Meet Adrian Bradbury of Gulu Walk
"The original Gulu Walk, which lasted for 31 days, saw Adrian Bradbury and Kieran Hayward conduct their own night commute in Toronto, Canada. Every night in July they walked 12.5 km into downtown Toronto to sleep in front of city hall. After about four hours of sleep they made the trek home at sunrise, all while continuing to work full-time and attempting to maintain their usual daily routine."
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First published: April 26, 2006
The situation in Gulu, the northern part of Uganda, has been a thorn in the feet of the country for far too long. Unresolved, unattended to, (viewed as) unimportant, unnoticed, and unending, are few words that we can use to describe the situation. What is happening in Gulu is simply atrocious. It has ravaged northern Uganda for over 20 years and killed more people than were killed on 9/11. Yet like Southern Sudan - the slavery, kidnapping, raping and killings it barely features in the mainstream media and is still an unfamiliar topic to the general public.
It is a shame that in the 21st century over 20,000 children can be abducted by rebels with impunity. It is an outrage that these same children can be used not only as child soldiers which has its own psychological, mental and physical consequences but also as sexual slaves. It is an abomination that 90% of a tribe the Acholi tribe can find themselves displaced in non-secure camps with the bare minimum as far as provisions. Families, clans, cultural traditions, dialects are in the danger of extinction in a country which gained its independence. And yet Toyota recalling 57,000 Lexus cars, a couple faking sextuplets for cash or the immigration problem in the USA can make more news than death, slavery, child abuse and horror.
But despite all these morbid facts; despite the fact that the United Nations and the Ugandan government need to do much more for Northern Uganda. There is Gulu Walk which has fought to keep people aware of the Gulu situation. Through Gulu Walk people all over the world, from China to Canada to England to the USA have become aware of the desperate plight of the people of Gulu. The people behind Gulu Walk, Adrian Bradbury and Kieran Hayward are regular Canadians who have sought to make the media conscious of the Gulu disaster. Gulu Walk started in July of 2005 as an effort by the two Canadians to empathize with the suffering of the 'night commuters' of northern Uganda. It has now grown into an urgent, impassioned worldwide movement for peace.
Original Image Source: www.metronews.ca
Adrian Bradbury, a hero who prefers to avoid the spotlight, is the founder of Athletes for Africa, a charitable organization which uses the power of sport to educate and engage Canadians in Africa's fight against poverty, famine and disease. Together with his partner Kieran, they have single-handedly managed to put Gulu and its tribulations on the world map in a way that no other person, government or organization has managed to do in the past. It is imperative that Ugandan and all other world citizens follow their example to work towards securing Northern Uganda and giving its people hope. I had a chance to catch up with Adrian a few days after he returned from his visit to Gulu, Uganda and this was what he had to say.
Jane: Kieran Hayward and yourself are basically the people who spearheaded Gulu Walk. You were recently featured in the Toronto star. What inspired Gulu Walk?
Adrian: More than anyone, the children of northern Uganda inspired the walk. It was their resiliency, joy and hope, despite the incredibly difficult conditions they endure. That made what we did possible. The Acholi children continue to drive everything we do.
Ugandans have known about the situation in Gulu for years, even when the outside media was not covering it. How did you first hear about Gulu?
Through the great work of AMREF Canada and Canadian Physicians for Aid & Relief (CPAR).
You could have drawn attention to the plight of Gulu children in any way. Why Gulu Walk?
We did the Gulu Walk because we wanted to tell the story in a unique way, so unique that it would draw media attention. We also wanted to get some idea of what it must be like for these children to do this every single day.
Lots of Ugandans think ending the civil war in Gulu should be the first thing on President Museveni's agenda now that elections are over. Are there any plans to meet President Museveni and discuss this issue?
We'd be very interested in sitting down with President Museveni, but that hasn't been possible yet. If he'd like to extend the invitation, we'd be there.
What has been the general response of the Ugandans you have met?
It's been incredibly positive. So many Ugandans appreciate what we're doing and want to do everything they can to help. However, there are many others who still have no idea what's really going on in the North. We most want to connect with them and help them to see what their fellow Ugandans are enduring. The IDP camps are no way for anyone to live.
