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December 12, 2002

MORE ON UGANDA: Austin Bay writes:

As Amin's dictatorship collapsed in the spring of 1979, a gang of his thugs left the north Ugandan town of Arua and marched for the town of Nebbi, 60 kilometers south.

The Nebbi area had escaped the worst of Amin's depredations, in part because it is relatively isolated and off the usual track. Though bitterly poor by Western standards, in the thugs' eyes Nebbi was rich, with plenty of food, women and plunder. Besides, their rogue force was predominantly Muslim, and Nebbi is a Christian area.

The 200 or so thugs, armed with automatic rifles and grenade launchers, didn't expect resistance. However, just north of Nebbi, in the savannah bush, a hastily organized local force ambushed the gang. Several Nebbi men had acquired weapons. They fought a steady delaying action, sniping at the gang, then withdrawing along the rutted, red dirt road that links Arua and Nebbi.

"Quite simply," a Nebbi leader told me, "Amin's men quit. They would shoot the unarmed, steal and burn, but not if it cost their lives. We resisted. That's as close as the chaos came. Around us, for 40 years there has been war. But not here. That was when it brushed us."

No surprise. But it's more evidence of why the U.N.'s program to disarm civilians is a bad idea.