I then move to another computer that also works on Microsoft as well and begin typing my story and before I know it a woman from African Flame (the meeting's official newsletter) comes and informs me that I need to find another computer as this one is exclusive as well. I analyse and find that indeed there is an African Flame logo pasted on the face of the monitor.
I now have to go and force myself to work on something operating on Linux, a programme which I find to be a pain in the ass when it comes to opening pictures and running a slide show. Well, they say Linux is the best competition Microsoft has had in many years but from where I stand, I beg to differ.
I feel bored by the all the petty politics and decide to walk out. At the door a bunch of Kenyan youths dressed in red outfits and who claim to come from the slums are holding an impoptu press conference. The leader is enraged that he had to pay money to be in the meeting, or that's what he is saying. The international media is giving him an audience, they love this bad stories. I look around and see a South African delegate pledging solidarity. I am not surprised, it's the one thing South Africans have been doing here for all the four days. I file past and decide to go sort my finiancial problem. I am technically broke. See, I've got $100 in my pocket and no shillings. I begin a long walk to try and find a foreign exchange office.
I struggle to locate one. I stroll to the food stalls and before I could reach one a smartly dressed man approaches me and offers to serve me lunch, all for KSh400. "I don't have any shillings"
"How much do you have?"
"Fifty dollars, US"
"Let's go, I think my boss can help you"
I trail him to the stall where his boss, a middle aged man of medium build searches his wallet frantically. There is no equivalent of $100 and he decides to let me go and sort myself out. As I leave the stall a light-complexioned woman, who looks nineteen or twenty approaches me for the same reason. I explain the same problem to her as well and she does the same thing by taking me to her boss, a woman who also is unable to help. Now I have to go and find my own shillings. I lie to her, as I did to the man that I'll be back with my hunger.
On my way to the forex located in the venue I hear a woman shouting angrily, some rhetoric against George Bush. I'm thinking if George was African, his ears should be itching hot by now. I approach and decide to snap her while a lone cameraman, who sounds Irish is videoing her, asking her questions as if he has the script to the scene. I come to learn from her words that she comes from Sudan and she's bored about Bush dictating to everyone how to live and to constitute their governments and she's not scared of dying and of Bush.
I'm actually looking for forex, walks past the Palestinian tent where they are preparing for a march around the stadium. I don't know, I just feel scared taking pictures as if one of the folks here was Ismael Haniyah, the Palestinian Prime Minister.
Something interesting about the enterprising spirit of the locals that I notice is that some photographers have made it their business to randomly shoot pictures of delegates, more like your Daily Sun's Snaparazzi and paste them on the public fence. If you come through and find your picture and you like it and want to keep it you pay for it. Wow, something we can use for 2010, don't you think? All the ID photo-takers taking pictures of roughly 500 000 soccer fans and making them pay for their moment of excitement or sadness.
I then move to a stand where I have been an excellent award deserving customer for the past four days, buying their expensive orange juice with the hope that I am implementing Kenya Economic Empowerment (KEE). I get to them for my daily dose of bottled water. "60 shillings", she says.
"Come on woman, this morning at the Nakumatt I bought one litre for 3,80 shillings, one litre not this 340 millilitre". I let her know that now I'm aware that we are being robbed in broad daylight. True, I ain't lying, on our way to Kasarani we stopped at a Nakumatt to buy some necessities. I bought a bottle of water and was surprised when they said it was 3,80, given that I've been paying more for drops throughout the WSF meeting. When I went to the Nakumatt that's also when I was puzzled by the tellers in there who all had their ties on. I sensitised Simon to what I just saw and he said, "It's terrible man, the way the English have influenced everyone around here".
As I leave the stand without having bought anything I notice that the Palestinians march is getting started. The Palestinian cause it the most romantic one to support and there are thousands of people, some carrying a huge Palestinian flag, some miniature ones and wearing kefir's and shouting anti-Israeli and US slogans. The procession is powerful as I go past for the bank, which I fail to find until a security guard gives me directions. I respond, 'Asante' (thank you). I find my way there, get sorted in a jiffy and leave. Actually I gave the teller $50 and told him I wanted to exchange $20 to shillings, for which he gave me Ksh1300,00.
