CMI arrests university don over spying claims

Dr Lawrence Muganga, the Vice Chancellor of Victoria University. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Reason. “He is being held on allegations of espionage. He holds a foreign passport and has been working in Uganda illegally.  His wife also has a Rwandan passport. They are in the country illegally,” UPDF spokesperson Brig Flavia Byekwaso.

A university don was arrested yesterday in Kampala on suspicion of spying for a foreign country and working in the country illegally.

A joint security team from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and Police Crime Intelligence Directorate arrested Dr Lawrence Muganga, the Vice Chancellor of Victoria University, and his personal assistant, whose identity remains unconfirmed.

“He is being held on allegations of espionage,” Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) spokesperson Brigadier Flavia Byekwaso said. 

“He holds a foreign passport and has been working in Uganda illegally.  His wife also has a Rwandan passport. They are in the country illegally,”  she said.

Security agencies, however, declined to name the country he is alleged to be spying for. Convicted spies face up to seven years in jail or deportation to their home countries. 

In a media interview earlier in the year, Dr Muganga said he was a Ugandan from Greater Masaka area and had lived and studied in the country up to university. He said he later visited Rwanda to help companies there build different capacities, before getting a scholarship to attend graduate school in Canada.

He has been part of a team advocating to change the name of Banyarwanda community in Uganda’s Constitution to “Abavandimwe”,  because of what they claim is persecution and marginalisation by Ugandan authorities. 

Dr Muganga and a section of Banyarwanda in Uganda allege that authorities have been denying them passports, national identity cards and services because they are Banyarwanda.  The debate has been so intense that one immigration officer sued Mr Frank Gashumba, a member of the advocacy group,  for defamation.

 Many Ugandans belong to the Banyarwanda community and have lived freely in the country for generations, including before the drawing of colonial borders. 

Frosty relations between the two countries in recent years, however, have led to arrests of nationals in both countries on allegations of espionage and sabotage. It has also brought into sharp focus non-citizens who obtain national IDs and passports unlawfully.

Sources familiar with the matter told this newspaper that Dr Muganga has a Ugandan national ID as well as a Canadian passport. Reports that he has a passport from a third country could not be independently verified.

Espionage against Uganda is one of the reasons the Immigration Directorate can deprive a naturalised person of their Ugandan citizenship. A person so deprived is then deported.

Sources said the university don had earlier been provided with counter-terrorism guards in response to unspecified threats to him over his Abavandimwe campaign by an unnamed country. It was not immediately clear how he went from an asset worth protecting to a person of interest to an espionage investigation.

Dr Muganga was arrested by security operatives wielding assault rifles. He and his bodyguard were bundled into a van which sped off to an unknown place. By press time yesterday, it wasn’t clear where he was being detained.

His lawyer, Robert Rutaro, described the arrest as a kidnap. 

“Dr Muganga and his bodyguard were beaten by the armed men before they were bundled in a drone (van). Fear and shock engulfed Victoria University when heavily armed gunmen raided the area,” he said.

Witnesses said the armed men were dressed in military fatigues, but they didn’t identify themselves, leaving Mr Rutaro with many questions. 

“Why would a civilian be arrested violently by the military? Why wasn’t the police involved? Where is he being held? Why was he manhandled and mistreated? Why would the security forces that arrested him violate his rights in the wake of just a fortnight when the President cautioned security just a fortnight ago?” he said.

His associate, Mr Gashumba, said they visited several security offices yesterday, but had not been able to establish Dr Muganga’s whereabouts. 

“It is ridiculous that only one week after the President criticised his security agencies for torture, we are seeing yet another ugly incident,” he said.

We were unable to get a comment from the management of Victoria University by press time  last night.


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