"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

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

"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."