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Power struggle in Uganda

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Turmoil once again has engulfed Uganda, this time as the result of a fierce power struggle between President Godfrey Binaisa and the Army. Some analysts felt the test of strength could lead to a military takeover or even civil war in the restive East African nation.

At any rate, pressure on the Binaisa government was continuing on May 12, adn reports from the Uganda capital city of Kampala indicated a military coup d'etat might be under way already.

Balancing such reports, however, a spokesman for the military officers holding Uganda's radio station in Kampala said the country's interim parliament, the Uganda National Liberation Front, would be convened as soon as possible to debate the crisis and thereby avert a civil war.

Diplomats regarded this as an attempt to defuse the clash between President Binaisa and the Army.

Trouble first erupted when Mr. Binaisa announced the dismissal of the Army chief of staff, Brig. David Oyite Ojok, a close ally of former president Milton Obote, who long has been in exile in Tanzania.

Confusion reigned on May 11 when Uganda Radio, after the Ojok dismissal had been broadcast on the authority of President Binaisa, broadcast an Army statement that he was still chief of staff.

Later, the main radio station was taken over by the Army, flagrantly defying Mr. Binaisa, who is not only commander in chief of the Army, but also acting defense minister.

Brigadier Ojok is a hero of the successful campaign of Ugandan exiles and Tanzanian troops to oust former president Idi Amin. Mr. Binaisa apparently got wind of a coup, allegedly planned by Brigadier Ojok, to topple him and bring back Mr. Obote.

Mr. Obote, now in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, plans to return to Uganda on May 27 to fight the coming elections at the end of the year. He was the first president of Uganda and was overthrown by Idi Amin in a 1971 military coup.

According to reports from Uganda, as a reprisal against the firing of Brigadier Ojok, soldiers went to Nile Mansions, where many Cabinet minsters live and work, on May 10. They arrested Dr. Barnabas Kununka, the minister of the interior and head of the security police. They took him away but later returned him to his office. Mr. Kununka had threatened to use force against Obote party rallies. During this incident, two people reportedly were killed, one the young daughter of a Cabinet minister.

But, as is often the case in Uganda these days, confused reports take a long time to be verified.


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