12 January 2011 - Jubilant Southern Sudanese expatriates who settled in Uganda after fleeing Sudan's second civil war flocked in large numbers to polling centres in the national capital of Kampala this week.
Voters assigned to the Kampala 1 Polling Centre in the neighbourhood of Namboole started to mark their ballots at 7 a.m. on the first day of voting on 9 January. By the close of business that afternoon, slightly over half of the 1,700 voters assigned to the centre had exercised their franchise.
Two of those voters were Goi Jackson and Duku Moses, who travelled over 40 kilometres from their farms near the town of Bugerere to reach the Ugandan capital. Sunday marked the first time either man had ever voted, and both said they would return to Southern Sudan after the final referendum results are released.
Turnout was also high on the first day of voting at the Kampala 2 Polling Centre. The facility's chairperson Elizabeth Remijo said that nearly half of the 3,027 voters assigned to that centre had cast ballots on the first day of voting.
"I am happy to vote for our final delivery from wars, hardships and slavery," said James Malisi, a 60-year-old security guard from the Central Equatoria State county of Morobo who fled Sudan during both of its civil wars and has lived in Uganda since 1987. "For over fifty years, we have suffered in the south of the country."
Mr. Malisi also expressed his readiness to go back to Southern Sudan once the final voting results are announced.
"If (secession) happens, I shall leave Uganda immediately and join my fellow countrymen in the construction of the country," he said.
Uganda is one of eight foreign countries where referendum voting is taking place this week. Polling is also occurring in Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt, Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia.