At least 40 Rwandan nationals arrested by a police-led joint security operation faces charges of espionage, a high ranking official revealed on Thursday morning.
On Tuesday morning, heavily-armed security operatives in military and civilian attire raided Association of Pentecostal Churches of Rwanda (ADEPR) in Kubuye.
All entrances and exits were cordoned off by Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) Counter Terrorism forces before a team of police detectives entered the church.
The occupants of the church, located on the first floor of Join-us Flat, a former discotheque, were informed they were under arrest.
The Rwandan nationals were then led into waiting vans which later drove away.
Kampala metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango was quoted as saying the law enforcement body provided support to the military which managed the operation.
A senior official, who preferred anonymity to speak freely, said armed forces “uncovered an intelligence cell under the cover of the church on an espionage mission.”
The source further indicated that the arrested suspects were taking orders from Rwanda’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) leadership with the guidance of the country’s diplomats in Uganda.
“They had brought in new leaders after deportations of the first group and were planning to change the name of the church from ADEPER to Pentecostal True Salvation Church to continue with their espionage activities in all regions of Uganda where most of their churches are located near barracks, refugee camps and most government installations like universities where they are recruiting Ugandans to destabilize the security of the country,” said the source.
It is understood the military had earlier raided the church before sending is leaders back to Rwanda.
A Rwandan official contacted by ChimpReports denied the claims, saying “these were innocent people who started a church here in Uganda after many Pentecostal churches were closed in Rwanda.’
The development comes against the backdrop of heightened tension between Uganda and Rwanda.
Kampala accuses Kigali of bankrolling a vast intelligence network in Uganda to desbabilise President Museveni’s government ahead of the 2021 elections.
On its part, Kigali faults Uganda for the increased arrests of Rwandan nationals and denying them access to consular services.
ADEPER leaders were recently accused of coercing Rwandans living in Uganda into espionage activities.
President Museveni and Kagame recently met in Luanda to iron out their differences but the situation on ground shows very little was achieved from the diplomatic engagement.
While Rwanda has increased military deployments and patrols along the common border, Uganda has intensified training of battle-hardened Special Forces who have witnessed combat action in Somalia, Northern Uganda and South Sudan.
President Museveni recently toured the country’s major military installations to assess their readiness for combat action in case the country is attacked.