The peace-making process initiated by Uganda's new ruling military council with the country's splintered political factions foundered today as consultations with the council and political parties ended in deadlock amid conflicting reports about the participation of a key guerrilla group.
The country's land border with Kenya was opened for the first time since the week-old coup that toppled the government of president Milton Obote. The new prime minister, Paolo Muwanga, met with selected diplomats later today to promise a return to normality as soon as possible.
As western reporters gained access to the capital today for the first time since the coup, evidence of large-scale looting was apparent and indications of some atrocities could be seen. There also were reports of military harassment of the country's Asian community in the countryside.
Doubts about the Ugandan ruling military council's ability to form a coalition government mounted after the third day of inconclusive meetings with political parties. The new head of state, Army commander Lt. Gen. Tito Okello, invited Obote's Uganda People's Congress, the opposition Democratic Party and two smaller parties to talks on formation of a civilian Cabinet that would pave the way for elections within a year.
However, the role of the guerrilla National Resistance Army, which has waged a bush campaign against the Army for the past four years and whose participation is seen as the linchpin of national reconciliation, remains unclear.
Radio Uganda quoted Okello tonight as saying that talks had included the National Resistance Army. However, guerrilla spokesmen insist that they have rejected an offer of participation in the government.
The uncertainty was underscored when Radio Uganda reported that Okello expressed dissatisfaction with political factions for supporting tribalism and called for the guerrillas to lay down their arms and join the police or the Army.
A diplomatic source familiar with military thinking said today that the guerrilla leader, Yoweri Museveni, will demand that his estimated 5,000 troops must be absorbed into the Army before talks can begin. The size of the Ugandan Army is believed to be about 20,000. It is ill-disciplined and poorly paid. Earlier this year Okello acknowledged that the absence of authority within Army ranks was "extremely dangerous."
As the military council moved to reach a political agreement, Prime Minister Muwanga met with selected diplomats today and promised that Uganda would be returned to normal as soon as possible.
Kampala generally appeared calm today, one week after the successful coup. Soldiers lined the streets and set up roadblocks at exits to the city. Troops with antiaircraft guns guarded access to mansions where the political talks were taking place.
For several days after the coup, soldiers fought among themselves over loot ransacked from stores and then turned their attention to suburban homes as the city's scantily stocked shops ran dry. Okello was reported by Radio Uganda to have spent the day touring military barracks around the outskirts of Kampala, apparently in an attempt to restore discipline.
Many shops have been burned, but by the week's end workers were busy cleaning up evidence of the looting. Water supplies are intermittent with even government mansions lacking sanitation facilities and glasses to drink from.
Fresh produce is available in the markets but canned and dry food is almost nonexistent for the city's population of about 500,000.
While the airport at Entebbe remains closed until further notice, the land border with Kenya was opened for the first time early this morning. The 125-mile route appeared calm, although Ugandan Asians met along the road alleged that soldiers focused their attention on their community during the days following the coup. Many families who have since fled reported being stripped of their belongings.
At the now-empty official presidential residence on the shores of Lake Victoria in Entebbe, an Army major showed a reporter several mutilated corpses that he said were found there the day after the coup. The major, an Acholi, said the corpses, including three soldiers, belonged to fellow tribesmen and accused Obote's bodyguards, who like the former president belong to the Langi tribe, of the slayings.