240. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Eliot) to the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2


  • Military Coup in Uganda

Ugandaʼs President, A. Milton Obote, on his way back from the Singapore Commonwealth Conference, appears to have been overthrown today by a military coup dʼetat. Fighting broke out in Kampala and Jinja in the early hours of January 25. Around 3:15 p.m. Radio Uganda broadcast a statement that a military coalition headed by Major General Idi Amin, Chief of the Defense Staff, and backed by the Commander of the Police, had taken over the government.

It is not clear how solid Aminʼs position is. Although the fighting subsided this afternoon, it has reportedly resumed tonight, presumably between Aminʼs forces and those still loyal to the President. Obote landed at Nairobi several hours ago and is said to be consulting with Kenyaʼs leaders.

There have been no reports of injuries involving Americans or other foreigners.

Statements by military spokesmen have attacked Obote for favoring his own Langi tribe and accused him and his followers of getting rich at the expense of the “common man” while preaching socialism. While the southern Bantu, particularly the Baganda (who have long opposed Obote) do not seem to have been directly involved, they are for the moment at least probably sympathetic with the announced aims of the coup leaders despite an aversion to military rule. These goals include the release of political detainees and an early return to civilian government with free elections.

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The military government has called upon ministers and civil servants to return to work, but we do not at the moment know of the wherabouts of most members of Oboteʼs Government or whether all the ministers would be acceptable to the new regime. The statements of the new leaders suggest they would seek a government of national unity that might be more conservative than Oboteʼs both in national and international issues.

Theodore L. Eliot, Jr.
Executive Secretary
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 746, Country Files, Africa, Uganda, Vol. I. Confidential.
  2. Eliot reported a military coup in Uganda appeared to have replaced Milton Obote with Idi Amin. Statements by military spokesmen suggested a more conservative government than Oboteʼs both in national and international issues. Robert C. Brewster signed the memorandum for Eliot.