Obote's foes plan to sabotage Uganda's floundering economy

Opposition underground groups in Uganda intend to hit President Milton Obote's government where it really hurts: the economy. They are threatening to sabotage the coffee crop on which Uganda lives, and other export crops such as cotton.

Little thought, apparently, is being given to the horrendous fact that if attacks on the economic base of Obote's regime are successful in bringing him down, they will leave behind an economy even more shattered and chaotic than when President Obote took over in December.

The rebel Uganda Freedom Movement (UFM), whose shadowy leader, Yoweri Museveni, is still at large and somewhere underground, is calling on coffee farmers and dealers to stop selling their coffee to the government's coffee board.

They are telling farmers to store their coffee at home "until the unpopular minority regime is overthrown." They warned coffee dealers: "We appeal to and warn you to stop buying this bloodstained coffee, only the export of which so far is keeping the collapsing Obote regime in power."

The UFM threatened that it had "the means and the power and the will to deal with you."

The UFM apparently plans to disrupt the delivery of coffee to the buying centers. With production already down by some 10 percent, Obote has come back with rises in the producer prices of coffee and cotton to encourage more production.

Kenya enters this particular fray, since its huge Kenatco transport company has just agreed with the Uganda government to carry 120,000 tons of Uganda coffee from Kampala down to the Kenya port of Mombasa by road.

Already the general manager of Kenatco, Yuda Korona, has been threatened by Uganda rebels who say they will blow up Kenatco trucks carrying coffee freight. Rwanda also wants Kenatco to transport its coffee to Mombasa, which entails a journey through Uganda.

Kenatco has been promised escorts by Uganda troops, but so far no coffee has been transported.

Uganda approached Kenatco when its own national transport fleet, Transocean, was grounded by lack of spare parts. Since then thousands of tons of Uganda coffee have been piling up in the warehouses in Kampala.

Meanwhile a dangerous split has occurred in Uganda's Parliament in the official opposition party, the Democratic Party, led by Paul Ssemogerere. This weekend Mr. Ssemogerere dissociated himself from a "rebel" wing which says it has joined the rebel Uganda Freedom Movement. Last week Francis Bwengye, former secretary-general of the party, called on all DP party supporters to wage violent war on the Obote government.

Bwengye has been in hiding, mainly in Kenya, since the general elections last December brought Obote to power amid allegations of rigging the elections.

But at the same time Ssemogerere has accused the Obote government of detaining thousands of people, including more than 100 Democratic Party supporte rs, two of whom are members of Parliament.

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