Kampala — The Uganda People's Defence Forces has arrested one of its senior officers to help in the ongoing investigations into allegations of spying for Rwanda.
Highly-placed sources last night said operatives from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), the investigative wing of the Ugandan army, picked up Col Paul Muwonge on Wednesday, last week.
Col Muwonge, until his reported arrest, was the director of Intelligence for UPDF Land Forces, placing him in a critical position to receive and synthesise classified information shared by the army's five infantry divisions to inform decision-making in the highest circles of the military.
These are merely accusations against the officer and he has not been formally charged and he remains innocent until charged and convicted.
The Land Forces commanded by Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, also encompasses the UPDF Artillery Division, the Armoured Brigade and Motorised Infantry.
It has the largest recruitment and deployment of Ugandan soldiers. The army's other services are the UPDF Air Force, Special Forces Command as well as the Reserve Force.
According to information on the website of the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs, the Land Forces "have the capacity to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Uganda on land."
"They are strong enough to deter any possible aggregation from across national borders. However, these borders are both long and at times insecure. It is, therefore, important that sufficient forces be deployed intelligently, and with sufficient speed, to be able to find, contain and destroy the threat," reads an introductory message on the UPDF website's home page.
Security sources told Daily Monitor last night that following his arrest on May 22, Col Muwonge was detained at the high security Makindye Military Barracks in Kampala.
Col David Gonyi was swiftly appointed to replace him to ensure no vacuum in the highly sensitive post.
It remained unclear by press time whether Col Muwonge had had access to his family or lawyer since arrest and we were unable to establish if he recorded any statement or had been released.
There were conflicting accounts of his whereabouts and particulars of the offence he is alleged to have committed.
One top government source said he remained incarcerated. Another security official denied that the officer was in custody, before admitting that the colonel was a subject of inquiries "but not spying for any neighbouring country".
Brig Richard Karemire, the UPDF spokesperson, told Daily Monitor last night: "The senior officer (Muwonge) isn't in prison. It is, however, true that he is being investigated for conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline in the UPDF."
The spokesman declined to discuss whether the UPDF Land Forces Intelligence director still retains his job, was suspended or had been placed under house arrest if he was not in jail as he claimed.
Investigators are inquiring into reports that the officer had direct contact with two top Rwandan military officials as CMI operatives widened the net to catch more suspects.
We, however, could not independently verify these claims piling in the wake of frosty relations between the two countries. We were also unable to speak to Rwanda on the latest development.
Kigali has consistently accused their Kampala counterparts of illegally holding a horde of Rwandan citizens in military custody, denying entry to or deporting many illegally as well as hoarding its exports transported through Uganda.
Rwanda said a number of its citizens have also been killed in Uganda, without explanation, and in retaliation it shut its busy Gatuna border and stopped its citizens from visiting Uganda, citing imminent threat of their arrest and torture.
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Uganda denies the allegations and instead argued that the border closure was an economic sabotage, and echoed that the country's borders will remain open to foreign nationals as long as they remain law-abiding.
The icy relations took a dramatic turn last weekend when Rwandan soldiers allegedly pursued into one of its citizens, who was reportedly smuggling Uganda and shot him dead alongside a Ugandan citizen.
Senior security and intelligence officials were yesterday reluctant to discuss the fate of Col Muwonge, an outstanding military spymaster with deep knowledge of Congolese and Rwandan situation.
He has served and achieved highly in various key intelligence positions in West Nile Sub-region, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and as the Intelligence Officer for UPDF 2nd Division based in Mbarara, which is responsible for guarding Uganda's territory and national sovereignty on the western axis --- that straddles eastern DRC and Rwanda frontiers.
News of Col Muwonge's reported arrest comes in the wake of claims by Rwanda that Ugandan authorities are holding two of its citizens incommunicado.
Mr Ishimwe Bosose and Mr Peter Sanvura were arrested by Ugandan security in a church in Kamwezi in Rukiga district last Sunday, with Ugandan officials accusing them of illegal entry into the country and spying for Rwanda.
Rwanda's Ambassador in Kampala, Maj Gen Frank Mugambage, told reporter yesterday that they had formally written to the Uganda government through the Foreign Affairs ministry to establish the whereabouts of the suspects and a grant of access to them so that they benefit from consular services.
Under Section 66 of the UPDF Act, the offence of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline is broadly defined as "any act, conduct, disorder or neglect to the prejudice of good order and discipline of the army."
A person convicted under the provision "shall be liable to dismissal with disgrace..."