Three months ago a letter supposedly authored by a little known member of opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Catherine Ddembe caused a buzz among Ugandans on social networks. “
The letter detailed a plot to frame senior government officials in subversive activities. The letter also spoke of plans to kill key figures allegedly opposed to what has come to be known as the ‘Muhoozi project’. The project of trying to groom Museveni’s son Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba for the presidency (We don’t know when- the father hasn’t shown signs of retiring in 2016).
It was this letter that Gen. David Sejusa (Tinyefuza) picked up and wrote asking that an investigation be carried out. His letter was leaked to the press (Daily Monitor). Gen. Sejusa had travelled to London on April 30 days before the leaked document was published. And before that his aide was arrested for treason (the most misused charge by the Ugandan government.)
In the same week, the president went to attend the London Somalia conference. All didn’t go well there as British Prime Minister David Cameron kept President Museveni out of the picture.
There was a feeling that Museveni who took our forces to Somalia in 2007 (they have done great but at a great cost) was humiliated and sidelined at a western world show of who is who in Somalia.
And the president returned – with fury. Cameron screwed up the Somalia show and so Gen. Sejusa’s letter wouldn’t be freely available on airwaves and newspapers. If the regime couldn’t have the General then they could have the media.
The Police summoned Daily Monitor editors and reporters and in a day-long quizzing they got nothing. Then the highly partisan Ugandan Communications Commission (UCC) was the next call. With UCC it is always a pleasure to get such a gig from the powers that be. Next, UCC wrote to radio stations and warned (read intimidated) them over broadcasts of Gen. Sejusa’s letter.
UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi told Daily monitor:
If somebody complains to the UCC, it is under obligation to act. The government complained that the media is trying to create insecurity, which is unacceptable. If the material broadcast could cause insecurity, we shall withdraw the licence…”
In the document UCC created a new charge for radio stations saying that they would lose licences because they engaged in political campaigns instead of news reporting.
Four days later, a court order to search for the lost Gen. Sejusa letter came in. On Monday 20th May, state operatives and police turned Daily Monitor and Red Pepper into crimes scenes. They also closed Dembe FM and KFM. The search warrant allows them to go on and we are now into the second day.
An activist outside Monitor offices to protest the media clampdown on May 20. Photo by Edgar. R. Batte
Many Ugandans used social networks to discuss the siege on media houses. UCC is still struggling to dispel rumours that they could cut off access to social media networks. The regime doesn’t need more international scrutiny, the closure of the media houses making headlines is enough.
The more government hunts down the messenger, the more we believe there’s a Muhoozi project. The Army Spokesperson Paddy Ankunda was in the media saying that Muhoozi has been an excellent officer. The only thing I can remember is Garamba. His daddy gave him major operation (Operation lighting thunder) to capture elusive Joseph Kony and all we got was a famous photoof officers with Kony’s saucepans. It is our perfect postcard from Congo sent by Brig. Muhoozi and his team. If Museveni wasn’t busy trying to shut Ugandans out of the discussion on the future of their country we would forget the saucepans for now.
Museveni’s problem isn’t the letter only. President Obama’s first visit to Africa has been announced. Since we are busy searching the printing press for a handwritten letter, Obama thinks he might be caught up in the Sejusa letter search so no visit! and no mention of this great violation of press freedom in Uganda.
President Barack Obama’s African tour due next month will see him visit Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa. Seems that young man Jakaya Kikwete is stealing our show by sending troops to DRC as Sejusa engages us 24/7. Our old man in the hat is no longer the kingpin. And of course Kenya just elected a suspected criminal so no Kogelo and grandmother for Obama.
It is tough times not just for Museveni but one thing is for sure, this whole letter-searching thing is only making Sejusa’s letter seem like gold. The suspected Muhoozi project and other likely succession issues are talked about among Ugandans daily. It must be annoying to see people to speak about your departure right in your face (hello!! am still here!) but when you have been at a place too long the anxiety should be understood.
Whatever happened to the letter – may be the goat ate it- the role of the army in Uganda’s future is an important issue that Ugandans must discuss openly without intimidation and made up accusations on breach of security
Gen. Sejusa, who ironically in the past has led missions to close down some media outlets, has been the most outspoken general on this. In February he wrote about President Museveni threatening parliament and the coup talks.
…we must confront is the role of the military in the management of the State. Will it remain an embodiment of the aspirations of the people from which it derives its legitimacy and power or will it try to subvert the power of the people and by so doing loose its historic pro people position which would of course result in its collapse and inevitable defeat, for the people always win no matter how long it may take.
People will always win, in due time!