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Military rulers round up secret police

August 7, 1985

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) _ Uganda’s new military rulers have put more than 1,000 members of the ousted president’s secret police and bodyguard in a maximum security jail, prison administration sources said Wednesday.

The northern army commander who led rebellious troops in the July 27 coup was named armed forces chief Wednesday, and the Roman Catholic primate offered to preside at a peace conference to reconcile this central African nation’s military and political factions.

The prison sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the roundup was mainly of members of the National Security Agency, as the secret police are called. They said the men had been taken to Luzira prison near Kampala.

Their account conformed with a report in Munno, a Kampala daily newspaper supported by the Catholic church. It said 1,072 people had been taken to Luzira.

Since the coup against President Milton Obote, military authorities have called on all members of the security agency and the presidential bodyguard to turn themselves in with their weapons.

Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga said in his first major statement since the coup that the people ″have suffered enough.″ He deplored the looting and bloodshed that accompanied the takeover, imploring political leaders and guerrilla commanders to attend a peace conference ″with one national motive of healing Uganda’s wounds.″

Lt. Gen. Tito Okello, interim chief of state, has proposed such a conference. Most political and guerrilla factions have endorsed the idea but have not agreed on a date, place or agenda.

The major anti-Obote guerrilla group, Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Movement, initially welcomed the coup but now criticizes the new regime. It has agreed to a meeting, but calls that ″a major concession.″

Brig. Basilio Olara Okello, the northern commander and a principal coup leader, was promoted to lieutenant general and armed forces commander to replace Tito Okello. They are not related.

Olara Otunnu, Uganda’s ambassador to the United Nations, was appointed foreign minister and Henry Obonyo, a former industry minister, was named health minister.

The new ministers join the Cabinet of Prime Minister Paulo Muwanga, which will administer the country for the ruling military council until elections promised within a year.

Cardinal Nsubuga said Uganda’s history ″has been dominated by injustices, revenge, tribal conflict, religious bias, crime and untold suffering.″

″We have suffered enough, and we need to look forward to peace, justice and love,″ he said. ″Let us therefore forget our regrettable past ... and build a united Uganda.″

Obote returned to power after Tanzanian troops and Ugandan exiles overthrew dictator Idi Amin in 1979. Amin, whose regime was known for barbarism, had ousted Obote in 1971.

Nsubuga said the guerrillas should stop fighting, join the peace conference ″and discuss the future of our country in a brotherly and peaceful manner.″

″I am not a politician, but I am ready to participate in a roundtable as a neutral leader if the Holy Father gives me permission,″ he said in a reference to Pope John Paul II.

The pope expressed hope Wednesday, in an address at the Vatican, that Ugandans will be able to enjoy ″a real and lasting internal peace.″ He begins a tour of Africa on Thursday, but does not plan to stop in Uganda.

Nsubuga said the new leaders should use as a guide a report issued in June by Amnesty International, the London-based international human rights group, that described extensive human rights abuses by Obote’s security forces.

The new interior minister, Paul Ssemogerere, said he had not been fully briefed on the roundup of secret police and Obote bodyguards. As leader of the opposition Democratic Party under Obote, he frequently denounced the practice of detention without trial.

Ssemogerere said one of the new government’s top priorities was to release people imprisoned by Obote for political reasons, but added that the government ″needed time to make proper arrangements.″ He said there were at least 1,000 such detainees in Luzira alone.

Museveni’s group issued a statement Wednesday in Nairobi, Kenya, castigating the military rulers for making major decisions without without counsulting the guerrillas and criticizing Ssemogerere’s party for cooperating in the new regime.

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