By Thandi Winston
DAKAR, Feb 7 (TerraViva) – Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution and the popular uprising poised to overthrow three decades of rule by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have galvanised and inspired delegates at the World Social Forum taking place in Dakar, Senegal.Amid chaotic scenes of participants desperately searching for venues after reservations for scores of rooms at Cheikh Anta Diop University were cancelled, some delegates have simply taken their debates to makeshift sites and rooms outside the campus.
The ad hoc locations cannot suppress the passion amongst the estimated sixty thousand delegates who have traveled from all corners of the globe to attend the annual event.
One of the debates that inspired hundreds who attended it was a talk by a Tunisian who was at the forefront of January’s Jasmine Revolution. The 55-year-old Communist party activist spoke at the People to People’s Dialogue event, organised by Pambazuka, African People’s Dialogue and the Climate Justice Network at the Rosa Luxemburg Centre in Dakar.
Fathi Chankhi has been an activist for 30 years. He told delegates at the People to Peopleâ€™s Dialogue that Tunisia’s revolution was started by the peasants in rural areas.
Mohamed Bouazizi, the street vendor who set himself on fire after his goods were arbitrarily confiscated by police on Dec. 17, grew up in a village called Sidi Salah; like so many others, his family moved to the nearby town in search of a better life.
Thousands were inspired by his tragic act of defiance, and by the time he died of his injuries on Jan. 4, the frustration he and millions more like him felt had been unleashed with a force that has already toppled one autocratic president, and threatens several more.
“In the face of the struggle we are trying to create the revolution and understand the meanings of the new situation in the country,â€ť Chankhi told the audience.
He said that â€śthe [North Africa] region is one of the pillars of the capitalist system, the region is the heart of capitalism, and it was a place for dictators to flourish.â€ť It was the people who stopped this, he said, as they had had enough of dictators.
He said the revolution was led by the youth and workers who wanted to be free. â€śThe revolution in Tunisia was the will of the people and the will to be free from dictators.â€ť
Audience members, who clapped their hands and shouted “Viva Tunisia!” throughout the talk, were filled with praise for Chankhi.
Costa Rican activist Carlos Aguilar said, â€śThis talk was inspirational.â€ť
Another activist from South Africa said the revolution in Tunisia and Egypt is an inspiration to all Africans. Virginia Setshsedi, from Soweto, said, â€śWe should all learn lessons from it and go back home to organise the workers.â€ť
Chankhi said that the people in Tunisia are working together now, but warned that different classes should not fight each other. â€śThe youth are active and the people are working together.â€ť
â€śWe hope others in Latin America and Europe can also learn and be inspired by our revolution,” he said. â€śWe walking to a golden future. Iâ€™m very happy.â€ť
Rosebell Kagumire suggests the example in North Africa will not spread south of the Sahara. Read more and have your say here.