Ugandan leader removes army chief named in succession plot claim

Reuters News
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Posted: May 24, 2013 5:57 AM
Ugandan leader removes army chief named in succession plot claim

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has removed his head of the military Aronda Nyakairima, and moved him to a civilian position as the minister for internal affairs, a statement from the military said on Friday.

Nyakairima was one of those named in a letter published in the independent newspaper The Daily Monitor in early May about a purported plot to stifle allegations Museveni is grooming his son for power by assassinating certain people.

The private letter by General David Sejusa, the head of internal security and long regarded as close to Museveni, called for an investigation into allegations of a plot "to assassinate people opposed to Museveni's succession plan".

It said Nyakairima, who has been military chief since 2003, was a possible target in the alleged plot.

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 at the end of his term in 2016, a move that would likely test loyalties in Uganda's ruling elite.

Authorities in the east African country closed four media organizations on Monday over the letter, including The Daily Monitor.

The paper, Uganda's most widely read, secured a court order on Thursday requiring the police to leave its premises, but a police spokesperson told Reuters they would not be leaving.

Nyakairima would be replaced by Katumba Wamala, the military said.

"Looks like the more 'political' senior military figures are being eased out of the mainstream military," said Angelo Izama, a Ugandan analyst at the America-based think tank, Open Society Foundation.

After ruling for 27 years, Museveni's reluctance to cede power has rankled critics.

The police say the closure of the media organizations is aimed at enabling them to search for documents related to the alleged assassination plot and that they would not leave until they obtain those papers.

Rights activists and western governments have denounced the media crackdown, saying it impedes democracy and erodes media freedoms.

"We're looking at this not as an isolated incident but as part of Museveni's grand scheme to demolish democracy in Uganda," said Livingstone Sewanyana, executive director of Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, a local rights body.

In statements this week the EU delegation in Uganda and the United States Embassy said they were "deeply concerned" and that the closure of media organizations was having a "chilling effect on the freedoms of expression and speech."

(Editing by Duncan Miriri and Sonya Hepinstall)