Kolingba seeking temporary asylum in Uganda

Former Central African Republic (CAR) President Andre Kolingba, sentenced to death on Monday by the country's criminal court for masterminding the failed coup of 28 May 2001, is in Uganda on temporary asylum, the Ugandan government-owned New Vision newspaper reported on Thursday.

Kolingba ruled CAR from 1981 to 1993 before being ousted in multiparty elections by current President Ange-Felix Patasse. He was found guilty and sentenced in absentia on Monday on charges of undermining state security, assassination and destruction of property. Kolingba and associates fled the country following the failed putsch.

Kolingba has been allowed into Uganda as he seeks asylum in another country, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

"He may be trying to take a temporary refuge here so as to look for a secure third country where he can stay," the official was quoted by the New Vision as having said.

The official further stated on condition of anonymity that as the case against Kolingba was not an international one, therefore Uganda could provide "temporary shelter". He added that Kolingba's presence in Kampala would not create a diplomatic row between Uganda and the CAR.

Kolingba and 21 associates - including three of his sons - were sentenced to death on Monday, while an additional 10 people deemed to have been accomplices were sentenced to 20 years hard labour. A third category, comprising about 600 deserting soldiers, also received 10-year sentences with hard labour. The president of the National Criminal Court said the state would confiscate the properties of the convicts.

One of the lawyers defending some of the accused, Andre-Olivier Manguereka, told IRIN on Monday that the death sentence was no longer applied in the CAR. "The death sentence has not been applied since 1983," he said. "Courts pronounce it, but it is never carried out."