Tanzania leader keeps grip on restive Uganda

Long after the ouster of Idi Amin as dictator of Uganda, Tanzania still is playing a major role in the affairs of its turbulent East African neigbor. Tanzania's President Julius Nyerere remains the final arbiter of the series of crises that have wracked Uganda. Successive Ugandan leaders have either reported voluntarily to Mr. Nyerere for advice or instrucfions, or have been summoned.

Some 10,000 of his Tanzanian troops are well entrenched in Uganda, and it is tey who provide a basis for security in a divided and lawless Uganda. For the most part, their conduct has contrasted with the notorious low morale, indiscipline, and generally bad behavior of the Uganda Army and militia.

Latest example of President Nyerere's personal arbitration is the deputation of Ugandan political leaders to the TAnzanian capital of Dar es Salaam this past weekend to sort out the confused machinery for the Uganda election, now scheduled for Dec. 10.

The most important issue facing Ugandan political leadders at the moment apparently is whether or not four ballot boxes or one are to be used at the polling stations.

The leader of the ruling military commission, Paulo Muwanga, said emphatically that four boxes would be used, following the existing electoral law laid down by Uganda's original constitution dating from independence. He was supported by former presidnet Milton Obote, leader of the Uganda People's Congress.

The next biggest party (some say the biggest), the Democratic Party led by Paul Semogerere, opposed this, wanted one box, and threatened to boycott the election if the four-box rule were enforced.

The Democratic Party, plus the smaller Uganda Patriotic Movement and the Conservative Party, believed that the use of four boxes, one for the votes of each party, could lead to vote-rigging and intimidation, ever-present problems in this election.

Whether or not the Commonwealth sends a team of observers to oversee the election will depend on a solution to the ballot-box question.

Once again, President Nyerere has used his influence on Uganda and, by knocking a few head together, apparently has established the four-box rule for the Uganda elections. The Democratic Party and the others have agreed, and it seems the elections can go ahead with Commonwealth observers present.

The Commonwealth observers, barring another electoral dispute, are expected to fly to Uganda this coming week. They include observers from Britain, Canada, Australia, and Nigeria. Their object is to see that the elections are free and fair.

But one large area of Uganda, the West Nile region recently invaded by troops from Zaire and Sudan said to have been part of Amin's beaten armies, will not take part in the elections.

The area is in virtual chaos. According to United Nations officials, up to a quarter of a million people have fled their homes into Zaire and Sudan. There are nine parliamentary seats in this region, but no electioneering or even voter registration has taken place since the election was announced.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.