Monday, 20 September 2010

Barefoot Peace Walk - UN International Peace Day

On UN International Day of Peace, this Tuesday, walk for children, for the dispossessed, for peace. 

To mark the UN International Day of Peace on 21st September, the International Refugee Trust (IRT) is holding a Barefoot Peace Walk in London to draw attention to a major humanitarian crisis taking place in Central East Africa in which 20-60,000 children have been abducted by the rebel group known as the  Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

 On that day, the charity is asking people to wear white and walk through central London to raise awareness of the grim reality affecting millions of people in Central East Africa in one of the world’s worst and most neglected humanitarian crises.

Millions of civilians have suffered over the past 24 years in the struggle between the LRA and the Ugandan government. The group originated in Northern Uganda but is now spread across the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan. The LRA is notorious for abducting children and forcing them to become soldiers and sexual slaves. The rebels target civilians, mutilating and killing on a horrific scale.

Campaigners are urging David Cameron’s coalition to help stop Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, who has been abducting children to fight in his rebel army and rescue the children still in captivity. 

In support of the walk, author and comedian Jane Bussmann will perform her award-winning show ‘Bussmann’s Holiday’ (directed by Emmy winner Sally Phillips) at a special free event to be held at the Africa Centre from 7.30pm. 

A 20-year old former LRA abductee, Juliet, visited London this July with the charity War Child to share her experiences with school students, politicians and the media. Juliet hand-delivered a personal letter to Downing Street, urging the Prime Minister “to find a way to release girls and children who are still in the bush… this is an international problem and I ask you to take international leadership to stop this injustice."  An estimated 3,000 children are still held captive.

Regional governments are struggling to protect civilians and apprehend Kony and his top commanders. Campaigners are calling for the UK, which has strong ties to commonwealth nation Uganda and which contributes substantial aid to the region (£130m committed to the DRC), to demand value for money and stop Kony from destabilising the region. They urge Cameron's coalition to take a leading role in regional and international efforts to pursue peace and secure stability.

Barefoot Peace Walk participants will meet at 6pm next to St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, tomorrow and leave at 6.30pm for a 45-minute walk through London past landmarks including the Houses of Parliament. People are encouraged to dress in white and to walk barefoot, but this is not compulsory. The walk finishes at the Africa Centre, 38 King Street, near Covent Garden, where the special evening event starts at 7.30pm. All activities are free to attend. IRT’s partners in Uganda and Sudan will take part in local events on the same day.

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