A senior military officer makes allegations that reflect disquiet in high government circles over the succession of President Yoweri Museveni, and journalists pay the price for being journalists. It can be tough being a journalist in Uganda, but the way occupational hazards manifest themselves is sometimes bizarre.
“Inquiries are being conducted under the above quoted reference whereby you published a letter on page 4 in the Daily Monitor of 7th May, 2013 allegedly written by General Sejusa David relating to assassination claims of senior government officials by their colleagues,” reads a letter summoning three Daily Monitor journalists for questioning at the police.
The police summoned Managing Editor Don Wanyama and reporters Richard Wanambwa and Risdel Kasasira three days after the paper ran the letter by Gen. David Sejusa aka Tinyefuza, the co-ordinator of intelligence services.
And reporters who went to Entebbe Airport to cover the officer’s return from the UK at the weekend were met by police harassment.
In his letter, Gen. Sejusa claims that there exists a scheme dubbed ‘Muhoozi Project’ aimed at getting the president’s son into power, and that there are plans to frame and assassinate people in government and the military opposed to the project.
Critics say that President Museveni has influenced the training at elite military academies such as Sandhurst and Fort Leavenworth and the consequent swift rise up the ranks of his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba with the purpose of installing him as the next president of Uganda. Mr Muhoozi, 39, is a brigadier-general and commander of the military’s elite Special Forces Command, which is charged with protecting the president and vital installations around the country.
Mr Museveni has rubbished those claims.
The Daily Monitor journalists are expected to report to the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate tomorrow, May 14.
Mr Wanyama said they do not know what the police want. He, however, added: “We are law-abiding citizens [and] professional journalists. We shall turn up for the meeting.”
Because Gen. Sejusa’s letter was published when he was out of the country, and because of his failed attempt to resign from the military in the late 1990s, his scheduled return on Saturday, May 11, was a big news event. Rumours had circulated that he would be arrested upon arrival.
And so reporters headed to the airport in droves. Police were not impressed. They blocked them from accessing the inner precincts of the airport and confiscated their equipment.
Mr Ivan Kabaale, a reporter with NBS TV, told the Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) that a security officer in army uniform threatened to harm him if he did not leave. “I give you one minute to disappear or I disable you,” the officer ordered.
Mr Kabaale was then arrested and detained for four hours. The security agents seized his camera, company ID and cell phone. He was released with no charge and his equipment returned.
Another journalist, Mr Eron Mukama of NTV, told HRNJ: “Security officers in uniform and civilian attire asked me to surrender my camera. They cited orders not to let journalists access the airport.”
The police gave a different story. Mr Ibin Ssenkumbi, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, said that the journalists could have been blocked because of the recent terror alerts issued by the police. He did not explain to HRNJ the relevance of forcibly keeping the reporters away.
HRNJ-Uganda’s National Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala said denying reporters access to news scenes is a violation of the freedom of the media.
“The government must protect and promote media freedoms and rights which is a tenet of democracy,” he said.
Gen. Sejusa did not show up. No explanation was given.
In his letter, Gen. Sejusa claims that there exists a scheme dubbed ‘Muhoozi Project’ aimed at getting the president’s son into power, and that there are plans to frame and assassinate people in government and the military opposed to the project. Those to be assassinated reportedly include Gen. Sejusa.