As I walk out of the bank I'm welcomed by a serious commotion. An exclusive food stall that has been the meeting spot for most of the European delegates is suddenly under siege. A group of South African delegates have invaded the stall with a group of Kenyan children and are now demanding that the children be offered free food. It's chaos, the media is there as well taking shots and videoing the chaos. The soldiers and with their kalashnikovs are standing back watching as the five star buffet is vandalised. The children are now eating gluttoniously and even smearing their little hungry faces. Order collapses as every child reaches out to eat. Anti-Privatisation Forum's Trevor Ngwane is happy, he's one of the people who led the campaign, together with a comrade I only know as Torong. Ngwane gives an impoptu interview to some radio journalist, so does Torong who says that the stand belongs to a Security Minister and was creating a five star environment while the children were starving.
The children are happy, they now inform him that there's another stand they'll like to target. They suddenly believe in the muscle of the South Africans. They form groups, start chanting and charge towards the second stand but the police are not having that - not anymore.
Around this time the roaring Palestinian march has come full circle and now it's time for speeches and pledges. It was pure militancy you could capture and bottle it. The keynote belongs to Laila Khalid, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine icon who hijacked two planes in the 1970s after undergoing plastic surgery to avoid detection and capture. There's a militant mood to the meeting. She starts off by pledging her commitment to the armed struggle and utters words that leave me shook and concerned, she says as Palestinians they are ready to sacrifice generation after generation of their children to attain their freedom. I wonder if the Israeli government is listening. After Khalid the all too familiar platform for pledges. Torong is there shooting from the hip.
I go back to the media centre and file some few stories, the ones I have been promised publication. I get a message from Japhet at City Press that my interview will be on PULSE Magazine over the weekend. Japhet is happy, he likes it and so do I. I go out and end up standing next to a man I suspected of abusing animals unnecessarily. He's got a camel which he charges people for a short ride. I feel myself fancying camel milk. Here's story I swear I heard it from a reliable source outside the UN. They say one day, when Libya was still regarded as a pariah state Kadafi went to the UN in New York for the annual General Assembly meeting. They allege that when he was there the catering people were taking orders for what every President is going to eat. Kadafi looked at them and said, "I want porridge with camel milk", but more like he said it in his own language and calling the food by their traditional names. They claim the catering people met to discuss his request and came back to him to inform him that they don't have the dish, to which Uncle Kadafi asked them how is it possible that a country that prides itself on being a leader in the free world would not have Libyan dishes. I swear they told me this and this is not my story.
Now, speaking of camels, I found it later at night as I went to Chris Hani, busy entertaining heartless people, who were paying money for a ride. The poor camel looked tired but the owner was not having that. It however gave me a chance to chat to a certain coloured girl I've been wondering how I'll crack a conversation with. I said to her, "Do you wanna ride?"
"No, hell no"
"Why? You scared?"
"Come on, let's ride together". And at this point I reckon she suspected I was getting somewhere and excused herself nicely, to get her smoke.
Our City Ferry bus came and we left for Kiambu, found another road block where the policemen were sorted with bribery as it had become custom and went ahead to our huge houses. We had dinner, tea, played pool, had some whisky and slept. We were told the following morning there's going to be a march from the slums to town. We got ready for it.
