domingo, 10 de febrero de 2008

Sleepless in Nairobi

First posted 20 June 2006, Nairobi

Saturday 17 June
0430 Am woken from three hours of semi-non-sleep by air stewards under the pretext that it is breakfast time despite it being 0430. Breakfast is disappointing.
0630 Arrive at Nairobi airport. My bag finally rounds the carousel over an hour later and am tired and hungry. Am met in car park by five other conference delegates from Cuba, Cote D’Ivoire, Mali and two from Mauritania. Sidda from Mauritania has been waiting for three hours since her plane arrived and Jourdy from Cuba has spent 36 hours in planes and airports. I stop moaning.
0930 After 39 cups of coffee join a preliminary mini-conference on developing a global campaign on illegitimate debt. We want to turn the debt debate upside down – it is not the South that owes the North, but the North that are actually the debtors. The so-called debts of the South are unfair and illegitimate, whereas the debts owed by the north (ecological and environmental, material (extractives), financial, historical) need to be repaid.
1830 We have made progress. Am excited about the possible rebirth of a global campaign on debt. Have stressed throughout day the danger of UK and other northern campaign groups beginning to drop work on debt. Global joint-working will become increasingly important. Christian Aid will play a key role in trying to get the UK government to recognise the existence of odious/unfair/unjust/illegitimate/dictator debt, just as the Norwegian government has. All we want to do is get the facts straight!
2000. Watch Ghana play the best football so far this world cup. Kenyan audience are ecstatic. Early to bed to finish off speech for tomorrow.

International Strategy Conference on Debt Repudiation, Day 1, 18 June
0630 Early to rise as Ezekiel arrives from Liberia. He has been in exile for 18 years and now has to share a room with me.
1000 Late start. My speech goes down well (claps but disappointingly no whooping or flowers). I say that now is the right time in the North to put the issue of repudiation back on the agenda. But Wahu Kaara’s rousing call for justice is what really wakes everyone up. Wahu is a leading Kenyan activist and has already inspired me over breakfast with the words, “Historical moments require historical actors” and thanking Christian Aid for stepping up to the plate when we were needed to organise this conference. She feels strongly that history and progress has brought us here. The plenary discussion implies that she might be right – there is a sense of destiny (always dangerous!).
1300 After lunch we hear more about historic precedents for repudiation. Constantly learning more about what a call for repudiation will mean. It means different things to different country delegates, but for all it is the vital accompaniment to a long term shift in power relations, which must go alongside our efforts to change the world for poor people as soon possible.
1730 Please stop talking. You have already made the same point in three different ways, a point that has already been made by someone else. I am tired and my stomach is rumbling. Surely your lengthy speech is no more effective than three quick bullet points. I beg you, shut up. I am beginning to hate you even though I know you do good work. Don’t make me hurt you.
2100 France vs Korea. I tend to support France but can’t help amusement at thought of tomorrow’s papers.

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