What has been the general response internationally to the Gulu Walk campaign?
Again, it's been positive. This is an issue that so many people, all over the world, genuinely care about. We - Gulu Walk - have played a role in bringing everyone together.
It's rare to see a non-African who has such a strong passion for Africa. But you do. Why is that?
Gulu Walk. www.guluwalk.com
It's not about Uganda or Canada for us. It's about people. You hear the tired cliché that we're all now 'global citizens'. Well, if that's the case then it shouldn't matter where or who you are. And for us, more than anyone, the children of northern Uganda need our help.
How was your trip to Uganda? What did you think of the country?
We really only spent time in the north, but we loved it. There is a 'flow' to how people live. In Canada, its always starting and stopping; hurry up and wait. It's jarring and incredibly inattentive. In Uganda everything 'fits', it's comfortable and it's always moving, but never rushing.
You visited Gulu - something that many Ugandans have never done and I must commend you for that. Your interest in a Ugandan cause; in Ugandan children touches many Ugandans. What was your assessment of the situation?
Two things. First, Northern Uganda is the worst place in the world to be as a child. There current situation is a gross violation of basic human rights and has been reduced to political game at every level. This is an emergency that is seeing the weekly death rate double that of Sudan, but what are the government and the international community doing about it?
I visited Uganda two years ago and what was mind-blowing was the fact that when you are in Kampala, you would not know that a bloody war was going on in the same country; that women were being raped, children kidnapped and fathers murdered. It was almost surreal. Did you experience that?
There is an incredible divide, and it's incredibly disturbing; not just that the two areas are so different, but that so many people know so little about the conflict. 1.7-million Acholi who have been herded into these IDP camps! We had no idea! A study earlier this year by the Ugandan Ministry of Health and the United Nations estimates that over 1,000 people are dying every week from violence or disease in the camps. Yet, that's just the beginning. The IDP camps are over-crowded, lacking health services and amenities, and are protected only inconsistently. If we learned one thing from our trip, it is that the camps are a horrifically inadequate protection strategy. Yet, even with such mortality rates, the Government of Uganda refuses to declare the region a disaster area. The United Nations Security Council in its own right remains silent. We want to know why.
If you could send a message to Kony-The rebel leader committing all these atrocities-what would you say?
My question to Kony, would be much the same as it would be to Museveni and to the UN - - how many people have to die before this war will end? How many innocent children have to die for all of you to be satisfied? Just tell us the number. Is it 250,000? 300,000? 500,000? Maybe it's a million? The future of Acholiland, of northern Uganda, is in your hands, what now?
You could not have said it better. How can those who want to help contribute to your campaign?
Write to and call their politicians, the Ugandan government and the UN. Tell them to stop the war in Northern Uganda. You can also get out and start or support a Gulu Walk in your area to raise awareness or put on an event and raise money for education and rehabilitation programs for northern Ugandan youth.
Please tell us more about Athletes for Africa.
Athletes for Africa is Canada's only athlete driven organization dedicated to making a difference in Africa's most under-developed regions. We are not exporting sport, but using the profile and passion of sport to breathe life into this continent in need. Athletes for Africa's aim is to fundraise for, and support the infrastructure projects and sustainable development solutions Africa needs to break the cycle of poverty, famine and disease. That can only be done by engaging, educating and encouraging Canadians to
take action for this ever-growing crisis.
Where can you be contacted?
What's next for you?
More events and partnerships for peace in northern Uganda. Stayed tuned for Uganda139.com, coming soon.
For more information on Gulu, how to help and donations please go to www.guluwalk.com
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First published: April 26, 2006
Jane won the Miss Africanada beauty pageant 2000 in Toronto where she was also named one of the new voices of Africa after reciting one of her poems. In 2004, she was published in T-Dot Griots-An Anthology of Toronto's Black storytellers and in February 2005, her art piece Namyenya was featured as the poster piece for the Human Rights through Art-Black History Month Exhibit.
She is the recipient of numerous awards for her poetry, art and playwriting and is becoming a household name in Toronto circles. Please visit her website at www.nteyafas.com.