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Uganda Rebels Seize Capital, Envoys Report

January 26, 1986|Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya — Ugandan rebels Saturday took control of Kampala after two days of house-to-house fighting, reducing government resistance in the capital to a few pockets of holdout troops, Western and U.N. officials said.

"Kampala is in NRA (National Resistance Army) hands," said a report radioed to the British High Commission (embassy) in Nairobi by British diplomats Saturday night.

"There are still pockets of resistance," the report said. "Things have quieted down, but there is still shooting."

Telephone and telex links with Uganda were cut early Saturday.

Diplomats and U.N. personnel in Kampala reported to colleagues in Nairobi by radio that most government units were holed up in an army barracks, a small downtown area around Parliament, and the national radio station.

Accord Shattered

The National Resistance Army's assault on Kampala on Friday climaxed a weeklong offensive that shattered a peace agreement signed Dec. 17 with the six-month-old military government.

There were unconfirmed reports of in-fighting among the leaders of the military government who withdrew to eastern Uganda, with some reportedly advising their troops to surrender and others trying to regroup for combat.

Officials of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi said that the extent of casualties among combatants and civilians in the two days of fighting was not known, but that there were no reports of any Westerners being hurt.

Foreigners in Kampala were reported staying inside their homes, many without electricity, as U.S., British and other Western officials worked on contingency evacuation plans.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Anita Stockman said the approximately 170 Americans in Uganda were safe and accounted for, including 21 U.S. Embassy personnel and Marine guards in Kampala. There are about 150 private U.S. citizens in Uganda, including 80 in Kampala, she said.

Britons Urged to Leave

The British Broadcasting Corp.'s external service broadcast a Foreign Office statement advising Britons in northern and eastern Uganda to flee to Kenya if they felt roads in their areas were safe. But expatriates in Kampala "should remain in their homes, keep their doors locked, draw their curtains and keep under cover away from windows," the statement said.

Ugandans and foreigners who did reach the Kenyan border reported chaos and violence in the region, including the ransacking of government food warehouses by soldiers.

According to radio transmissions from Kampala, army soldiers were holding out at the Makindye barracks, the Parliament building, the radio station and the Nile Mansions, a government office complex reputedly used as a torture center by dictator Idi Amin during his bloody rule in the 1970s.

The radio station had not been in operation since midday Friday.

Editors of the Daily Nation, a Nairobi newspaper, said that Uganda's head of state, Gen. Tito Okello, arrived in the Kenyan border town of Busia on Saturday morning by helicopter but was ordered back to Uganda by Kenyan officials. There were conflicting reports about his later whereabouts.

Mediated Peace Talks

President Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya had mediated the peace talks between Okello's government and the National Resistance Army.

Moi had invited Okello and Yoweri Museveni, head of the National Resistance Army, to an emergency meeting in Nairobi on Friday to discuss the collapse of the Dec. 17 peace agreement, but neither showed up.

The aborted agreement, which called for power-sharing pending national elections, had briefly raised hopes that Uganda might find peace after two decades of coups, dictatorship and civil warfare.

Museveni's fighters began their insurgency in 1981 against the civilian government of then-President Milton Obote, charging that he rigged the election that brought him to power. When army officers overthrew Obote in a coup last July, the National Resistance Army refused to cooperate and took control of the southwestern third of the country.

Uganda, an Oregon-sized country bordered by Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zaire and Sudan, has a population of about 14 million.

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