Uganda seeks return of lost stability as Obote takes presidential reins

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Newly elected President Milton Obote's Christmas gift to Uganda could well be security -- and a move toward the stability this tragic country needs if it is to recover its balance and former prosperity.

Mr. Obote can give the Ugandans security, in the opinion of some analysts. The Uganda Army helped to put him back in power and he, along with his vice-president and minister of defense, Paul Muwanga, appear to have firm control. (Mr. Muwanga headed the military commission that ran Uganda prior to the election.)

Meanwhile, Tanzania's President Julius Nyerere is leaving his 10,000 troops in Uganda for the time being to help maintain order. The political battle is over, and the political murders and intimidation appear to have ceased.

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In an effort to achieve unity, President Obote has asked for cooperation from the Baganda-dominated Democratic Party, which at one time thought it had won the recent election. The party has changed its mind about boycotting Parliament and is now to work as a constitutional opposition. How long this situation will last is anybody's guess: African politics seldom seems to have room for opposition parties.

Mr. Obote is now eager to woo foreign businessmen and aid donors back to Uganda, and his inaugural speech as president was a model of moderation in all spheres. He promised a program of policies leading toward national reconstruction.

By releasing the unfortunate ex-president, Godfrey Binaisa, from house arrest (he had been detained by the Muwanga military government), Mr. Obote has demonstrated his policy of reconciliation toward the suspicious and inimical Baganda, the most powerful and wealthiest tribal group in the country.

Externally, he has started off well by offering the hand of friendship to neighboring Kenya, long concerned about his socialist policies. Mr. Obote doubtless was pleased when the presidents of Kenya and Sudan pledged their support, as did President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia.

Kenya is especially optimistic about Mr. Obote's stated wish to revive the East African Community, which collapsed in 1977. The breakdown led to a severe recession among Kenya's businessmen and industrialists, who once traded prosperously with Tanzania and Uganda.

There are hopes in Kenya that Mr. Obote will use his very great influence with President Nyerere to persuade him to reopen the Tanzanian border with Kenya , which was closed when the community collapsed.

Mr. Obote's retention of the post of foreign minister suggests that he now will personally visit or contact nations that give Uganda aid -- for there is no question that Uganda will need vast sums in emergency and development aid if it is to get back on its feet again.

"In my life I have faced challenging and intimidating tasks," Mr. Obote said in his first speech as president, "but never have I faced such formidable tasks as we now face."

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