Saturday December 4 2010

New report shows improved security in Acholi region

By Benon Herbert Oluka


Four out of every five people in northern Uganda’s Acholi sub-region believe the security situation has improved dramatically since 2007 making them feel secure, results of a new, independent survey indicate.

The report from the survey findings titled Transition to Peace: A Population-based Survey on Attitudes about Social Reconstruction and Justice in Northern Uganda, states that incidences of violence are low and respondents, perceiving this improvement are now able to carry out their daily activies without fear of abduction.

The survey says 85 per cent of the respondents reported feeling “safe” or “very safe” while travelling at night, 88 per cent when going to the nearest village, 89 per cent when sleeping at night, and 90 per cent when doing daily chores.

Reduced fears
However the survey, which was conducted by two researchers from the Human Rights Centre at the Berkeley School of Law in the University of California, state that while the majority of the respondents believe that there is peace in northern Uganda, less than half (44 per cent) believe that this situation is permanent while a similar percentage believe it to be only temporary.

“Those who stated that they did not believe peace existed currently, most frequently explained by stating that the LRA still exists (45 per cent), and they fear the LRA may return (45 per cent),” says the report of the survey findings, which were gathered and analysed by Phuong Pham, the Director of Research at UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Centre, and Patrick Vinck, the Director of the Initiative for Vulnerable Populations.

Generally, according to the report, the respondents were optimistic that lasting peace is possible in the war-ravaged region. 82 per cent of the population surveyed believed it is possible for all the people of northern Uganda to live together in peace while slightly fewer (74 per cent) believed all people in Uganda could live together in peace.

The report adds that the improvement of peace and security in the Acholi sub-region has shifted the priorities towards sustenance and fulfilment of basic needs like food, agriculture (including access to land and inputs such as seeds or fertilisers), education, and health care. “In 2005 and 2007, peace, security, and resettlment were among respondents’ top priorities,” says the report. “In 2010, although respondents recognized the need for building unity and holding perpetrators accountable, fulfillment of basic needs and provision of services were made a priority.

Priorities in order of importance to respondents were food (28 per cent), agriculture, including access to land and seeds (19 per cent), education (15 per cent), and health services (13 per cent).”
In 2007, the government launched the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP), a comprehensive peace-building and development plan aimed at propping up the war-ravaged region in its transition to lasting peace. The PRDP, whose implementation began in July 2008, involves the investment of about Shs1.2bn in the region for over three years.

The researchers note that the PRDP has the potential to shape significantly the recovery and development of northern Uganda, and address the priorities identified by the people. However, when the researchers sought to gauge the community’s awareness and understanding of the PRDP more than two years after it was launched, they found that roughly two out of five respondents (42 per cent) had heard of the plan.

Unaware of PRDP
The findings indicate that fewer respondents said it had assisted with IDPs return and resettlement (10 per cent) and/or provided resettlement packages (8 per cent), improved education services (8 per cent), supported the local government (8 per cent), improved livelihoods (6 per cent) and improved health services (6 per cent).

“Considering the wide-ranging goals of the PRDP, the proportion of respondents that mentioned activities beyond building infrastructure was relatively low,” said the report. “It is also possible that respondents did not know that other projects had been carried out under the PRDP. However, few respondents (7 per cent) said they or their household had directly benefited from development programs overall.”

The report recommends eight courses of action that include developing a preparation programme that is financially realistic and addresses the needs of survivors, increased population participation, developing a criminal justice and civilian police system in northern Uganda that is responsive to community needs, fostering a regional approach to security threats.