A leak in high places puts Ugandans on edge

Photo: Ronald Kabuubi/AFP/GettyImages

KAMPALA, Uganda — Kampala is in an uproar. The Ugandan government has just shut down four private media outlets — a move that follows a crackdown on journalists from the Daily Monitor newspaper a few days earlier. The government’s anger was prompted by a story in the paper said to reveal details of a plan by senior officials to assassinate rivals opposed to a scheme by President Yoweri Museveni to arrange for his son to succeed him in office. By exposing deep rifts within the ruling establishment, the paper has shaken Uganda’s political establishment to the core.

The Monitor quoted extensively from a letter by a senior intelligence officer, General David Sejusa, calling for an investigation into claims that the government is planning to target opponents of the so-called “Muhoozi Project,” an alleged plan to pave the way for 39-year-old Brigadier Kainerugaba Muhoozi (pictured left), commander of an elite army unit, to take over the presidency. The state-owned Uganda Communications Commission (which controls licensing) warned radio stations that they would be shut down for airing the story of Gen. Sejusa’s letter.

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What is Museveni afraid of?

Photo image: MARC HOFER/AFP/Getty Images

Questioning the change Yoweri Museveni promised Ugandans when he seized power in 1986, two university students, Ibrahim Bagaya and Doreen Nyanjura, have written a book, Is this the Fundamental Change?, juxtaposing Museveni’s speeches with Uganda’s present realities. A scheduled book launch for April 11 in Constitutional Square, the heart of the capital of Kampala, did not take place, however. In a scenario now common in Uganda, Bagaya and Nyanjura were arrested and detained for “inciting violence.” While political rallies in Constitutional Square are banned, police have denied receiving a letter from the organizers informing them of their scheduled gathering. The police say they will press charges against the students.

Read more: Transitions

Museveni’s grip on Uganda

The story of Vincent Nzaramba’s arrest last month over a publication he had produced touched a nerve. As a writer and journalist, it hit me that the voice of free speech keeps deteriorating in the country and we are all at risk. The fear now is that we shall learn to self-censor the true stories that need to be told in order to survive. I wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe.

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