The main innovation is that the WTO enjoys the status of an international organization. Its role is to ensure that no member States adopt any kind of protectionism whatsoever, in order to accelerate the liberalization global trading and to facilitate the strategies of the multinationals. It has an international court (the Dispute Settlement Body) which judges any alleged violations of its founding text drawn up in Marrakesh.
http://wto.org representative” attempted to regulate trade between certain continents, groups of participants enacted a common slogan, “WTO Go Home!”. A relaxing activity strengthening the cohesion of the group!
Meanwhile, team-GRAMI-AC had planned to carry out a study of corruption at African border-crossings during this trip. They requested an interview with the Togolese Interior Minister to discuss police corruption, especially that encountered at the borders.
Indeed, crossing the Benin-Togo border, says a member of the group, “we were terribly shocked and amazed to see the Togolese police collect money like store cashiers from all travelers”.
It is easier to enter Togo paying 500 francs CFA than it is by presenting papers in order. Corruption goes on unashamedly... The group refused to pay, and were allowed through only after lengthy negotiations.
Unfortunately no authorities would agree to meet them for the inquiry. Thus another important objective of the Caravan is to reject and denounce this kind of practice.
January 25th in Sokode
After a day’s drive, the Social Movements Caravan came to Sokode, central Togo’s biggest city, where the rights of migrants and democracy were at the heart of discussions and activities. Also on the program was a Sokode theatrical performance about the debt held on the university campus, press conferences and awareness-creating games.
Welcomed by the Togolese Association of the Expelled (ETA), a march took the participants to the town hall where Mr. Reeve Tchané Chabi Chabo delivered a welcoming speech, stressing that the Togolese authorities have worked extensively to reduce poverty, particularly in view of attaining the famous 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These declarations did not convince the participants of the Caravan, who responded with slogans: “Debt kills, plunders, murders us, it’s time to repudiate!” , “No border, freedom of movement and settlement!”, “Give us our voice back, we want to have a voice!”. After this experience the participants decided to challenge the authorities at these meetings more directly, to show that social movements are not fooled.
Next destination: Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso.
Date of arrival: January 27th, meeting up with ATTAC Ouagadougou / Burkina CADTM and No Vox. This leg of 575 kilometers is one of the most difficult because of poor road conditions. It took 15 hours. The Caravan was held up for over five hours crossing the border between Togo and Burkina Faso, which has a dozen or so checkpoints.
The road is littered not with potholes but with “elephant holes” as the group likes to joke. It winds its narrow way through the north of Togo, and before crossing the border it climbs the Aledjo geological fault where dozens of trucks have fallen down the cliff to rot in the ravine.
Transit conditions between countries continue to be difficult. A space that, according to agreements between the Community of West African States (ECOWAS), should be freely available to its nationals is in fact a real fortress, violating the rights of free movement. For example, in 2010, conditions for obtaining a visa to Burkina Faso were aligned with those of France, a European country which has one of the toughest policies. So to return to the land of Upright People, migrants have to pay 94 000 F CFA for a transit visa and justify the availability of 25 000 CFA francs per day to spend in the country. At the border-crossing of Sinkansé, between Togo and Burkina Faso, six Togolese from the Caravan who only had their electoral cards were refused entry by the Burkinabe authorities. Lengthy negotiations gave no results but everyone was able to join up again in Burkina Faso, after a clandestine passage of the people concerned.
Thus, the Caravan has the daily task of challenging authorities and the citizens of countries visited, on the issue of free circulation of people, both between the countries of South and North, but also at regional level. While the issue of repression and deportation of migrants South-North is a theme widely discussed by social movements, that of South-South migration is mentioned more marginally, although it is of primary interest Interest An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set. .
On the morning of 28th January, activists from the Social Movements Caravan visited the tomb of Thomas Sankara at the Dagnoen. Thomas Sankara’s story is emblematic of the struggle for the emancipation of African peoples against imperialism and neocolonialism. Samska Jah, an artist, musician, radio host on Ouaga FM (second radio in terms of audience in the capital), a “Sankarian” and militant of ATTAC / No Vox CADTM Burkina Faso, spoke about the political reflection and the conditions of the assassination of Thomas Sankara. All the participants were affected by this emotional political tribute: Cameroonians, Togolese, Beninese ... All recognized themselves in the struggle led by the charismatic leader. There was no personality cult, only the commitment to continue the struggle for genuine independence of African countries. Hence the call made to young people to engage in social movements, and to continue the struggle for a free and united Africa! As Samska Jah recalled: “It is from this act that revolution will be born and Sankara’s combat continued.”
Ouagalese activities were followed by a press conference. Widely publicized, journalists from the print media, radio and television showed up. The speaker explained the dynamics of the world social forum and the Social Movements Caravan.
For evening entertainment, a debate was organized at the “Atelier de Théâtre Burkinabé” (ATB) entitled: Social Movement Struggles in the Construction of Alternatives to Neoliberalism. Hosted by ATTAC / Burkina CADTM and the Burkina Faso movement of the voiceless, about a hundred people were present.
The theme was the history of social movements and their present struggles. Particular emphasis was put on the need to anchor the demands and struggles in the local populations oppressed by the capitalist system. After the presentation, the discussion that followed stressed the importance of establishing local alternatives embodying the demands of the people.
January 29: Sikasso (Mali)
January 29: started out at 4:00 am for Sikasso with a rest stop at Houndé. 170 people are now following the Caravan since the Burkinabe have joined.
