Two Ugandans employed by the U.S. private aid agency CARE have been killed by Ugandan soldiers, the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda, said today.
The killings, reminiscent of countless murders carried out by Gen. Idi Admin's dictatorship, which was overthrown last year, came just two weeks after a military coup ousted the civilian Ugandan government headed by Godfrey Binaisa.
Western nations have been uneasy for months about the security of their aid missions in Uganda. The two Ugandans' deaths at the hands of the military could lead the Western countries to curtail assistance programs that are badly needed by Uganda. The country has been devastated by eight years of Amin's bloody rule, a six-month war to overthrow him and ensuing chaos and corruption.
U.S. Charge David Halsted said in a telephone interview from Kampala that he took up the matter with the Ugandan Foreign Ministry yesterday after the two bodies were found with bullet holes in their backs.
They were discovered in the Namanve Forest outside Kampala, a favorite dumping ground for bodies used by Amin's notorious State Research Bureau, which was responsible for numerous killings. Estimates of those killed under Amin range as high as half a million.
Halsted said a Foreign Ministry official expressed shock at the killings and said the government would investigate. There has been no official Ugandan statement.
The two men, Walter Wakudsune and Christopher Musoke, both in their late 20's, were employees of CARE, an American-based private agency specializing in Third World development aid. Wakudsune and Musoke were supervisors of a school rehabilitation project outside Kampala being carried out by CARE. The project was partially funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Witnesses said Ugandan soldiers stopped the two men while they were riding in a CARE vehicle Tuesday and took them away in the direction of a military barracks, according to U.S. AID Director Chuck Grader, who later identified the bodies.
The next day, soldiers were seen driving the CARE vehicle on the streets of Kampala.
When Grader questioned the military, he was told that there had been only one person stopped, a military deserter, and that he had escaped. Halsted said this was impossible since the two men had worked for CARE since last June, long before the reconstituted Ugandan Army was formed.
"It will be important to see how the government of Uganda deals with these murders and brings to justice those responsible," Halsted said, an indication that Western patience with the security situation was wearing thin. i
The deaths were the first of persons involved with U.S. assistance projects in the country. Earlier this month, however, a Ugandan driver for the International Communications Agency was killed by unknown assailants.
The United Nations temporarily pulled all its personnel out of Uganda last August after a British U.N. official and a Ugandan driver were killed.
Problems with the military go back to the Amin days when soldiers were given free reign to commit acts of violence. Most of The 40,000-man Tanzanian Army, which led the fight to overthrow Amin, was not paid and learned to live off the land in Uganda. The fledging 5,000-man Ugandan military has often followed the same pattern since its formation late last year.
A priest was killed earlier this month in the drought-stricken northern area, although most likely by bandits.
The violence has not spared even officials of the new government. A former ambassador was roughed up and robbed at gunpoint by soldiers in the lobby of Kampala's leading hotel two days after the May 19 coup.
U.S. AID's Grader and Francesco Strippoli, deputy director of the U.S. World Food Program, were held for three hours by Ugandan troops last week during a tour of the drought area.
Uganda has complained that little Western aid has been delivered since Amin was toppled last year. About $300 million in aid is projected, mainly from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and The European Economic Community. The United States has programmed about $6 million.
Beside the security situation, AID officials complain of lack of coordination by the government, serious currency problems, which have spawned a huge black market and corruption, which makes it difficult to guarantee that aid commodities will get to the intended beneficiaries.
"From a development point of view, development must start with the host," one official said.
Another diplomat said there have been thieves and outlaws before, "but it's another thing when the source of insecurity is the country's own army."
There are eight U.S. embassy and AID personnel in Uganda and about 150 private American citizens.