After coup in Uganda, more instability expected. New rulers try to come to terms with rebels

Following the weekend military coup that toppled Ugandan President Milton Obote, the outlook for the once-prosperous East African nation is for more regional and tribal conflict. Political instability in an African state means once again that urgent economic and social problems, including hunger and debt, are simply not being tackled with full resources, experts here say.

On Sunday, the new military leader, Brig. Bazilio Olara Okello, suspended the Constitution, dissolved parliament, and dismissed all government ministers. As of July 28, all borders remained sealed and Entebbe airport was closed. Foreign-exchange dealings were also suspended.

Uganda, whose physical beauty and resources once moved Winston Churchill to call it ``the pearl of Africa,'' is landlocked and poor. Its birthrate is so high that its population of 15 million people is set to jump to 27 million by the year 2000, UN figures show.

At the heart of Saturday's coup was a sharp rivalry between two northern tribes that had originally come together to oppose guerrillas in the richer south of the country and a southern political movement called the Democratic Party.

The northern alliance was between two Nilotic tribes, the Lango, of which Mr. Obote is a member, and the Acholi, which have formed the core of the Ugandan Army since British colonial days.

The Acholi say that Obote promoted his own Lango officers at the expense of themselves. The main grievance: In 1983, Obote appointed a Lango, Col. Smith Opon Acak, to be Army commander over a more senior Acholi officer, Brigadier Okello.

After a long period of smoldering tension, Acholi troops staged a recent mutiny. On Saturday, Okello's troops entered the capital of Kampala, firing guns and chanting support of the Democratic Party. Obote fled to Kenya by helicopter.

It was the second time he had been deposed by troops. The first was in 1971 when Idi Amin Dada took power; he held it brutally for nine years until his ouster by Ugandan exiles and Tanzanian troops. Obote returned in 1980 after spending his exile in Tanzania.

But Obote's rule failed to solve economic problems, and guerrillas and political opponents fought on, convinced he had rigged elections in 1980. A National Resistance Army was formed in 1981, led by Yoweri Museveni, a former defense minister.

Charges of Amin-like atrocities continued. Last month Amnesty International, the London-based human-rights group, issued a report alleging extreme brutality by Obote's troops against captured guerrillas of the National Resistance Army in a Kampala barracks. Ugandan officials denied the report but refused to admit outside observers to their prisons.

Now that Obote has gone, the question is whether Okello and his army can come to terms with Mr. Museveni and his southern resistance army.

Coup leaders have appealed to Museveni by radio to join them. Museveni, in Sweden July 27, told the Sunday Times (London) that he welcomed the coup. His men had been in touch with the new leaders and would ``work out a national solution with them,'' Museveni said.

In a hint of troubles to come, however, he warned coup officers not to set up a military government. The National Resistance Army, he said, wanted a ``return to democracy.''

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Museveni called for talks leading to an interim coalition government.

``We are nationalists,'' he said, ``and we oppose tribalism and sectionalism. . . . We will not accept any kind of military rule.''

Museveni, who hopes to play a prominent role in any new government, said Obote would have to ``face charges'' for the disappearance of 300,000 people (as outlined in the recent Amnesty International report). He dismissed offers from former leader Amin, now living in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, to return to Uganda.

Meanwhile, former Ugandan President Godfrey Binaisa, who held office for one year after Amin was ousted in 1979 and was then deposed by Obote, now plans to return to Kampala.

Mr. Binaisa, who has been living in London, told the BBC that he was ``delighted'' that Obote had been removed: ``Obote was a tribal warlord presiding over a tribal army,'' the former President said. Binaisa also hopes to be involved in talks that might lead to a new government.

For the moment, Okello holds power in Kampala, with Museveni ready to fight on in the south if quick talks are not held.

Along with heavy looting and car thefts in Kampala, some homes of the 1,100 British residents of the capital were rifled, according to Peter Penfold, the acting British high commissioner.

By telephone from Kampala, Mr. Penfold told the BBC July 28 that ``one or two'' British residents had been assaulted but no serious injuries were reported. A British military training team in Jinja had reported all quiet there, he said, but in Kampala looting continued. Parts of the city were without electricity.

Penfold had advised all British residents to stay off the streets. CHART: Uganda at a glance: Population: 15.2 million. Projected for year 2000, 27 million; for year 2025, 53 million. Area: slightly smaller than Oregon at 91,134 square miles. Population growth rate: 3.5 percent a year. (African average: 3 percent.) Average annual economic growth rate 1960-1982: - 1.1 percent. Average annual inflation rate 1970-1982: 47.4 percent. Per capita gross national product (1982): $230. Average number of children born to each woman: 6.9. Average life expectancy (men and women): 47 years. Percentage of population under age 14: 48. Percentage of population over 65: 3. Percentage of urban population: 14. Exports: coffee, cotton, tea, peanuts. Food aid imports, per capita: 1980 -- 1.3 kilograms (2.9 pounds). 1982 -- 3.7 kilos (8.2 pounds). ]Source: World Bank, United Nations. 30{et

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