ONE FOOTSTEP FOR EVERY FIVE DEAD
University of Waterloo
April 4 2007
UW Genocide Action Group (GAG) held its third annual "Footsteps of
Death" walk for Darfur on Wednesday, March 28 from 2:00p.m.-7:30p.m.
With each foot walked representing about five people killed in Sudan,
students repeatedly lapped around Ring Road, totalling 23 km.
Christopher Tuckwood, president of UWGAG, started the event in 2005
after hearing discusstion about the situation in Darfur, which inspired
him to create "Footsteps of Death."
After doing some simple math, Tuckwood decided to walk nine laps of
Ring Road to raise awareness – one foot for every death in Darfur by
2005, an amount which has multiplied by over five times since then.
In response to criticisms regarding the timing of the event, he
maintains that it is better at the busy end of term than during the
bitter cold of winter.
Tuckwood ran the fledgling event on his own for the first year as UWGAG
had yet to be formed, and the walk functioned solely as an awareness
raiser. Last year Tuckwood realized the potential to fundraise with
the event, with this year’s walk raising a total of $2,500.
All funds raised through the event will go to Oxfam’s Canadian Students
for Darfur Appeal. Tuckwood and UWGAG chose this organization due to
Oxfam’s reputability and the fact that the organization guarantees
100 per cent of the proceeds, minus minimal banking fees, will go
directly to humanitarian aid in Darfur.
Tuckwood advocates donating money as "hunger is as much a weapon
being used against the people of Darfur as weapons or bombs."
Since the inception of UWGAG, its membership – as well as surport
for the walk – has been increasing.
In the fall UWGAG held a conference for Darfur which received 140
attendees. Earlier this month, they hosted a benefit concert with an
attendance of over 200 people. UWGAG are also selling black T-shirts
with "DARFUR" written across the chest in bold green letters for $10
to increase publicity and raise funds.
According to Tuckwood, UWGAG’s aim is to "take history and relate it to
today." They’ve attempted to do so through screenings of movies like
The Pianist and Hotel Rwanda, which feature premises that closely
relate to the situation in Darfur. Although the group is intended
to spread awareness about genocide, its focus is on Darfur because
"that’s what’s happening now."
When asked about what he believes to be the major hindrance to
international involvement in Darfur, Tuckwood emphasized China’s
influence as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and its
interests in Darfur, which he concedes "get harped on a lot." Sudan
gets a percentage of its national income from China’s purchases
of their oil; in turn, 70 per cent of this goes into the Sudanese
military which helps perpetrate the current genocide.
Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has continually resisted the
deployment of UN peacekeeping troops to Darfur with the argument that
they must be more pre-dominantly African. However, there are already
African Union forces in Darfur which are not achieving much success as
they are "undermanned, underequipped, underfunded, and undertrained,"
to use Tuckwood’s words for a seemingly general consensus.
Tuckwood advocates that there is need for more western involvement in
Darfur; otherwise the same problems of improperly trained forces will
persist. He believes that the "world community must act together"
and has a "moral responsibility" to intervene. He also propounds
that military intervention is "absolutely the only thing that ends
genocide" because it is impossible to reason with people committed
to killing others, citing the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, and
the Cambodian genocide as historical examples where violence was the
only action capable of ending the conflict.
Media coverage of the Darfur genocide has been limited, so Tuckwood
urges students to contact the media and inform them that they want
more news on Darfur. UWGAG checked the KW Record’s archives and
discovered that while 7,000 articles have been written on Iraq in the
past year and 3,000 on the Israel/Palestine conflict, they have only
printed 301 on Darfur. Meanwhile, 317 articles have been published
on Britney Spears. The Record declined to comment on this discovery
but did print UWGAG’s letter to the editor regarding this information.
Those who wish to be notified about future UWGAG events can e-mail
them at [email protected]