Apollo Milton Obote, the once and new president of Uganda, has won a unique place in African politics. He is the first leader of an African nation to be overthrown in a coup and then win reelection.

Since Idi Amin, who had toppled Obote, was ousted last year, Obote has been the key topic of conversation in the country. Monday, almost a decade after his overthrow, Obote will be inaugurated again as president after an election marred by irregularities.

"Obote was the main issue in the election," said a longtime observer of the 55-year-old grandson of a tribal chief from the northern Lango region. "He's too controversial a figure to lead the government -- he's not the man to pull the country together."

The elections seemed to show that Ugandans either love Obote or hate him; his followers are located largely in the north and his opponents in the southern Buganda region.

Even though he lived in Tanzania in political exile for nine years as the guest of his friend, President Julius Nyerere, Ugandan memories about Obote seem to be long, mainly because he tried to destroy the power of the country's feudal kings in Buganda.

Even many of his opponents agree, however, that he has leadership ability and that his party is the best organized in the country, giving some hope that Obote can begin to pull Uganda out of its decade of chaos if he can overcome the nation's divisions.

Obote became the first prime minister of Uganda after independence from Britain in 1962.He canceled the scheduled 1967 election, rewrote the constitution and became executive president of a one-party, socialist-oriented state.

He was wounded in an assassination attempt in 1969.

A measure of his unpopularity was the celebration that occurred in much of the nation when he was overthrown by Amin, his Army chief. But later Amin presided over the killing of an estimated 500,000 people and the destruction of the economy.

Even after Amin was overthrown last year, Obote remained in the Tanzanian capital and was able to return to Uganda only after military leaders favorable toward him seized power in May.

Now, having won a second chance at the leaderdship, "he is a driven man, determined to redeem himself," a diplomat said.

Born in 1925, Obote spent his youth as a goatherd while going to local schools. He went to teacher training college in Kampala but never entered the teaching profession. He has an honorary doctorate from Long Island University in New York.

Instead, he moved to neighboring Kenya in the 1950s where he worked in a sugar factory and later in a construction firm while he trained in politics under Tom Mboya, a leading Kenyan politician assassinated in the 1960s.

He returned to Uganda and formed the Uganda People's Congress in 1959 and was elected as the first leader of independent Uganda under the party's auspices.