The Ugandan government is considering releasing between 300 and 400 detainees next week as public indignation mounts over a wave of arbitrary, apparently politically motivated, arrests. $ well-informed government sources said President Godfrey Binaisa is likely to approve the release of detainees next week and that a move is under way to sharply curtail the activities and powers of a special intelligence until that works out of the president's office.
The souces said the unit is responsible for recent detentions of outspoken critics of the Ugandan government and that the detentions have been carried out without the knowledge or approval of Cabinet ministers.
The unit, under the direction of Amon Bazira, an Israeli-trained security officer in the government of former Ugandan president Milton Obote, was sharply attacked at a Cabinet meeting on Sept. 11. According to confidential minutes, the meeting, which was not attended by Binaisa, adopted a resolution stating that "damage has already been done" to the credibility of the new Ugandan government by the security unit.
The ministers present at the meeting collectively declared that "the present staff, especially top officials, are behaving in an arrogant manner." Bazira and his subordinates were accused of breaking into government warehouses and seizing bonded cars and of demanding "colossal" amounts of freign exchange.
Unless their powers are diffused in good time there is the likelihood they will begin terrorizing the public," the Cabinet declared.
Many Ugandans argue that the detentions carried out by Bazira's unit represent a return to the arbitary practices of Obote's government and do not represent a clear enough break with the excesses of the Idi Amin government.
Binaisa resigned as Obote's attorney general in 1967 over the issue of politically motivated detentions. Ironically, it is now Binaisa who signs the detention orders.
Souces close to the current Ugandan president say Binaisa has been signing detention orders without studying them and they are sure he will cease the practice as soon as the matter is brought to his attention. Several ministers say they intend to raise the issue with the president soon. They say Binaisa has not acted on the Sept. 11 Cabinet resolution because he has been out of the country much of the time since then and has been overwhelmed with other matters when in Uganda.
Most of the detainees being considered for release next week are suspected members of various security agencies of the Amin government. Many have been in detention for several months, although some being considered for release are government critics recently detained.