A retired Ugandan general seeking to unseat veteran President Yoweri Museveni was charged with treason and unlawful possession of weapons in a case underscoring an ongoing crackdown on opposition figures ahead of elections next year.
Henry Tumukunde, who served as a security minister and intelligence chief, pleaded not guilty to the charges in a Kampala court and was remanded to a maximum-security prison with the next hearing set for March 30.
Tumukunde was detained last week alongside several family members and political allies, some of who have been released.
He is accused of uttering statements to incite neighbouring Rwanda to invade Uganda and overthrow government, according to a charge sheet seen by Reuters.
Uganda and its south-western neighbour Rwanda are at odds over political and economic disputes.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame accuses Uganda of supporting dissidents sworn to ousting him from power. He closed Rwanda’s border with Uganda in February last year; Angola-led diplomatic efforts to resolve the stand-off have been to no avail.
Appearing on a talk show on Ugandan NBS television earlier this month, Tumukunde said: “If I was Rwanda I would wish to support people who want to cause change in Uganda.”
Museveni, who came to power after a 1986 coup, is expected to seek re-election in a vote due early next year.
His party is under pressure from the increasing popularity of musician-turned-lawmaker Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, who amassed a large following among youth wooed by blunt criticism of government in his lyrics.
Opposition leaders and rights groups accuse Museveni’s government of cracking down systematically on critics using intimidation, detentions, torture and tear gassing at rallies to discourage dissent.
Ugandan officials deny all, saying most arrests and detentions are in the course of enforcing public order management laws.