NAIROBI, Kenya — Gen. Tito Okello was sworn in Monday as the new head of the Ugandan government in a ceremony on the steps of the Parliament building in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, battered in two days of shooting and looting by drunken soldiers.
Okello, who is believed to be about 71, promised elections and a return to civilian rule within a year.
Although the gunfire that rocked the capital for the last two days has subsided somewhat, it was learned that the U.S. Embassy in Kampala was making plans Monday to evacuate its personnel.
According to the plan, which was not yet final, the U.S. Embassy personnel and their dependents--believed to number about 40--are to be evacuated by road today. It is about a five-hour drive from Kampala to the Kenyan border.
Sources in Nairobi said the convoy also could include German, Italian and British members of the diplomatic community.
All airports in Uganda are closed. A journalist who contacted the control tower at Entebbe airport by telephone Monday was told, "If you come here, we will shoot you."
It was learned that U.S. officials in Kampala had advised the Ugandan leaders that it was considering an evacuation. The officials noted that although no U.S. citizens were harmed during the two days of violence that followed the coup, a warehouse containing embassy supplies was looted by armed soldiers.
If the evacuation is carried out, it is likely that the convoy would be escorted by Ugandan army personnel and vehicles. One possible hitch to the plan, it was learned, was finding enough embassy cars, several of which were stolen or partly dismantled in the hours after the coup. One was hit by a mortar shell.
The U.S. Embassy in Kampala has only minimal security, and there are no U.S. Marine guards assigned there, as there are at most U.S. embassies.
The ceremony on the Parliament steps suggested that the new government was taking its first steps to impose order in the country, but it was far from clear how effective the move would be.
Full Battle Gear
The appearance of the aging general, the top commander in the Ugandan army, dressed in full camouflage battle gear, drew a crowd of about 500 soldiers, civilians and a sprinkling of the city's diplomatic corps. Some spectators were venturing out of doors for the first time since the Saturday coup that drove Ugandan President Milton Obote out of power and into exile, at least temporarily, in neighboring Kenya.
"Within a year, Ugandans will have a government of their choice," said Gen. Okello in remarks that lasted less than a minute.
Earlier Monday, Kampala radio announced that Okello will become the chairman of a ruling military council. It said he will announce the appointment of an "executive prime minister," who will in turn appoint a Cabinet. In the meantime, the radio said, the permanent secretaries of the various government ministries were to assume responsibility for running the government.
On Sunday, the government announced that the constitution and the national Parliament had been dissolved. A dusk-to-dawn curfew remains in effect.
Rebellion in the North
Standing at Okello's right for the ceremony was Brig. Basilio Olara Okello (not related to the new head of state), who a week ago ignited a military rebellion in the north that quickly advanced on the capital and ousted Obote, who had held power in Uganda since 1980.
Diplomatic sources in Nairobi said Monday that the Kenyan government has privately confirmed that Obote was still in the country. Some reports said he was staying at an up-country farm of Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi.
Residents of Kampala said Monday that the shooting and looting that broke out in the city over the weekend had subsided, but most residents were staying indoors. Shops and offices were closed, and the streets were mostly empty.
The new government, diplomats said, was believed to be making overtures to rebel leader Yoweri Museveni, who for almost five years has led his Uganda National Resistance guerrillas in a campaign against the Obote government. It was not yet clear that their appeals were meeting with success, although a spokesman for Museveni said Sunday that the guerrillas welcomed Obote's ouster.
Several Reported Arrested
A key member of the Obote government, Vice President and Minister of Defense Paulo Muwanga, was reportedly safe at his house in Kampala. Several other members of the former president's Cabinet were reported to have been arrested, including Chris Rwakasisi, another close Obote adviser.
Muwanga is rumored to be in contact with both the top generals, but the new regime has not mentioned him in any of its public statements.
Tito Okello is a career soldier who was trained by the British and who served with British troops in Burma in World War II. In the pre-independence era in Uganda, with the British in control of the military, Okello was a noncommissioned officer. He was made an officer after independence.