Ugandan police on Friday arrested an army general critical of the authorities, escalating a crackdown on opponents of President Yoweri Museveni before elections early next year.
General David Sejusa was arrested in the centre of the capital Kampala for holding an illegal assembly, police spokesman Fred Enanga said.
“He was participating in an illegal procession, he had gathered a crowd and was disrupting traffic on a major road,” added Enanga, saying police would forward a file on Sejusa to the public prosecutor.
Sejusa’s lawyer, David Mushabe, told Reuters his client was in town to go to the bank, but was mobbed on his way out by supporters chanting “Our man, our man”.
“They were shouting and begging him to help remove the current leader. He had not called or rallied anyone,” he said.
Museveni, 70, has ruled Uganda since 1986 and is widely expected to seek another term in the presidential election, likely to be held in February or March. But he faces challenges from both the opposition and within the ruling party.
Sejusa fled to Britain in early 2013 after alleging there was a plot to kill officials opposed to a purported plan by Museveni to hand power to his son, Kainerugaba Muhoozi, who is a brigadier in the Ugandan military.
He returned home in December 2014 in what analysts said was probably a fence-mending move by Museveni to prevent cracks in the military.
Since his return, however, Sejusa has remained critical of the president and has also been reported in the local media to have engaged in discussions with some opposition leaders.
Analysts say Museveni is likely to face a formidable test in the coming election after his former prime minister, Amama Mbabazi, this week announced he would seek the ruling party’s nomination.
Major opposition parties, too, have formed a coalition to field a single candidate.
Mbabazi’s spokeswoman Josephine Mayanja-Nkagi said the Ugandan police, often accused of harassing Museveni’s opponents, has been arresting Mbabazi’s supporters and confiscating campaign materials.
She said 87 supporters had been arrested across the country since Monday, when he announced his candidacy. Police were unavailable for comment.
Police have previously acknowledged arresting some of Mbabazi’s supporters, whom they accused of distributing campaign materials before the legal campaigning period.