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Canadians brave cold nights for Acholi kids
Publish Date: Jul 05, 2005
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PERSPECTIVE OF A UGANDAN IN CANADA

Opiyo Oloya
Tomorrow, at 8:45pm, I will join Adrian Bradbury, 35, his friend Kieran Hayward, 30 and several dozens of people for the walk from Victoria Park Train Station to Nathan Philip Square at Toronto City Hall.

The walk dubbed the Gulu Walk is organised by Bradbury for every single day of July to highlight the plight of Acholi children who trek each night to Gulu town centre to avoid becoming mere statistics in the 18-year rebel war in which thousands of children have fallen victims to abduction, rape and wanton murder.

While I will only walk the one night, Bradbury and his friends will for 31 days make the daily trek to the centre of Toronto, and spend the cold night in the open square alongside Toronto’s homeless people. Each night, Bradbury will leave his wife Kim Atwill-Bradbury and two sons, Isaac, 4, and Owen, 2 to do this for the children of Gulu. “I love to be with my children and wife, but if this will bring focus on one of the most terrible situations in our world today, then it is worth it,” he said simply when I caught up with him on Monday night, just before he set off with three friends.

According to Bradbury, the idea for the Gulu Walk came when he read newspaper accounts of the plight of the children. Like most Canadians, he at first ignored it as just another sad story from a far-away corner of the world. However, the story kept coming back to him —the idea that children must walk 25 kilometres every day to find a secure shelter for the night was simply too much for Canadians to ignore.

Though Bradbury who is the Sports Information Coordinator for the University of Toronto, and director of Athletes for Africa, a Canadian charity, has never been to Africa, he is fiercely determined that the world must get to know the tragic situation for the so-called “young night commuters” of Gulu. Using his marketing and media savvy, he has already succeeded in waking up the usually jaded Canadian media to pay attention to the issue. What is more, he is doing this in the wake of Live 8, a tough act to follow, which drew several billions TV watchers worldwide for the rock concerts held last Saturday around the world to focus attention on poverty in Africa.

“Many Canadians are not aware of what is happening in northern Uganda to these young children, and this is one way to begin to create awareness to the children,” says Bradbury.

That may have been the case a few weeks ago, but things are already changing since he began the walk last Friday. Bradbury will be joined by the members of Toronto Uganda community, Athletes for Africa ambassadors Paul Spoljaric (former Toronto Blue Jay), voice of the Toronto Raptors Herbie Kuhn, Olympic swimmer Jen Button and Cabbie Richards from the Score, among others. Many of the participants hope that media attention on the Gulu Walk will spur the Canadian public to pressure the government of Canada to act at last.

For one thing, through its ambassador to the UN, Canada can sponsor a firm resolution on the issue of child victims of insecurity in northern Uganda at the Security Council that would call on the government of Uganda to bring the 18-year old war to a close.

The time has long gone when the government of Uganda could blame the Lord’s Resistance Army for the continued war —it shares responsibility in the continuation of the war.

In this regard, it should not be too difficult to find supporters for such a strong resolution. In October 2004, after all, Jan Egeland, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, called the crisis in northern Uganda “the biggest neglected humanitarian emergency in the world”. Furthermore, Canada could pledge monetary resources for the post-war reconstruction of northern Uganda thereby allowing the focus to be on peace now rather than later.

Money, or rather the lack of it, should not be the obstacle to peace. For me, the Gulu Walk is a chance to renew the commitment to see peace return to northern Uganda, now neglected as Uganda politicians shamelessly campaign for third term without a hint of irony that Acholi children were left in the first term.

Thanks to Mr. Bradbury, the world will be reminded to show solidarity for the suffering of the Acholi children. All I ask is that all readers who desire peace to send Mr. Bradbury a note of encouragement to let him know his selfless act and that of many others on behalf of the children is appreciated.
Write to Mr. Bradbury at the email:adrianandkieran@guluwalk.com

Opiyo.oloya@sympatico.ca

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