KAMPALA, May 28 – Ugandan police fired tear gas Tuesday at journalists protesting at the week-long closure of key independent media, after they reported arguments among army generals over whether the president’s son is to succeed him.
Riot police scattered around 100 journalists, their supporters and human rights activists who tried to gather outside the offices of The Daily Monitor and Red Pepper newspapers, which were closed on May 20 by armed police.
“This is a violation of media freedom and economic sabotage,” rights activist Geoffrey Ssebaggala shouted at police.
The closure of the two papers leaves only one major operating newspaper, the government-owned New Vision.
Two radio stations in the Monitor’s offices also remain off air.
“Instead of arresting criminals killing people in the country, you are here terrorising us,” journalist Moses Ouma told police as they dragged him away from outside the Monitor’s offices.
“The police are turning violent yet this is a peaceful demonstration,” said Simon Anguzu, a protestor outside the Red Pepper.
The closures came after the newspapers in early May printed a leaked confidential memo by a senior general, David Sejusa Tinyefuza, alleging that President Yoweri Museveni was grooming his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba to succeed him.
Tinyefuza said there were plots to assassinate those opposed to the plan.
Muhoozi, a brigadier who now commands Uganda’s special forces, has recently enjoyed rapid promotion through the ranks, although Museveni has made no mention of plans for him to succeed.
Tinyefuza has reportedly fled to London, while last week Museveni reshuffled top army commanders.
Ugandan police chief Kale Kayihura said that police searching newspaper offices would leave once journalists “cooperated”.
Last week army chief Aronda Nyakairima — listed in a leaked memo as allegedly opposing Muhoozi’s possible takeover — was shifted to a civilian post as minister of internal affairs.
Nyakairima, along with other generals, has since condemned Tinyefuza’s memo.