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New Uganda Leader Swears In Cabinet

February 02, 1986|From Times Wire Services

KAMPALA, Uganda — The new president of this East African nation, Yoweri Museveni, who took control of Uganda last weekend after an intermittent four-year guerrilla war, swore in a Cabinet and political council Saturday. He promised to lead "a government of freedom fighters."

The inauguration of the 12 Cabinet ministers and 22 members of the National Resistance Council was held on the steps of Parliament, where empty cartridge shells still littered the courtyard.

Museveni has promised a broad-based, democratic government, but both the Cabinet and the council, which will function as Uganda's legislative body, are dominated by members of his Uganda National Resistance Army, a rebel movement based in the south.

On Saturday, Museveni called for a halt to harassment of Ugandans from the north. He told a news conference that he had instructed government agencies to take legal action against "criminal elements" molesting northeners.

His remarks followed reports that northern Nilotic Acholi and Lango tribespeople, accused of atrocities against the Bantu of southern Uganda in recent months and years, had become victims of vengeful civilians.

That aside, only one member of the Cabinet, Finance Minister Ponsiano Mulema, was not part of Museveni's guerrilla organization, and only one council member is from northern Uganda, the tribal homeland of most of the ousted military regime's leaders.

Six council members wore uniforms. The rest appeared to be civilians, including one woman.

In a speech after the ceremony, Museveni drew cheers when he promised to quickly eliminate the roadblocks that proliferated in the Kampala area under the ousted regime of Gen. Tito Okello.

"The fascist mentality has spread so much in recent years," he said. "The pride of Ugandans must be rekindled. Once you have that, you have an insurance policy against dictatorship."

At an earlier news briefing Friday night, Museveni said the seeming imbalance in his Cabinet might be adjusted through appointments to still vacant seats, which include that of foreign minister.

However, presidential press secretary Ben Kanyangyeyo said: "We're not looking for tribal balance on the Cabinet. We're looking for people who can do the job."

Museveni and Kanyangyeyo indicated that Uganda's political parties would have no formal role in the immediate future under the National Resistance Army-led government.

Kanyangyeyo said elections might not be held for four years.

Thousands of soldiers of the ousted regime fled to northern Uganda, and NRA troops are pursuing them with the intent of controlling the entire country. Museveni said his forces now control the towns of Jinja and Tororo in the east and are approaching Karuma Falls after capturing Kigumba, in the western Masindi district.

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