One year after Amin, Uganda still struggles to rebuild
Adi Amin, the ousted former president of Uganda, left behind him a country in ruins, and the men who succeeded him are still facing a formidable task of reconstruction and rehabilitation.
One year ago, the army of the dictatorial Mr. Amin was defeated by a force composed of Ugandan exiles spearheaded by 40,000 Tanzanian soldiers with tanks and artillery.
Idi Amin flew into exile in Libya -- where he reportedly still is based -- and a new government headed by a quiet professor from Uganda's Markerere University, Yusufu Lule, took over.
Slowly, those Ugandans who had been in exile for eight or more years during the repressive amin regime filtered back to pick up the pieces and to try to create a new country out of the ruins of the old.
So far, they have not been notably successful in achieving the first target, a politically stable administration, on which could be built an economy that works.
President Lule was fired after two months in a political crisis at least partly influenced by Tanzania's President Julius Nyerere, who wanted to impose his own socialist ideas on a very fluid situation. Mr. Nyerere left the bulk of his Tanzanian troops in Uganda to maintain law and order. Some called it an "army of occupation." In effect, Tanzania's military power in Uganda was unchallenged.
The body wielding political power in Uganda, the National Consultative Council (NCC), was formed from exile leaders with a wide range of political allegiances. Among them are Marxists, Tanzania-type socialists, out-and-out communists, those who support Dr. Milton Obote (the president Adi Amin overthrew in his coup of 1971), and royalists who support a return of the Bagandan monarchy, which had been destroyed by Mr. Obote during his years of office.
Ever since its inception, the NCC has been split into factions riven by disagreements on the way ahead. After the ousting of President Lule, the NCC managed to agree on the appointment of lawyer Godfrey Binaisa as president, and he still manages to retain his office -- partly because another change is unthinkable. Aid donors from the Western world, already concerned about the country's instability, would have abandoned Uganda to its fate, it was thought.
The NCC was to serve as an embryo legislative council of Uganda for the interim period until nationwide elections could be held. The plan was to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in June next year.
But the continued unrest in the country, the outbreaks of political and criminal violence, the formulation of political cliques and private armies, has forced the NCC to bring forward the date for elections to later this year. President Binaisa and his supporters are strongly in favor of this plan.
Having established in principle the need to hold early elections, two questions now arise. One is: Should there be separate presidential and parliamentary elections? The pro-Binaisa elements want a presidential election to be followed by a parliamentary election because, if Mr. Binaisa should win the presidency, it would give them an edge over the others, whoever they may be.
Opposed are those who back ex-president Obote, who has not been back to Uganda since his exile unde rIdi Amin and who needs time to mount an effective campaign.
The second question is: Should the election be held under the umbrella of one party, the Uganda National Liberation Front, or allow a free reign to a number of parties? Of the 28 groupings forming the Uganda National Liberation Front, Mr. Ibote's old Uganda People's Congress is the most powerful. It still has a political machine in Uganda, which survived Idi Amin by going underground.
Another party is likely to be formed around Professor Lule, a Bagandan who has announced his intention of fighting the elections. He has considerable support from the powerful Bagandans, who, with money and influence in the capital, Kampala, are hoping for a Lule comeback. This could be a problem for Mr. Binaisa, also a Bagandan, who draws his support from similar groups. Mr. Lule is now in Nairobi, Kenya.
These are questions that have not been resolved. A key question is the attitude of President Nyerere and the Tanzanians. Though Tanzanian troops are progressively withdrawing from Uganda, there will still be about 10,000 troops left behind. And there is a possibility President Nyerere may try to influence the elections in favor of Milton Obote, who shares the same socialist ideology.
Meanwhile, Ugandans, with little available transport, are coping with a famine situation in northern Uganda involving some 485,000 people whose crops have failed due to drought and lack of planting during the retreat of the Amin forces into southern Sudan.
There is good news, however, in the arrival of 90 tons of wheat and rice from West Germany, organized by the German Red Cross with an airlift paid for by Scandinavian countries.