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AP cites IRI Uganda Poll

June 25, 2003
Survey: Most Ugandans believe multiparty politics in their East African nation would lead to violence
Geoffrey Muleme

Kampala, Uganda — Nearly half of the Ugandans questioned in a survey said they feared that if the East African nation adopted a multiparty political system it would lead to violence, the survey released Wednesday said. East African research group Strategic Public Relations and Research Ltd. found that 46 percent of people questioned were afraid that if political parties were allowed to operate freely in Uganda politically motivated violence and ethnic clashes would follow.

Uganda has had a "no-party system" since President Yoweri Museveni seized power in 1986. They system allows political parties to exist but severely restricts their activities, particularly recruitment and fund-raising.

Recently, there have been increasing calls from government critics for a return to a multiparty system.

Museveni claims that political parties only exacerbated ethnic and religious tensions in Uganda from the time of independence from Britain in 1962.

And when asked whether they thought political party competition leads to conflict, 69 percent of the survey's respondents said yes.

From the time Idi Amin ousted President Milton Obote in 1971 until Museveni seized power after a five-year rebellion, Uganda was engulfed in violence, and tens of thousands of people died.

"The link between violence and political parties seems to stem from the manner which Ugandans chose parties, namely based on religion (37.9 percent) and personality (22.9 percent) with a much smaller percentage (8.1 percent) looking at the policies of the party," the survey said.

But the survey also found that 47 percent of respondents didn't feel free to express political views and 56 percent didn't feel free to assemble freely.

A law passed last May relaxed some of the rules on political parties, but most restrictions will remain.

Museveni's National Resistance Movement - to which all Ugandans automatically belong - has ruled the country since 1986. But there have been splits within the Movement, and some of it's members calling for greater democracy and political pluralism.

In elections, candidates for parliament and the presidency run as individuals, not as representatives of any party. Museveni has been elected twice - in 1996 and 2001.

In June 2000, Ugandans rejected a return to multiparty politics in a referendum that attracted few voters. The constitution provides for a review of the political system in 2004.

The survey, which was commissioned by the Washington-based International Republican Institute, questioned 3,000 people aged over 18 years throughout the country between May 21 and June 13. The margin of error was plus or minus 1.79 percent.

The International Republican Institute is a nonpartisan organization founded in 1984 and is part of the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy that seeks to assist nations in organizing free and fair elections.