Nyerere flexes muscle in Uganda by threatening troop withdrawal

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

The influence of Tanzania's President Julius Nyerere in Uganda's affairs has just been displayed in a move that saved the government of Uganda President Godfrey Binaisa from falling apart.

Tanzanian power was apparent during a closed-session confrontation Feb. 22 between President Binaisa and the National Consultative Council, which acts as the country's legislative assembly until one is elected.

The meeting ended in a compromise that brought back into the Cabinet the controversial Paul Muwanga, who had been fired recently by Mr. Binaisa. Mr. Muwanga was appointed minister of labor.

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As the former minister of internatl affairs, Mr. Muwanga has been responsible for unilaterally ordering the banning of three independent newspaper and the detention of the editor of the government-owned Uganda times. Mr. Muwanga was ousted in the ensuing crisis.

But President Nyerere, whose influence in Uganda has not been disputed since his forces ousted former dictator Idi Amin last year, threatened to pull his 20, 000 troops out of Uganda if the government did not maintain some kind of unity among its ministers.

A letter from Mr. Nyerere is said to have been delivered to President Binaisa by Tanzanian Foreign Minister Ben Mkapa.

Mr. Nyerere, it is said, especially wanted Mr. Binaisa to bring Paul Muwanga back into the government. President Binaisa apparently felt forced to obey the crack of Mr. Nyerere's whip, in spite of strong evidence that Mr. Muwanga is plotting to bring the exiled former Ugandan president, Milton Obote, back to power in the country.

But Mr. Nyerere's Threat to withdraw his troops from Uganda caused considerable alarm in the Cabinet. Troublesome though the Tanzanian soldiers have been, their withdrawal would create a major gap in Uganda's internal security. The post-Amin Uganda Army is not big enough or well-enough trained to take over from the Tanzanians. Moreover, the Uganda Army reputedly is split into a number of private armies run by prominent people in the government.

some Uganda-watchers believe President Nyerere's threat was aimed at Mr. Binaisa's action against Mr. Muwanga, who is believed to be in Mr. Nyerere's confidence.

Belief that Mr. Nyerere's ultimate aim is to help bring Mr. Obote back to power in Uganda is still very strong, but this step is opposed by many members of the National Consultative Council, especially by the powerful anti-Obote Baganda tribe.

Mr. Nyerere, however, is believed anxious to see the rehabilitations of Uganda, which he feels is being delayed by the frequent rows between government factions and the National Consultative Council, accompanied by a lack of political and social stability, which frightens away much needed foreign aid.

Some Ugandan's believe that a restoration of law and order is essential to bring back the country's confidence in itself. To a large extent, they blame the Tanzanian troops and their local adherents. These have been charged with excess such as looting and murder of civilians even police officers.

Signs of stress in the Binaisa government are shown in the conflict of information given out and the lack of coordination of public statements.

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