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New Military Regime Suspends Constitution

July 28, 1985

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) _ Uganda’s new military leadership announced Sunday it suspended the constitution, dissolved parliament, dismissed all ministers, closed the country’s borders and suspended foreign exchange transactions.

The measures were announced in a broadcast by Radio Uganda a day after rebel military units toppled President Milton Obote and drove him into exile in neighboring Kenya with two Cabinet ministers.

The new measures were announced in a message from an officer identified only as Col. Maruru. The broadcast said it was aimed at ″explaining the new government’s policy.″

The message, broadcast at 10:50 a.m. came just after another broadcast by this East African country’s new military leader, Brigadier Basilio Olara Okello.

Okello, speaking in Swahili, urged citizens to stay calm and said he toppled Obote in the interest of national unity. Earlier broadcasts said Okello wanted to create a Ugandan society not divided by tribalism.

Okello is a member of the Acholi tribe, while Obote is a Langi. The Acholi and the Langi dominate in the armed forces, and the coup was preceded by weeks of tribal infighting in the military.

It was the second time Obote, 60, has been overthrown by disgruntled troops. He was toppled by his army chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Idi Amin, in 1971, and returned to power in a 1980 election following Amin’s 1979 ouster by Tanzanian troops and an irregular Ugandan force.

″Citizens of Uganda, I send very warm greetings to you,″ Okello said, adding he arrived in the Ugandan capital in the aftermath of the coup.

″Stay calm at home,″ Okello said. ″We took the step because of unity... I pray to god to bless all the citizens of Uganda.″

An authoritative source in the military headquarters, who asked not to be identified, said in a telephone interview that at least 20 government ministers were arrested following the coup.

He said that among them were Peter Otai, minister of state for defense, and Edward Rurangaranga, minister of state in the prime minister’s office.

The capital, the scene of heavy gunfire and some looting Saturday was quiet Sunday morning. A curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. was apparently observed by most residents of this verdant, tropical city nestled among rolling hills.

There was some sporadic shooting overnight, believed to be by soldiers celebrating the coup or skirmishes with Obote loyalists. But no major incidents were reported.

The source at military headquarters sai there were a few minor pockets of resistance, but that overall, the army rebels established control on the capital.

On Saturday, thousands of Ugandans took to the streets to celebrate Obote’s ouster.

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday a rebel officer announced the ″total end of Obote’s tribalistic rule.″ Speaking on behalf of Okello, he later invited civilians to ″join us at the city square at any time″ to celebrate.

The rebels broadcast appeals to the top guerrilla leader, former Defense Minister Yoweri Museveni, to join forces with the new leadership.

In Washington, White House spokesman Edward Djerejian said all U.S. officials were safe, but there was no announcement on how many American citizens or diplomats were in this East African nation of nearly 14 million people.

In Kenya, Obote was accompanied by John Luwuliza-Kirunda, the internal affairs minister, and Sam Tewungwa, the regional cooperation minister. Obote’s wife Miria already was in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi as a delegate to the U.N. Decade for Women conference, and their children reportedly arrived there Friday.

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