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"Signs of Change" Says Bolivia's Morales as World Social Forum Opens

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Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Dakar on Sunday to mark the start of the annual World Social Forum. Activists carried colorful banners denouncing land grabs, restrictive immigration laws, agricultural subsidies in Europe and the U.S. and many other issues.

Others sang freedom songs and played drums whilst marching peacefully through the streets along a route that began near the offices of Senegal's public broadcaster, RTS, and ended at the Cheikh Anta Diop University, the main venue for the weeklong gathering.

Bolivian president Evo Morales, who took part in the march, invited his counterparts from poor countries to take part in this event.

"There must be awareness and a mobilisation to put an end to capitalism and clear away invaders, neocolonialists and imperialists [...] I support the popular uprisings in Tunisia and in Egypt. These are signs of change," said Morales, a former trade union leader who is a regular participant in anti-globalisation movement gatherings.

"There must be resistance and awareness. There must be a programme of social struggle to build a new world," he said.

"We must save humanity, and to do that, we must know our enemies. The enemies of the people are neocolonialists and imperialists. We must put an end to the capitalist model and put another in its place. It's necessary to get rid of the rich and change the world."

The mayor of Dakar welcomed participants, but other senior members of the Senegalese government were absent; President Abdoulaye Wade himself is out of the country, though he is scheduled to take part in an event alongside the Brazilian president later in the week.

The World Social Forum defines itself as an open space where those "opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking."

As this year's event is being held in Senegal, many of the discussions will revolve around what organisers term the crisis of civilisation and capitalism gripping Africa and the rest of the world.