Security forces in Uganda have arrested Lawrence Muganga, one of the country’s top academics, on suspicion of espionage, the military said.
The vice-chancellor of the private Victoria University was taken in broad daylight on Thursday at the facility’s main building on one of the busiest streets in the capital, Kampala.
Amateur video posted on social media showed plain-clothes gunmen forcing a man said to be Muganga into a type of van known in Uganda as a “drone“, which is associated with abductions of government opponents.
Commentators on social media suggested he had been taken because he is seen as being close to the military intelligence service of Uganda’s regional rival Rwanda.
Social media reports that Vice Chancellor Victoria University Dr Lawrence Muganga was kidnapped are false. He was arrested by joint Security Forces in connection with espionage and illegal stay in the country. Investigations into the matter have commenced.
— UPDF Spokesperson (@UPDFspokespersn) September 2, 2021
Responding to the comments, military spokeswoman Brigadier Flavia Byekwaso said reports that Muganga had been kidnapped were “false”.
“He was arrested by joint security forces in connection with espionage and illegal stay in the country. Investigations into the matter have commenced.”
There was no immediate comment from the university.
Muganga is perhaps Uganda’s most prominent Banyarwanda – of Rwandan ethnicity – and has acted as a spokesman for a section of the community in Uganda.
Earlier this year, he led a campaign to have the ethnic Rwandan community renamed “Abavandimwe” because he said they were being “marginalised” by the Ugandan government and denied public services such as ID cards as they are viewed as “foreigners”.
One of Uganda’s most prominent businessmen, Frank Gashumba, backed the campaign, claiming ethnic Rwandans suffer “dehumanisation” in Uganda.
“The violent and high-handed manner in which Dr Lawrence Muganga was kidnapped and disgraced in broad daylight amidst still unclear circumstances, leaves a lot to be desired as well as many unanswered questions,” Gashumba said on his Facebook page.