A small Harvard contingent joined 100 other marchers in Boston Common on Saturday afternoon to demand both immediate peace in northern Uganda and increased aid to the war-torn region.
The international event, known as Guluwalk, takes place annually in over 50 cities in the U.S., and comes in the wake of active peace negotiations that have brought relative calm to Gulu and other afflicted districts in Uganda for the first time in two decades.
But with 1.5 million refugees from the war and hundreds of thousands displaced by a recent flood, the area still faces dramatic challenges, according to Julian J. Atim, a Ugandan student at the Harvard School of Public Health who received the 2006 Physicians for Human Rights Award for her walk in one of the districts near Gulu. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]
“Whatever capacity you have, whether you’re a student or a professional, you can play a role in saving afflicted children from being reduced to child mothers and HIV patients,” she said Saturday in one of the two keynote addresses.
Lydia Natoolo—a native of Uganda who lives in Boston and works with Resolve Uganda, one of the groups which organized the walk—noted in her speech that tens of thousands of children have been abducted in the midst of the region’s civil strife.
By demanding action for peace, Natoolo said, the demonstrators “showed us that you really love Uganda and the children who are suffering.”
She also decried the lack of attention to the plight of northern Uganda in comparison to other places where mass-murder is occurring.
“I once visited D.C. and talked to a congressman who said he hadn’t heard anything about Uganda—but everyone has heard of Darfur,” she said, mentioning that the western region of Sudan is rich in oil deposits.
Sarah Mortazavi ’09, the vice president of the Harvard College Coalition for Ugandan Peace, said that she hoped Natoolo’s speech would motivate students at Harvard to organize on the issue of rebuilding and bringing peace to northern Uganda.
“We’re surrounded by ourselves at Harvard,” Mortazavi said. “But to have someone from Uganda come, speak, and inspire us—and in turn get inspired by us—is a unique, great experience. It’s a great testament to the amount of time, emotion, and dedication that young people have.”
CORRECTION: The Oct. 22 news article "Students March For Uganda" gave the wrong reason for which School of Public Health student Julian J. Atim received the 2006 Physicians for Human Rights Award. She received the honor for working, not walking, in a Ugandan district.