By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA (Reuters) - Police raided Uganda's leading independent newspaper on Monday and disabled its printing press after it published a letter about a purported plot to stifle allegations President Yoweri Museveni is grooming his son for power, a senior editor said.
Speculation is growing that Museveni, in office since 1986 and one of Africa's longest serving leaders, is lining up his son Kainerugaba Muhoozi to take power, a move that would likely test loyalties in Uganda's ruling elite.
The Daily Monitor, Uganda's most-read independent paper, published a private letter last week by General David Sejusa calling for an investigation into allegations of a plot "to assassinate people who disagree with this so-called family project of holding onto power in perpetuity".
Uganda's media regulator warned it would "penalize" excessive coverage about the Sejusa letter and a court ordered the Daily Monitor to hand over the document, a decision the newspaper has appealed.
"The police showed up saying they have a warrant to search our premises for the Sejusa letter so they cordoned off our premises and started searching," Don Wanyama, Daily Monitor managing editor, told Reuters.
"Police have switched off our printing press, they have also shut down our website and our two FM radio stations and we've also learnt that the power distributor has been instructed to cut off our power supply."
However, later in the day the Daily Monitor website was working again and its home page headline said "State should stop muzzling free press - Monitor Editors".
Police said in a statement they searched the Daily Monitor premises after it ignored court orders to hand over the letter.
The newspaper management said the matter was still in the courts. The Uganda Journalists Union accused the police of trying to intimidate journalists to stop independent reporting and said press freedom was under threat.
Wanyama said the police detained and questioned him about the letter for six hours on Tuesday last week. Two senior reporters were also interrogated.
The letter by Sejusa, the head of internal security and long regarded as close to Museveni, has sparked a rare public debate on the issue of whether the 68-year-old president will step down at the end of his term in 2016.
Although hailed for restoring the rule of law and mending the economy after taking power following a five-year guerrilla war, Museveni has faced mounting accusations he is becoming just another African strongman presiding over entrenched corruption.
(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Heinrich)