EVENTS in Uganda in recent days illustrate the difficulty of implementing the week-old peace treaty between the government and the main guerrilla force. Since the agreement at least 60 civilians have been killed and numerous looting incidents reported, according to that guerrilla group, the National Resistance Army, which said ominously that the violence violates the accord. It is not clear who committed the incidents, assuming they did occur -- the Ugandan Army or a small guerrilla force sometimes aligned with the government and consisting of soldiers of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada. The foot soldiers of both groups are woefully lacking in discipline and out of control of top officers, and have committed many atrocities.Skip to next paragraph
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Whichever force is responsible, Ugandans must stop killing Ugandans. Two decades of internal violence have produced a country in chaos. Economic assistance to rebuild a shattered export economy is vital; yet many international agencies and Western nations understandably have withdrawn aid and advisers because of the national instability and random violence.
One important asset Uganda possesses is agriculture, at present productive. Many farmers who grow food for internal consumption, as distinct from export, are managing quite well, despite the national instability.
To put the new treaty into effect, Uganda's many factions must demonstrate the will to put aside self-interest and years of deep distrust and instead show prime concern for the country as a whole.
The actual agreement is a good one. Absolutely essential is the provision that a new national army be established, consisting primarily of some troops from the government Army and others from the many guerrilla forces. Equally important is that this new army be professionally trained. Under terms of the treaty four British Commonwealth nations -- Great Britain, Kenya, Canada, and Tanzania -- will be asked to provide such help.
The treaty also calls for a conference to lead to national elections. The National Resistance Army has gained so much popular support that it is important that its constituency gain a voice in the conduct of government affairs.
That the accord was reached at all is a worthy achievement, given the depth of distrust on all sides. The treaty boosts the prestige of Kenya's President, Daniel arap Moi, who presided over the nearly four months of negotiation. The next step for Ugandans is to defy the skeptics by pulling together to put the treaty into practice.