Obote foes sabotage Uganda's most valuable cash crop -- coffee

Ugandan rebels, fighting sporadically to ovethrow President Milton Obote, are turning to the sabotage of Uganda's most vital commodity -- coffee. On April 3 they shelled with mortar fire the warehouses of the Uganda Coffee Marketing Board, destroying hundreds of tons of coffee, the nation's main source of foreign currency.

Trucks full of coffee brought in by farmers were moved five miles away, and as of the weekend, Kampala's fire brigade was still fighting the raging fire. Damage to the warehouses and the amount of coffee destroyed is not known yet.

The Uganda Freedom Movement, the main organization trying to bring down the Obote government, claimed it had shelled the warehouses because "Uganda's coffee is being sold and even bartered for arms being used to kill Ugandans."

The irony is that at last Uganda's robusta coffee is coming back to the market, and thousands of tons are being transported by road and rail to Kenya's Indian Ocean port of Mombasa for shipmnt to world markets. Attacks on Uganda coffee could have serious consequences for the country, which is in dire economic straits.

Much of Uganda's coffee is being sent to Tanzania to pay for the upkeep of the 10,000 Tanzanian troops still in the country and the cost of the war to oust former dictator Idi Amin.

The Ugandan Freedom Movement (UFM) is also transferring its attacks to shops in Kampala, in an effort to further destabilize the Uganda commercial system. Two shops were mortared and gutted during the weekend on Janani Luwum road. Both are said to have held stocks of wines and spirits being sold mainly to Army officers and government officials.

The organization has blown up power installations, plunging Kampala into darkness for two nights, and attacked the headquarters of Obote's Uganda People's Congress party.

With unexplained murders increasing, something like the chaos of the Amin era is developing. One Uganda resident told me: It's worse than Idi Amin. At least you knew that Amin was in charge, but now nobody is certain whether Obote is."

An appalling question mark hangs over the unexplained bodies, riddled with bullets, which have been found in a forest outside Kampala. The rebels (Mr. Obote calls them bandits) accuse the Uganda Army of these atrocities, but the government says they are the work fo the rebels, who want to create a climate of fear and disrust of the Obote regime.

An authoritative nongovernment source says at least 100 bodies have been recovered by villagers living near the forert. Nobody is likely to claim responsibilty f or that outrage.

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