This is the day of the march and everyone is preparing for it. Some by wearing takkies, some slippers while some are just not going to do it. We have good traditional breakfast and are taken to Korongocho, a slum area in downtown Nairobi. As the bus drives through we are welcomed by squalor, something I've never seen in my many years of being a journalist in rural areas. Something I can not even put in words, which I'm not going to try. I've written poetry about poverty but nothing beats what I am seeing. A poem like,
reminisces part v
to all my brothers from sub A still alive today
we shared dreams of living well what happened to us
we lost each other in the madness to define our lives
hope we can someday chill & trade what we wanted to be
with bantu education we still valued our dreams
we had lawyers in the making teachers doctors & scientists
nobody fancied being a soldier, police we dissed like a plague
saw beyond motor cars & mansions
our plans were all about living well never leave the ghetto
but today we so defeated most of us is sell-outs
all I ever wanted to be was a lawyer or writer
never had enough for varsity so I became a writer
woke up one morning married words in a church affair
some of my boys still planning what to do with they lives
we a platoon of failures 'til I see next time
We go to a small sporting facility where there are thousands of people wearing white T-shirts. I move to a small auditorium where there are groups performing dance and music. It's all traditional stuff. Suddenly we move out to a Roman Catholic church building where we are given T-shirts on condition that we are going to take part in the march to Uhuru Park. A woman starts off by stressing us that we need to have small tickets to qualify for the T-shirts. However another woman who liked me a lot gives me a ticket which raises questions which she answers nicely by saying that she will not give a ticket to a woman but a man. However we all get sorted eventually. I have my second photo opportunity with a handpicked crew and leave. A sister named Corlett and another none named Nompi, who says she's a video editor at the SABC are making their point known, that there shall be no African Union Presidency given to Sudan while innocent people are getting killed by the Janjahweed militia in Darfur, which is reported to be sponsored by the Khartoum goverment. They mobilize more people to the campaign as we leave Korongocho for Uhuru, walking through throngs of extremely poor people sitting, looking at us walking past their neighbourhood with pride. I guess to them we don't look like their messiahs who are here to carry their cross. I feel bad about all of us who are walking in this derelict part of town because most of us come from better-off countries. I feel guilty about it all as I snap pictures of the people who have nothing materially, only the breath between their dry lungs. I feel bad because they are not taking part in the march but looking at us with envy and wonder because we have shoes on and clothes on our backs and hats and sunglasses and look well-fed and we are patronizing them. They obviously can not walk with us because they are hungry and we are full. I feel bad that all I can do to show my empathy with them is to walk through their neighbourhood. I feel bad because at the end of it all I'm going back to South Africa where I know there's plenty of food for most of the people who came with me and who are here to show support. I feel guilty due to many things and it's the same guilt I carry with me as we move from one derelict part, past people searching for food on the dumping spot. We come to a slum called Eastleigh which is mostly made up of Somalian refugees. Two mosques tell the story of this community's religious affiliation.
After a long 20 kilometre walk whereby we were refreshed with bottled water and glucose every five kilometres we reach Uhuru park. I'm tired but consoled by an energitic young boy I had been walking with through the slums, a boy I met after I witnessed two men killed, shot execution style by the police at Karibangi. Their blood was all over the tar road and the police who did not even make an attempt to cover their corpses were threatening everyone with a sjambok. I reached for my camera but realised that it might be a fatal mistake. This here is a police state. The senior police officers at the scene did not look like they'll tolerate my 'nonsense' of exercising my constitution enshrined right.
The boy I walked all the way with is named Yusuf. I can't say he was sponging on me even though I bought pineapple, bananas and roasted mielies along the way because he requested that I do so. He told me he wanted to come to 'Southern'. I told him he should stick to his books and maybe he might get a bursary or sponsorship to Wits, his sport since he might represent his country in one of the future events and his arts because as an artist one day he might end up coming to Southern. He loves South Africa with all his heart and has questions that told me he might be 12 but he turns out to be fourteen. When we approached town he requested money for a matatu (minibus taxi). I sorted him and later lost him. The boy spoke good English and he sounded intelligent, something I still have to see in South Africa.
I got to Uhuru, took some few pictures and felt very tired and sleepy. I guess I took seven three minute naps in between as I sat there waiting to see a South African from Kiambu since we were instructed that at 16h00 we should meet for a South Africa party at Gretsa University at Thika. Cedric and Paul, two of the guys we share a house with in Kiambu show up and they too are looking for other South Africans. They move up and find Zulu, I move around as well and find Corlett and Nompi who is complaining about being very tired.
Hiccups later but at around six we are on our way to Kiambu to refresh and go to the party. I decide, 'no ways am I going to any party'. I have work to do and also I have seen three Kenyan girls who came with us to entertain the boys and I lost my party spirit. For me it was saying, 'we are here pleading solidarity with poor people but we are taking advantage of their poverty'. I lost my spirit for a party and decided to do my work instead - write one article that I must email home to a Sunday newspaper.
At around past seven the bus came and most of the comrades left. Only a few of us remained. Nompi because she was not feeling well, me because I wanted tranquility and Abraham, a Jew from the US who heads the Palestinian Peace Project in Washington DC. We stay there and have our dinner, traditional Kenyan dishes prepared by the ever loyal Pauline who is nicknamed Tusker.
I order my poison and proceed to the pool table where me and Abraham play a couple of games until I feel sleepy at around 23h00. I say my goodbyes and go to sleep. This was the final day of the meeting and I'm thinking 'what is it am I gonna do tomorrow?'
TOMORROW; DAY SEVEN EIGHT AND NINE