UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UGANDA: Museveni threatens newspapers over Garang coverage
KAMPALA, 11 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday threatened three local newspapers with closure, arguing that their coverage of the death of Sudanese First Vice President John Garang was jeopardising regional security.
At a memorial ceremony in Uganda's capital, Kampala, for Garang and seven Ugandan crewmembers who perished in a helicopter crash on 30 July, Museveni said he would not tolerate the threat to regional security that such reports presented.
"I will no longer tolerate a newspaper which is like a vulture. Any newspaper that plays around with regional security, I will not tolerate it - I will close it," he said, in reference to local media speculation over the cause of the crash.
He said The Daily Monitor, The Weekly Observer and a tabloid, The Red Pepper "must stop or we shall stop them". These papers, Museveni said, had engaged in speculation about Garang's death in the days following the crash.
The Red Pepper recently reported that Garang's body was riddled with bullets when it was recovered from the wreckage of the Uganda government-owned helicopter.
"It was Museveni himself who opened the floodgates of speculation over the facts behind the crash by saying last week it may not have been an accident and could have been the result of some other factors," Aggrey Awori, an opposition Member of Parliament, told IRIN on Wednesday.
"There are security people mandated to comment about security matters in Uganda and they should consult those," Museveni said, adding that he was the legitimately elected leader of Uganda and the task of running the country’s affairs should be left to him.
Museveni said investigations were underway that would determine the cause of the crash, and promised revenge if it was found to be the work of an enemy, who would "have to pay".
He said he had discussed the fateful flight with Garang and the pilot, and had agreed that if they found the weather bad at their destination, they would return and spend the night either in northern or eastern Uganda.
On the day of the Sudanese leader's death, Museveni said, he and Garang had discussed the security situation along the Uganda-Sudan border - where the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) operates - and the future of Sudan as the north-south Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was implemented.
"The implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is where the future for Sudan lies," Museveni said.
He said despite Garang's death, the LRA rebellion would not escalate.
"Some people have been saying that the death of Garang is going to escalate [LRA leader Joseph] Kony's banditry in the north - that is rubbish. The Kony problem is almost over, they will not hide there [southern Sudan, believed to be the base of the LRA] for long. It is not only Kony, but all the militia groups that have been operating in the region," he added.
"I understand from contacts that the LRA is rejoicing because a key enemy has been removed," John Prendergast, a special advisor to the global think-tank, the International Crisis Group, told IRIN on 1 August. "This could have a serious negative impact for the northern Uganda situation."
Garang, who had led the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army through 21 years of civil war against the Sudanese government, had been sworn in as First Vice President of Sudan on 9 July, in accordance with the CPA.
He died en-route to southern Sudan from Uganda, following a meeting with Museveni. All the people travelling with him died when the aircraft came down near the Uganda-Sudan border. The governments of Sudan and Uganda have both set up panels to investigate the crash.
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