Global Walk: Uganda’s Children

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The war in northern Uganda between the LRA and the Ugandan government army, the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) is characterized by a level of cruelty, desperation and destruction seldom seen elsewhere and civilians and children are caught in the middle. Every night as many as 40,000 children living in rural northern Uganda walk into the town of Gulu and other urban centres to sleep in relative safety and to avoid abduction by the rebel army. These ‘night commuters’ walk from as far as 12km away and make the return trek home every single day.

On Saturday, October 22, 2005 GuluWalk Day will hit the streets in 42 cities worldwide in the first-ever global show of solidarity for the ‘night commuters’ of northern Uganda. In Toronto, home of the original GuluWalk, walking shoes will replace cars on the city’s main strip, Yonge Street, with the event taking over the downtown core in Canada’s biggest city. 

Former UNICEF head Carol Bellamy has called northern Uganda “pretty much the worst place on earth to be a child;â€? over 20,000 children – some as young as six years old - have been abducted by the rebel-led Lords Resistance Army (LRA), forced to serve as child soldiers, sex slaves and laborers. As many as 1.6 million people – over 90% of the Acholi people, 80% of them women and children - have been displaced in refugee camps that offer neither security nor basic provisions. 

The war in northern Uganda between the LRA and the Ugandan government army, the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) is characterized by a level of cruelty, desperation and destruction seldom seen elsewhere and civilians and children are caught in the middle.  Every night as many as 40,000 children living in rural northern Uganda walk into the town of Gulu and other urban centres to sleep in relative safety and to avoid abduction by the rebel army. These ‘night commuters’ walk from as far as 12km away and make the return trek home every single day.

From Toronto (Canada) to London (UK) to Washington, DC, New York City, and Gulu and Kampala Uganda, GuluWalk Day has positioned itself to be the largest ever international push for peace for this all but forgotten 19-year civil war. After the success of the one-month GuluWalk in Toronto in July, the response worldwide was astounding and has resulted in this international civil movement. It is a one-day event that will send a clear message that this is a vital issue to citizens worldwide and that they will no longer sit idly when there is indeed an opportunity for peace.

The original GuluWalk, which lasted for 31 days, saw Adrian Bradbury and Kieran Hayward conduct their own ‘night commute’. Every evening in July they walked 12.5 km into downtown Toronto to sleep in front of city hall. After about fours hours sleep they made the trek home at sunrise, all while continuing to work full-time and attempting to maintain their usual daily routine.

Cities confirmed to participate in GuluWalk Day on Saturday, October 22, 2005 include:  Canada - Calgary, AB; Edmonton, AB; Halifax, NS; Kitchener, ON; Montreal, QC; North Bay, ON; Ottawa, ON; St. John's, NF; Thunder Bay, ON; Toronto, ON; Vancouver, BC; Winnipeg, MB. USA - Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Boulder, CO; Chapel Hill, NC; Charlottesville, VA; Chicago, IL; Dayton, OH; Denver, CO; Grand Rapids, MI; Lawrence, KS; Los Angeles, CA; Minneapolis, MN; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Pittsburgh, PA; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; South Bend, IN; Washington, DC World - Beijing (China); Coventry (UK), Gulu (Uganda); Kampala (Uganda); London (UK); Nairobi (Kenya); Perth (Australia); Stockholm (Sweden); Uzice (Serbia).

GuluWalk Day is an international civil movement initiated by the efforts of two average Canadians and their 31-day GuluWalk earlier this year, which aimed to raise awareness and show support for the ‘night commuters’ and child victims of northern Uganda’s all but forgotten 19-year civil war.

GuluWalk Day is a proud partner of the Act for Stolen Children in northern Uganda campaign. The Act for Stolen Children of northern Uganda campaign will bring together policy and research advocates, UN actors, government representatives and NGOs to raise public awareness, galvanize policy support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in northern Uganda. The campaign also supports activities such as GuluWalk for stolen children to engage critical mass support and raise funds for on the ground programs in northern Uganda that directly provide aid and support to those affected by the crisis. The campaign will act as a catalyst for change by providing a platform for collaboration among media, policy and research advocates, and civil society, to facilitate increased awareness of and to increase capacity to respond to the humanitarian crisis in northern Uganda.

For more information on the walk please visit guluwalk.com In New York City please also visit www.unight.org Also visit lararosenoff.com. Readers can respond to this article through letters@blackstarnews.com

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