THE majority of the people in northern Uganda say they will vote for their favourite candidate in the February 18, 2011 presidential elections, according to the latest research on social reconstruction and justice in the region.
The report shows that 93% of residents in the war-ravaged region said they planned to vote in the up-coming elections. Of these, the report shows, 28% will turn out on polling day because they believed it was their duty, 24% will vote because they want a new president, while 18% want to exercise their right. Seven percent said they will not vote because they think it is useless to do so.
The large-scale population survey was conducted by the Human Rights Centre of the Berkeley School of Law from the University of California in the US. The survey was funded by the United States Aid Agency (USAID) through its Northern Uganda Transition Initiative.
Researchers Patrick Vinck and Phuong Pham presented the findings at the launch of the report at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel on Wednesday.
John Gattorn, USAIDâ€™s deputy country representative, was also present, as well as representatives of several aid agencies working in the north.
The findings are based on a survey about peace, justice and social reconstruction in the region. The survey was carried out between April and May in Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts, with a total of 2,498 interviews recorded.
Vinck noted that the 2011 election, the first peaceful polls in a space of 20 years, â€œwill be essential for increasing the legitimacy of the state in the eyes of these communitiesâ€.
â€œHowever, there exists a divide between the north and south. Many respondents believe the north and eastern regions have been marginalised under President Yoweri Museveniâ€™s rule,â€ Vinck said, quoting the report.
President Museveni, the NRM flag-bearer, and seven other presidential candidates, are currently traversing the country, seeking votes.
The seven include Dr. Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change, the Democratic Partyâ€™s Nobert Mao, Uganda Peopleâ€™s Congressâ€™ candidate Olara Otunnu and Peopleâ€™s Progressive Partyâ€™s flag-bearer Jaberi Bidandi Ssali.
Others are Uganda Federal Allianceâ€™s Beti Kamya, Peopleâ€™s Development Partyâ€™s Abed Bwanika and Samuel Lubega, an independent candidate.
The Uganda Bureau of Statistics, in its sub-national projections, says the north has a population of 7,283,700 inhabitants, half of which are eligible to vote.
All presidential candidates are courting the regionâ€™s vote. In the past, the region voted in favour of the opposition.
However, political analysts point at the return of peace to the region as the deciding factor for voting patterns in the 2011 polls.
The report indicates that 77% of the population in the north registered to vote. Seventy-two percent, the report notes, participated in the 2006 general elections.
The report explains that those who did not take part in the past elections were either too young, did not know how to register, were sick or did not want to register at all.
One third of the respondents (32%), according to the report, did not find the elections free and fair.
â€œThe results show that lack of confidence is not a major constraint to voting. Nevertheless, for the upcoming elections, as many as 96% of the respondents believed their vote would matter, mainly because, in their words: â€˜every vote counts (45%),â€™ the report notes.
The northern districts endured a two-decade rebellion by the Lordâ€™s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. The rebels massacred, maimed, raped, abducted and tormented thousands of people. They torched villages, conscripted boys and forced girls into sexual slavery.
The LRA, now marauding across the DRC and the Central African Republic, are wanted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
The rebels left the north after a pact on cessation of hostilities was signed in December 2006.
However, the 2006-2007 Juba peace talks collapsed after their leader, Joseph Kony, refused to sign the final peace agreement.
On reparations, the reports notes that most respondents (97%) said the war victims should be compensated. Of these, 49% said the payment should be done often because they are poor, 24% said it should be a form of recognition of their suffering and 19% said such reward would help them forget the suffering of the war.
The majority of the victims (74%) prefer restocking (cattle), while 66% want financial compensation. Some need housing (44%), education (38%) and food (38%).
The majority (82%) said they would accept community-level reparations, while another majority (82%) concur that symbolic reparation in the form of an apology or a monument was enough. Thirty-six percent did not believe in receiving reparations.
Majority in the north are eager to vote