Uganda: blessed by nature, but troubled by politics

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Land: Uganda covers 91,104 square miles, an area about the size of Oregon. The country largely escaped widespread drought and famine that claimed 2 million lives in the region in 1984 and 1985. Neighbors see verdant Uganda as a potential storehouse for the continent, easily able to feed itself and others. Uganda, the source of the White Nile, is bordered by Lake Victoria, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zaire, and Sudan. People: Uganda's nearly 14 million people are from four main ethnic groups -- Bantu, Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, and Sudanic. English is the country's official language, but Luganda and Swahili are widely spoken in rural areas. One in four Ugandans is literate. Christian missionaries were among the first outsiders to reach Uganda, and the population is 63 percent Christian. Muslims make up 6 percent of the population. Traditional beliefs are still common.

Economy: Uganda's is Africa's second-largest producer of coffee after the Ivory Coast, and coffee is its biggest money-earner. Cotton, tea, tobacco, corn, peanuts, bananas, and sugar cane also thrive. There is some copper and cobalt mining. The Uganda shilling, which has declined in value during the past year, is now worth 1,400 to the dollar.

Profile of rebel chief Museveni: Ugandan guerrilla leader Yoweri Museveni describes himself as a fervent nationalist whose main aim is to end the unrest that has wracked his country for 20 years. But the National Resistance Army leader remains an elusive and enigmatic public figure.

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Some Ugandans are wary of Mr. Museveni's stress on political awareness and fear that society under the NRA will be regimented and authoritarian. He has urged a ``correct line in military, political, and organizational matters.''

Clearly aware of accusations that he is a leftist ideologue, he stresses the need for a mixed economy that recognizes the overwhelming wish of most Ugandans to be allowed to prosper in their fertile land through small, independent farming.

Museveni was born in 1944 or 1945 -- he is uncertain of his exact age -- in southwestern Uganda.

He studied politics and economics at Dar Es Salaam University from about 1966 to 1970, and after being graduated worked briefly as a research assistant for Milton Obote shortly before the latter was overthrown by Idi Amin.

Museveni spent two years as a military instructor in Mozambique and took part in an abortive attempt to topple General Amin in 1972.

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