Two events give hope to ailing Uganda this week. One is a World Bank decision to lend $95 million, mainly to reactivate the country's decaying industries. The other is Britain's proposal to train Uganda's fledgling and appallingly undisciplined Army.
Britain's plan would either send a military mission to Uganda to train the troops, or take Army officers to Britain for courses. Britain is already training police officers from Uganda.
Either way the Uganda Army must be taken in hand soon becuase there is a critical breakdown of law and order, especially in the west Nile district and the areas near the Sudan border where remnants of Idi Amin's army are running wild.
Raids on missions by armed soldiers are creating a new pattern of terror in the rural areas. According to a Roman Catholic daily paper Munno, 50 soldiers last week attacked and looted a Catholic mission in northern Uganda.
Last month troops attacked the Ombachi Italian mission in the west Nile near Arua. The 60 people hiding in the mission were killed.
The results of the departure of the Tanzanian Army are already being felt. The remnants of the 10,000 strong force now leaving for home has left the maintenance of law and order in the hands of the Ugandan Army and police. The biggest trouble comes from the government neglect of the troops. They are seldom paid, and what they are paid is consumed by inflation, so they are forced to loot and steal.
Kampala residents say they are regularly harrassed by soldiers. A victim of recent looting in the city said, "The soldiers went to each door, threatened that if we did not open up they would shoot us, took food and blankets and drove off." Another resident said he believed the situation would grow worse after the departure of the Tanzanian soldiers.
A Tanzanian Army officer on his return home is quoted as saying, "we train Ugandans to be soldiers, then they don't get paid or fed and it is just making them bandits." If the British do take on the Ugandan Army they will surely have to insist on a new deal for the soldiers. But the problem is that the Ugandan treasury just does not have the money even for this essential charge.
So far there are no immediate signs that the departure of the Tanzanian troops has led to more attacks by rebel guerrillas belonging to the groups opposing President Milton Obote, though there have been recent attacks on police stations near Kampala, and at Luwero, Kalungu, and Bwamba by guerrillas who have not claimed responsibility.
Kampalans say that the near anarchy in the city seems to be getting worse. Residents rush back to their homes before dark because night brings gangs onto the streets. Automatic rifle fire is still heard in the streets and nobody is quite sure where it comes from, though most suspect it is drunken soldiers firing into the air.
The economic bind in which President Obote finds himself has many causes. Interns were ons strike at the country's biggest hospital, Mulago, in Kampala, because they were not been paid for four months. They have now been paid, but salaries have been drastically reduced and they say they have not been given essentials like salt, sugar, and writing materials.
Meanwhile President Obote is appealing to thousands of the inhabitants of the west Nile district, who fled from the area into the Sudan and Zaire last October , to come home. They abandoned their homes and fled after an "invasion" by former soldiers of idi Amin. This led to reprisals by Ugandan troops against people who befriended the Idi Amin men.
In a speech broadcast last week President Obote said at a rally at Kitgum, west Nile, that if the refugees came back there would be "no reprisals." But the recent raid on the Ombachi mission, which was followed by the departure of men ad women workers from the international aid agencies, sent another flood of refugees pouring across the Sudan border.