More than 1000 people came to Fana, Mali, city of cotton; they came not only from Mali, but from all over West Africa and beyond, to meet within the framework of the Forum of the People, the African counter-summit that was held during the G8 summit in Scotland.
The fourth edition of the Forum of the People opened Wednesday, July 6, 2005, with Mrs. Barry Aminatou Touré, president of the Coalition of African Alternatives for Debt and Development (CAD-Mali), as chair. At her side were the prefect of the circle of Dioïla, Alou Diarra, and the mayor of Fana, Abdoul Kader Traoré.
In his welcome speech, the mayor expressed the pleasure of the people of Fana that their commune could host this democratic African meeting of anti-globalists. According to him, the Forum of the People is an integral part of the African Social Forum and the World Social Forum, which are specifically dedicated to meeting each year in counterpoint to the G8 summit. He noted that the present forum mobilizes 580 participants from Bamako and the interior of Mali, as well as from Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea, the Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa-and that’s not counting 500 participants from the city of Fana and other villages of the circle of Dioila. All these people came to make the meeting a truly democratic space for education, communication, information-sharing, and civil protest against the neo-liberal policies of the G8.
The prefect of the circle of Dioïla said that the fourth edition of the Forum “will spread the fight against social, economic, environmental, cultural and political dilapidation.” He described Fana as a rural zone par excellence, where people from all walks of life live side by side, doing what it takes to get by.
The president of CAD-Mali, in her opening speech, explained some of the meaning of the Forum of the People, in contrast to the G8. “The heads of state of eight countries in the world (the United States, England, Japan, Germany, Canada, France, Russia, and Italy) joined together as the group called G8, giving themselves, without legitimacy, the role and the mission of world leadership. This group was never elected by the people. Its power, in a logic of domination and expropriation of the people, causes devastation all over the world. This year, we will put the pressure on G8 because it has made too many empty promises for too many years and, during this summit in Scotland, it still put Africa at the center of its debates ... We want the leaders of G8 to commit themselves to concrete actions, to keep their promise to fight against poverty in the world.”
Located in the region of Koulikoro, approximately 120 kilometers outside of Bamako, Fana, the town that hosted the Forum of the People, is the administrative center of one of the 23 communes of the circle of Dioïla. It forms, with seven other villages, the commune of Gégnéka, which has a population of 25,631 inhabitants, of which 19,988 are inhabitants of the city of Fana.
The second-largest cotton producer in Mali, after Koutiala, the economic area of Fana remains very poor. The privatization of the cotton industry and the introduction of genetically modified organisms are thus significant issues that mobilize people in the region, in particular the peasants. The cotton producers’ associations have a strong history of mobilization-were they not the principal actors behind the boycott of 1999-2000, protesting the paltry purchase prices of cotton? More than a thousand village associations came to this Forum of the People ready to work; the forum gathered all the actors in local, national, African, and international development: national organizations, non-governmental organizations, trade unions, media, civil servants, researchers, academics, youth organizations, faith-based organizations, government officials, local councilors, and more.