Uganda tension grips commerce

The little town of Busia on the Kenya-Uganda border is packed with more than 100 huge Kenyan oil tankers and trucks with trailers, waiting in queues to go over into Uganda. But, reports Monitor contributor John Worrall, the drivers refuse to move until they are guaranteed police protection for the increasingly dangerous journey to Kampala.

You cannot really blame them. Six drivers were killed by marauding Ugandan soldiers on their way to Kampala last week. Others were shot because they refused to hand over money to their armed assailants.

The Uganda government is investigating the incidents as a matter of urgency because the road from Kenya is the lifeline that keeps Uganda going with petrol, food, and other essential commodities.

The attacks on the Kenyan drivers add another episode to the Steady breakdown of law and order in Uganda. Diplomats report, however, that there is a strange lull in guerrilla operations by opposition groups despite a statement by ex-President Lule suggesting the war is far from over.

The unrest has not affected the flow of aid to help this sad country get back on its feet. The US just gave Uganda a $5 million grant to rehabilitate its agricultural cooperatives -- bringing US contributions to Uganda to more than $ 30 million since Idi Amin was toppled.

Nevertheless, some of Uganda's richest, most productive areas have been among the worst affected by the unrest. It was no small achievement for Uganda to complete its international coffee quota, on its way to the markets through Kenya -- so far untouched by the roadside bandits.

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