Arriving under the midday sun and heat. The Social Movements Caravan, in solidarity with the local farmers, took part in a march to promote subsistence agriculture and food sovereignty, and oppose GMOs, land-grabbing and agricultural multinationals. Over 500 people marched to the sound of drums, chanting slogans such as: “United against debt and GMO Genetically Modified Organisms
GMO Living organisms (plant or animal) which have undergone genetic manipulation in order to modify their characteristics, usually to make them resistant to a herbicide or pesticide. In 2000, GMOs were planted over more than 40 million hectares, three quarters of that being soybeans and maize. The main countries involved in this production are the USA, Argentina and Canada. Genetically modified plants are usually produced intensively for cattle fodder for the rich countries. Their existence raises three problems.
The health problem. Apart from the presence of new genes whose effects are not always known, resistance to a herbicide implies that the producer will be increasing use of the herbicide. GMO products (especially American soybeans) end up gorged with herbicide whose effects on human health are unknown. Furthermore, to incorporate a new gene, it is associated with an antibiotic-resistant gene. Healthy cells are heavily exposed to the herbicide and the whole is cultivated in a solution with this antibiotic so that only the modified cells are conserved.
The legal problem. GMOs are only being developed on the initiative of big agro-business transnationals like Monsanto, who are after the royalties on related patents. They thrust aggressively forward, forcing their way through legislation that is inadequate to deal with these new issues. Farmers then become dependent on these firms. States protect themselves as best they can, but often go along with the firms, and are completely at a loss when seed thought not to have been tampered with is found to contain GMOs. Thus, genetically modified rape seed was destroyed in the north of France in May 2000 (Advanta Seeds). Genetically modified maize on 2600 ha in the southern French department of Lot et Garonne was not destroyed in June 2000 (Golden Harvest). Taco Bell corn biscuits were withdrawn from distribution in the USA in October 2000 (Aventis). Furthermore, when the European Parliament voted on the recommendation of 12/4/2000, an amendment outlining the producers’ responsibilities was rejected.
The food problem. GMOs are not needed in the North where there is already a problem of over-production and where a more wholesome, environmentally friendly agriculture needs to be promoted. They are also useless to the South, which cannot afford such expensive seed and the pesticides that go with it, and where it could completely disrupt traditional production. It is clear, as is borne out by the FAO, that hunger in the world is not due to insufficient production.
For more information see Grain’s website : https://www.grain.org/. !”, “Monsanto go home!”, “Stop GMO and land grabbing now!”, “No border, no nation, free circulation!”... Heading the procession, opening with determination, were a hundred landless peasants followed by the various social groups including Caravan members. At the end of the event, the declaration of the Social Movements Caravan exposing their demands was made public.
The Caravan arrived in Mali on January 29, having bravely traveled 645 km from Ouagadougou. Mali Mali! Destination Sikasso, where the 2007 Peoples Forum was held at the Bebamba Traoré stadium. This time the discussions were around the issue of regional integration.
Arriving in Sikasso in the evening, The Bebamba stadium is a public building constructed by a consortium of Chinese multinationals in 2001 for the preparation of the CAN. Located halfway up a hill around the center of Sikasso, it deprives 70% of the population of their daily water supply, including all the inhabitants of the district of Lafiabougou, who have at best only two hours of water per day: from midnight to 2:00 am. Thousands of cubic meters of water are used to spray the stadium lawn rather than supply the population in need of it. To add insult to injury, water bills are multiplied by ten when the circuit is empty because the air currents rotate the meters.
This absolute outrage was briefly denounced at the conference on “Regional Integration” held Jan. 30, in the presence of the first deputy mayor and other local officials. Careful not to respond to these interrogations, they were more content to discuss less controversial topics with the 150 participants.
Whilst in African capitals, great buildings or prestigious infrastructure projects mushroom, roads, essential to the movement of people and transport of goods, are in very bad condition and in places almost impassable. In Cotonou, for example, the new interchange that has been under construction for 2 years has mobilized some 70 billion CFA francs. The massive project connects two avenues for which a roundabout would have been largely sufficient. Burkina Faso also has a famous example of bogus new neighborhood architecture, “Ouaga 2000”, at the center of which a kind of concrete Eiffel tower is the pride of the new rich. These projects, funded and supported by the World Bank World Bank
WB The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.
It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :
1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 180 members in 1997), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;
2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;
3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.
As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.
http://worldbank.org and Western powers, are real mechanisms of economic plunder. They are white elephants, a pretext for debt, and directly finance foreign firms that produce them. Companies are racing to win such lucrative contracts!
January 31: Bamako
Arrival at Bamako is on January 31st, after another 370 kilometers. Here it is planned to mobilize around the issues of land-grabbing and food sovereignty — questions at the heart of African concerns, since, according to FAO (2007), 2.5 million hectares of land, the area of Belgium, were purchased in Africa by foreign governments, multinational companies or pension funds
Pension Funds Pension funds: investment funds that manage capitalized retirement schemes, they are funded by the employees of one or several companies paying-into the scheme which, often, is also partially funded by the employers. The objective is to pay the pensions of the employees that take part in the scheme. They manage very big amounts of money that are usually invested on the stock markets or financial markets. .
Last stop before Senegal: Kayes, where the question of migration will again be the centre of interest. So the Caravan will leave Mali to reach Tambacounda in Senegal on February 3rd to take part in discussions and activities on mineral extraction, before heading back to Kaolack, the last stop before Dakar. Kaolack is a key stopover for the Caravan. A three-day forum on women’s struggles in the Global North and Global South are to take place there (organized by CADTM).
The Caravan promises to be rich in adventures, meetings and discussions! The Social Movements Caravan will then play a major role in the World Social Forum, conveying the loud demands heaped upon it along its way.
Good luck to its participants and to their activities and demands!
Mike Krolikowski in collaboration with Pauline Imbach (CADTM Belgium) and Zinaba Aboudou Rasmane (ATTAC/CADTM Burkina).
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