Uganda’s president has made a major change in the army, removing the chief of the armed forces to the interior ministry and replacing him with a general in charge of land forces.
Yoweri Museveni named General Katumba Wamala the new Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) and General Aronda Nyakairima the interior minister in a reshuffle which also affected the cabinet.
Friday’s reshuffle came amid controversy over a leaked letter published by Daily Monitor saying the government was planning to assassinate senior officers opposed to the president’s son succeeding his father as leader.
Aronda was one of the officers named in the letter that was leaked by General David Sejusa, who heads an army unit that coordinates national and foreign intelligence and is currently out of the country.
Daily Monitor, a semi-independent paper, has been raided by security forces that have prevented staff from accessing its premises for four days.
Some influential generals condemned the Sejusa letter while a minority came out in support of him.
Museveni’s son, a brigadier named Muhoozi Kainerugaba, has scaled ranks faster than other officers and has had training at the prestigious British military academy Sandhurst and Fort Leavenworth in the US.
Kainerugaba heads an elite army unit called Special Forces Command which is tasked with protecting the president and guarding national assets like oil fields.
A presidential statement called the reshuffle “a minor re-organisation of the government”.
However, Paddy Ankunda, the army spokesman, said the changes were “normal military changes”.
“It should be clear there is no in-fighting in the army,” Ankunda said, adding that Museveni “has the authority to make changes when he wishes”.
General Wamala, the new army chief, has earned praise for his command of troops fighting in the African Union force in Somalia against rebels.
He is the first officer from Uganda’s largest ethnic group, Baganda, to lead the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and the appointment will ward off criticism that promotion in the military is based on tribal grounds.
Meanwhile, Daily Monitor and Red Pepper newspapers remain closed after Monday’s raid by police.
Two radio stations in the Monitor’s offices also remained off air.
The only major newspaper operating is the government-run New Vision.
Ruth Sebatindira, president of the Uganda Law Society, has called the ongoing searches a “serious and inexcusable affront on the rights of the media”.
The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists and France-based Reporters Without Borders have both criticised the closure of the newspapers.