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Museveni threatens newspapers over Garang conspiracy theories

8/10/2005 7:40am

KAMPALA, Aug 10 (AFP) — Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday threatened to close several local newspapers if they persist in publishing conspiracy theories about the death of Sudanese vice president John Garang.

At a memorial ceremony for the seven Ugandan crew who died with Garang in the July 30 crash of a Ugandan presidential helicopter, Museveni said such reports were a threat to regional security and that he would not tolerate them.

"I will no longer tolerate a newspaper which is like a vulture," he said, naming three papers, two privately owned dailies and a weekly, that had stoked his ire. "Any newspaper that plays around with regional security, I will not tolerate it.

"I will close it, simple," Museveni said. "They must stop or we shall stop them. There are security people mandated to comment about security matters in Uganda and they should consult those."

The newspapers in question have printed a variety of speculative stories about Garang’s death in recent days with one quoting unnamed intelligence sources as saying the ex-rebel leader’s body was found riddled with bullets when it was recovered from the wreckage of Museveni’s chopper.

Others have suggested Uganda’s arch-rival Rwanda may have tried to bring down the helicopter in the mistaken belief that Museveni was on board.

Ironically, 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 an unspecified "external factor."

Those comments were the first from any official to suggest that the crash was anything other than an accident as Sudan, Garang’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the United Nations and others have insisted.

Sudanese officials have castigated Museveni for those remarks while others have simply said a combination of poor weather, darkness, terrain and possible pilot error appear to have been the cause of the crash.

But Museveni has not backed down, insisting the Russian-made Mi-172 chopper was safe and equipped with the latest navigational devices, although he has reserved judgement until the completion of an international investigation.

Indeed on Wednesday, he said that if the probe finds that the crash was the result of foul play the perpetrators "will have to pay."

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