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"Africanising the issues was not deliberate. It just so happened that this is the first time we have had a majority of Africans attending a WSF.

Usually there have been less than 100 African NGOs (non-governmental organisations) at any of the other WSFs.It was too expensive for most Africans to travel to Porto Alegre or Mumbai," he told IPS.

This year, things were different. "We had over 300 people from the rural areas of Mali alone, while another 8,000 came from neighbouring countries. All of them participated in the forum and enriched the discussions. This has never happened before," said Goita.

(At the closing press conference for the Bamako WSF, organisers tentatively put overall attendance figures for the forum at between 15,000 and 20,000 delegates.)

The Brazilian town of Porto Alegre has most often played host to the WSF, which began in 2001. While the forum moved to the Indian coastal city of Mumbai in 2004, the Bamako WSF markts the first instance in which it is being held in Africa.

In another departure from precedent, the 2006 WSF is being held in no less than three venues: from Bamako, the forum moves directly to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas - and later to Pakistan’s financial centre of Karachi.

According to Goita, issues of importance for Africa that came under discussion included female genital mutilation, early marriage and illiteracy among girls. Similarly, the continued occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco was given prominence, as was the situation in conflict areas like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.

A youth forum set up at the Modibo Keita Stadium gave young men and women an opportunity to interact with village elders and other "older citizens" on issues that affect their lives, including unemployment,immigration and education.

Adding an innovative touch to the proceedings, the Mali social forum organised a 15-kilometre solidarity run to highlight the commercialisation of sport, with sportsmen and women, particularly from Africa, being "traded" on the international market.

"Another sport is possible, not one where people are bought and sold like commodities. We should have sports where people are treated with dignity and the joy of the game remains intact. It must not become just another business transaction," said Goita. The slogan for the WSF is "Another World is Possible."

These events and discussions were just a few of the more than 800 activities that took place across several venues. This mammoth feat of organisation was made easier by a contribution of about 280,000 dollars by the Malian government - one of the poorest in the world - and its offer to open up some of its facilities such as conference halls, the national museum and libraries for the events.

However, there were still certain things that fell through the cracks: accommodation and sanitation were in short supply, and — when they could be found — sometimes inadequate.

Participants also faced other sorts of challenges. Chele Degruccio from the Lutheran World Federation in Kenya said she found it difficult to participate in the sessions because either people did not turn up for the meetings or showed up late when she had to leave for other sessions.

Miodrag Shrestha from Serbia and Montenegro said he had better luck with events, but that translation was inadequate. Sessions were supposed to have been translated into French, English, Portuguese and the local language, Bambara.

But Margaret Da Costa from a human rights group in Angola was upbeat. Her accommodation fell short of expectations (the lodge had no water)and she could not follow most of the sessions because there was very little Portuguese translation; she also got lost trying to find buildings. Despite this, she said it was "fantastic" that a poor country like Mali could host a global event successfully.

"People are talking and networking, that is what is important - not our own little problems caused by attending a conference in a country with serious constraints," she told IPS.

At Monday’s press conference, Wahu Kaara — a member of the organising committee for WSF 2007, to be held in Nairobi — said this type of enthusiasm would be key to the success of Kenya’s efforts to host the forum.

"The fundamental concern of the World Social Forum is to mobilise people to make a statement...that we need another world," she told IPS.

"The fact that people have been able to meet in Bamako and dialogues have taken place, that is in itself a concrete manifestation of what the vision and the mission of the World Social Forum is."