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Uganda signs pact with rebels, but no one seems happy

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Fanfare accompanied the signing of a peace accord between the Ugandan government and rebel leaders here yesterday. But no one looked very happy. Yoweri Museveni, leader of the rebel National Resistance Army, used the moment to lambast Ugandan head of state Gen. Tito Okello for the spate of rapes, murders, and lootings attributed to his soldiers since they ousted Milton Obote in a military coup last July. He also blamed General Okello for instigating the fighting between the rebels and the government's Army that has caused more than 1,000 deaths.

``The violence was not started by the people of Uganda. It was started by the people in power. We are not going to stop until the people who are responsible [are] brought to book,'' he said.

It was hardly an auspicious note for what Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi called ``the beginning of a new era of peace, stability, and tranquillity.''

The government and the NRA have been sparring on the battlefield and at the negotiating table since late August. Key issues that stalled the agreement were the size of rebel representation in the government and a new national Army.

The compromise agreement has awarded Mr. Museveni the influential vice-chairmanship of the ruling military council. Okello remains chairman but is said to profess no interest in politics. Museveni was forced to cede two other demands -- the key defense portfolio and the expulsion of two council members representing troops once loyal to former dictator Idi Amin. In a major concession, the NRA was accorded equal representation with the government's Army on the council.

The coalition rulers face the most difficult challenge yet in Uganda's post-independence history. Solutions which seem straight forward are fraught with obstacles that will be difficult to surmount. To achieve national unity the two factions must not only sweep aside past quarrels but also weld together popular divisions rooted in religious, tribal, and political differences and exacerbated by the atrocities committed against a weary populace.


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