Fresh Uganda violence laid to Amin supporters
Is the long shadow of exiled dictator Idi Amin still hanging over Uganda, the country he ruined in eight years of terror and misrule? Was it a coincidence that former President Amin was boasting in Saudi Arabia of his 13,000 followers in Uganda while attempts were being made by a group of mysterious armed men to free some of those followers from Luzira Prison near Lake Victoria?
After a brief quiet spell following the election of the current president, Milton Obote, violence once again has broken out in Uganda with troops, and men masquerading as troops, going on the rampage in the capital city of Kampala.
Kampala analysts say there is a strong belief that forces sympathetic to Idi Amin are at work, with the objective of destabilizing the country. This came at a time when President Obote had withdrawn soldiers from police duty and lifted the 10 p.m.-to- dawn curfew in Kampala.
There were attacks on police stations by gunmen in civilian clothes. Prisoners were released. In Mubende, in northern Buganda, armed men described as rebels were put to flight by security forces. Some surrendered and large quantities of arms and ammunition were captured.
Troops were brought back to guard the main post office in Kampala and the central telephone exchange. They also manned road blocks, which had not been seen in the capital for months.
Alarming stories of robberies, looting, and rape in the suburb of Rubago were reported by the leader of the official opposition Democratic Party, Paul Semogerere, who said five truckloads of looted goods were driven away from the suburb.
"We are going back on a course we thought we had left, just as things were under Amin," complained Mr. Semogerere.
Kept under wraps since the election, Tanzanian troops were called out to help the Ugandans. There are still 10,000 Tanzanians in Uganda, although they are being withdrawn in June, according to Tanzania's President Julius Nyerere.
The Obote government has not yet identified who was behind the attacks, but a new organization has surfaced, the Uganda Freedom Movement, which claimed responsibility. Government suspicion has also turned toward the radical young ex-freedom fighter, Yoweri Museveni, whose party, the Uganda Patriotic Movement, won one seat in the recent elections.
Scores of ex-Amin soldiers are in detention, and some 3,000 have been released and are roaming the country without employment, a permanent threat to security because they are up for grabs to anyone wishing to employ them in a private army. Uganda is afloat with arms and ammunition, and one of the Obote priorities is to collect them.
President Obote said some of the recent attacks on police stations were designed to "demoralize the police, who had started to take over their duties with enthusiasm and dedication after many years of neglect and subordination."
A major government priority is to provide the police force with intensive training, a task Britain has taken over under its aid program for Uganda. Some senior British police officers have been assigned to the Obote government.
The big worry in Kampala is that the recent outbreaks of violence will prejudice aid donors, though a $100 million aid package from the European Community is on its way.
A British Foreign Office minister, Richard Luce, after a visit to Uganda, urged the West to back Mr. Obote in his "massive" task of rebuilding the country.