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Friday, April 30, 1999 Published at 17:50 GMT 18:50 UK

World: Africa

Uganda hangs 28

The government has been unable to stop a series of Kampala explosions

Uganda has hanged 28 prisoners on death row, despite last-minute appeals by rights groups to commute the death penalties.

Martin Dawes in Nairobi: More than 1000 people are on Uganda's death row
Radio Uganda read a statement from prison commissioner Joseph Etima saying that the executions took place on Thursday evening.

A prison official announced on Monday that the 28 convicts had exhausted all routes of appeal against their death sentences and would hang sometime this week at the Luzira Maximum Security Prison on the outskirts of Kampala.

The hangings are the first executions to take place in Uganda since 1996.

Amnesty International human rights group had appealed on Wednesday to President Yoweri Museveni for a "show of mercy".

Twenty-six were reportedly convicted of murder and two for aggravated robbery.

Some confusion surrounded their fate earlier in the week.

A government official on Thursday denied reports on Wednesday that the executions had already taken place.

Death row thousand

Amnesty says more than 1,000 people are currently on death row in Uganda and at least 13 death row cases have been commuted to life in prison.

[ image: Western governments heavily support President Museveni's economic reforms]
Western governments heavily support President Museveni's economic reforms
Among those reportedly hanged was Haji Musa Ssebirumbi, who was charged with having collaborated with former President Milton Obote.

President Museveni's guerrilla National Resistance Army fought a five-year war against Obote, who was overthrown in a military coup several months before President Museveni seized power in January 1986.

The Ugandan Government has now agreed to allow Mr Obote to return to the country after he said he would drop previous demands and retire from politics.

Under the rule of President Museveni, Uganda has enjoyed favoured status with donor nations.

European Union countries with missions in Uganda also appealed for the sentences to be commuted to life imprisonment.

On Friday morning, Uganda's Prime Minister, Professor Apollo Nsibambi, told the BBC that Uganda, as a country that was emerging from anarchy, had to be careful what signals it sent to its people, and that capital punishment was generally acceptable to the population.

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