REBEL SWORN IN AS UGANDA PRESIDENT
By Sheila Rule, Special To the New York Times
Jan. 30, 1986
Yoweri Museveni, whose National Resistance Army descended on this battered capital city last week and overthrew the military Government of Gen. Tito Okello, was sworn in today as the new President of Uganda.
The ceremony, witnessed by thousands of jubilant Ugandans, was held on the steps of the Parliament building, where some of the fiercest fighting erupted in the battle for Kampala.
The installation of Mr. Museveni, who arrived in a gleaming black Mercedes-Benz and wore jungle-green military fatigues and polished combat boots, came five years after he took his followers into the bush in his quest to overthrow the Government of President Milton Obote. No ‘Mere Change of Guards’
”Nobody is to think that what is happening today, what has been happening in the last few days is a mere change of guards,” said Mr. Museveni, 40 years old, who is the ninth head of state since this East African nation gained independence from Britain in 1962. ”This is not a mere change of guards. I think this is a fundamental change in the politics of our government.”
”Any individual, any group or person who threatens the security of our people must be smashed without mercy,” Mr. Museveni said. ”The people of Uganda should only die from natural causes which are not under our control,” he said, ”but not from fellow human beings.”
Mr. Museveni, who appeared confident and jocular as he spoke at length without notes, touched on several subjects, including the aborted peace accord he signed last month with General Okello, the failure of other African leaders to address the needs of their people and the need for unity and regional cooperation.
He said his first priorities would be the restoration of democracy and the protection of the security of individuals and their property. He Promises Elections
Mr. Museveni said there would eventually be parliamentary elections, but he gave no date.
His promises were cheered by the crowd of Ugandans, who have survived years of dictatorship, army lawlessness, tribal and political strife and brutal violations of human rights.
As Mr. Museveni spoke, reminders of the most recent fighting were evident around this once beautiful city. Beside the the road leading from Entebbe Airport, a soldier lay dead, his shoeless feet bound by wire.
In the distance, Mr. Museveni’s troops hauled other bodies into a dump truck. Others had been buried along the road, with combat boots and spent shells serving as tombstones.
Bits and pieces of blood-stained uniforms were scattered nearby. On a hill where a fierce battle was fought, there were boxes carrying the words ”Farm Implements.” Inside was ammunition. Routines of Life Returning
Yet in many ways life appeared to be moving back into its natural rhythm. Kampala’s streets were alive with people going about the routines of life in a country that the young Winston Churchill called ”the pearl of Africa.” Women sat sewing garments outside the Lifebad general store, and the local market was filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, testimony to the rich Ugandan soil.
Mr. Museveni, who rested a hand on a Bible as he spoke, said that democracy was ”the right of the people of Africa” and that government must not be ”the masters but the servers of the population.”
He suggested that democracy would be built from the ground up, with village committees that would serve as the ”watchdogs” for society against misuse of authority. A Very Young Army
Mr. Museveni said his army, noted for being highly disciplined and politicized, had executed five of its own for killing civilians. Judging from the faces of many of the rebels who came to the swearing-in ceremony, his army is also very young. One boy, asked how old he was, rested his rifle against his leg and held up 10 fingers.
Mr. Museveni, who signed a peace accord last month in Nairobi with General Okello in an effort to end years of bloodshed, characterized his participation in the peace talks as ”very painful” because he was sitting there ”with the criminals across the table.”
He said he agreed to the accord because of pressure from other nations, which he criticized as being more interested in opening roads for trade than in the future of Uganda. He said his followers had made it clear they would not take part in any government in which ”criminals” were involved. The accord was never put into effect, and Mr. Museveni moved on Kampala a month after it was signed.
Mr. Museveni spoke of pressure from his rebels to assassinate such people as Mr. Obote and Basilio Okello, the army commander under General Okello. But he refused, saying that if ”you kill Basilio, there are other Basilios who are also there.”
”The solution is to have enough strength to ship the whole garbage and put it where it belongs, on the garbage heap of history,” he told the cheering crowd. He called on soldiers of the former Government who had not surrended to do so. Some will be included in a new national army, he said, and others will be rehabilitated in order to make a living in their villages. New Leader a Nationalist
Mr. Museveni, an avowed nationalist who says he strongly opposes tribalism, has called for a broadly based government and unity.
Symbolic of his intention was the presence on the platform of Godfrey L. Binaisa, a former President; Abraham Waligo, a former Prime Minister; Paul Ssemogerere, the Interior Minister under General Okello, and other officials who served in the administration of the overthrown leader.
Unlike many heads of state in Africa, the new leader voiced contempt for African governments for what he has said is their corruption and failure to meet the needs of their citizens.
He called African countries ”very backward” and said that, with all their resources and potential, they lagged far behind the developed world in such areas as health care, life expectancy and industry. With all of Uganda’s ”professors, with our excellencies, with our honorable ministers,” he said, the country cannot ”make a needle.”
”His excellence is going to the United Nations,” he said, apparently in reference to African leaders, ”and he is there for meetings with Reagan and Gorbachev, and 90 percent of his people have no shoes. They are walking on bare feet.”