UGANDA: Amin:The Wild Man of Africa

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The result is that foreign exchange earnings are negligible, and processed food must be imported, largely with Libyan grants from Muammar Gaddafi. When Amin took over, Uganda was a net exporter of sugar. Now it must import, because the Asians who ran the sugar mills were expelled in 1972 and Ugandans do not seem able to keep the factories going. Amin has ignored the crying need for agricultural technicians to make his economy work, in favor of military technicians from the Communist bloc, to make his armed forces work. It is estimated that nearly half the available foreign exchange goes for military supplies or for tax-free luxuries from Europe to pacify the military. Uganda Airlines (consisting mainly of one Boeing 707 and one Hercules C130) makes regular runs to London's Gatwick Airport to load up on whisky, radios, recorders, cars and other goods for the officers of the 21,000-strong army.

Civilian consumer goods are virtually nonexistent in Uganda today. Butter, milk, meat and eggs are in short supply, and what there is must be bought for hard-currency cash from Kenya. Basics, like clothing, are all but unobtainable, except at exorbitant prices. Window displays look impressive, but most of the cans and cartons on display are actually empty.

Crumbling Lodges. Everything from breweries to cement factories has broken down. The only coffee now available locally is imported stuff, most of it smuggled in from Kenya because the instant-coffee processing facilities in Uganda, like nearly all the factories, are closed for lack of spare parts or repair facilities for broken-down machinery.

Amin says he welcomes tourists, but his bizarre behavior and repeated bloodbaths hardly encourage them to come. A recent Uganda Airlines Boeing 707 flight from Nairobi to Entebbe carried exactly seven tourists. They found on arrival in Kampala that the 14-story International Hotel, one of the best in town, had virtually no food to serve: there was stringy steak one night and hairy chicken the next—no vegetables, sauces, butter, nothing else. The tourists were flown to Uganda's once magnificent but now sadly neglected game parks. The game lodges were crumbling, ill-kept and short of food. The huge herds of elephants that once roamed the beautiful Queen Elizabeth National Park (now renamed Ruwenzori, after the nearby mountain range) were nowhere to be seen, presumably poached out for their ivory tusks.

Only the Kabalega Falls National Park on the banks of the White Nile shows signs of life. Hippos snort still in the muddy waters—though many have been shot out for greasy "hippoburgers" —and crocodiles abound, well fed by the bodies that get regularly dumped into the river. Ground transport is almost totally lacking. Less than 5% of Uganda's total bus fleet is operable; breakdowns are permanent because no spare parts are available.

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