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Main rebel leader wants to talk with coup leaders

August 9, 1985

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) _ Uganda’s main guerrilla leader wants to talk with the generals who ousted President Milton Obote before deciding whether to join broader reconciliation talks, Prime Minister Paulo Muwanga said Friday.

Muwanga, who was Obote’s vice president and defense minister, addressed his first formal news conference since the coup July 27. Obote fled to neighboring Kenya.

Muwanga said the ruling military council, which appointed him prime minister, had instructed him to negotiate with major leaders in Uganda about forming a broad-based interim government. The coup leaders promise elections within a year.

He said Yoweri Museveni, whose National Resistance Army was the largest group fighting Obote, had ″chosen to discuss matters militarily″ and wanted to deal directly with the military council.

″I look forward to the day when Mr. Museveni and the others will come out and discuss how best to bring bloodshed to an end,″ Muwanga said.

Uganda radio said the new foreign minister, Olara Otunnu, told diplomats in Kampala there would be no major changes in foreign policy.

It quoted Otunnu, who had been ambassador to the United Nations, as saying Uganda would continue its policy of non-alignment and seek friendly relations with all countries.

Muwanga told the news conference fleeing soldiers loyal to Obote attacked his house during the coup and he was slightly wounded, ″but I stayed here and saw things unfold. I even refused asylum granted me by some friends with diplomatic status.″

The prime minister blamed Obote’s army chief of staff, Brig. Smith Opon Acak, for aggravating tribal conflicts in the military, which preceded the takeover.

Muwanga said Opon Acak, of Obote’s Langi tribe, mobilized Langi troops in early July and planned to attack an army barracks in an effort to seize armored personnel carriers.

Opon Acak also had ordered attacks on the homes of several officers of the Acholi tribe. The Langi and Acholi dominate the armed forces, and Acholi officers led the coup.

The radio said earlier Friday that military authorities were urging dissident soldiers in northern Uganda to turn themselves in immediately or face ″serious measures″ it did not specify.

It gave no details about the dissidents, or their number, but most are believed to be Langi. The new government said previously that troops sympathetic to Obote regrouped after the coup around Lira, Obote’s hometown in northern Uganda.

The radio said local chiefs and parents of the resisting soldiers should report those who do not surrender to military authorities.

On Wednesday, the radio quoted a delegation of elders from the Lira region as saying some soldiers were continuing to fight, ″causing unnecessary bloodshed and displacement of the civilian population.″

1856EDT