A review of Uganda’s External Security Organisation
is underway following the uncovering of a Sudanese
espionage operation with access to highly classified
briefs, according to well placed sources in the region.
The review follows the expulsion, earlier this month,
of a Sudanese diplomat from Kampala over
allegations of espionage.
Ugandan intelligence sources say Jad el-Seed
Mohammed Elhag, a liaison officer at the Sudan
embassy in Kampala, was the mastermind of a
spying operation that had infiltrated Uganda’s
The diplomat left the country within 24 hours of
being caught in a sting operation by Ugandan
counter-intelligence officials while trying to buy
classified intelligence documents.
A clerk in Uganda’s External Security Organisation,
Stephen Kisembo, was last week charged in a
Kampala court with stealing and selling classified
Ugandan intelligence believes that Mr Kisembo sold
classified intelligence documents, including weekly
briefs sent to Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, to
his Sudanese intelligence handlers between 2009
A review is underway to find out how extensive the
Sudanese spy network is and how far its tentacles
spread within Uganda’s military intelligence. A
source told The EastAfrican the Sudanese spying
operation was “potentially one of the largest
intelligence leaks” in many years.
In August, President Museveni ordered the Office of
the Auditor General to conduct a special audit into
the classified expenditures of the External Security
Organisation following allegations of misuse of funds
and disgruntled operatives.
Cat and mouse
Uganda and Sudan have had a cat-and-mouse
relationship over the past two decades, with
Khartoum supporting Joseph Kony’s Lord’s
Resistance Army rebels in retaliation for Kampala’s
support for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, and
its continuing military and political support to Salva
Kiir’s Government of South Sudan.
The animosity between the two countries died down
after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace
Agreement between Khartoum and the SPLA, and
relations warmed after South Sudan broke away from
However, Khartoum has increased its intelligence
interest in Uganda after dissidents and rebel groups
under the Sudan Revolutionary Front signed a
charter in Kampala in January pledging to overthrow
Omar al-Bashir’s regime.
The Front is a coalition of Sudanese rebel groups in
Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. At its
inception in November 2011, it vowed to overthrow
President Bashir’s regime “using all available
The rebel groups represented included the Sudan
People’s Liberation Movement-North, the Justice and
Equality Movement, the Sudan Liberation Army-
Abdel Wahid, and Sudan Liberation Army -Minni
Sudan responded by filing three complaints against
Uganda with the African Union, the
Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and
the International Conference on the Great Lakes
President Museveni and President Bashir met in
Addis Ababa on the sidelines of an extraordinary
African Union Heads of State Summit two weeks ago
at the request of the Ugandan leader to review their
It was the first time the two principals were meeting
in three years and President Museveni sought to
reassure President Bashir, who was facing urban
unrest in Khartoum as well as continuing insecurity
in Darfur, that Kampala’s foreign policy did not seek
to support regime change in Sudan.
However, sources said that Mr Bashir presented
President Museveni with evidence showing that
Sudanese dissidents in Kampala were receiving some
form of support from Ugandan security officials.
President Museveni reportedly agreed to investigate
the claims and end any active support to Sudanese
dissident groups in Uganda.
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir.
In a statement issued after the “friendly and frank”
meeting of the two principals in Addis, Sudan’s
Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Karti said Mr Museveni’s
response was more encouraging than in previous
“I do not think that we are now in a position that we
can say there is a solution to the problem, but in my
opinion there is progress in the understanding of the
Ugandan President of the seriousness of the request
of Sudan and the information put forward by the
president of the republic,” he said.
On Thursday, the Sudan Tribune website reported
that the Ugandan embassy in Khartoum had withheld
a visa to a Sudanese opposition politician who
planned to travel to Kampala to attend a Sudan
Revolutionary Front meeting.
The website reported that the embassy deferred a
decision on a visa pending consultation with Kampala
after al-Sadiq al-Mahdi of the National Umma Party
indicated that he also intended to meet with
The National Umma Party had earlier announced that
it signed an agreement with the Justice and Equality
Movement and Sudan Liberation Movement of Minni
The presence in Kampala of representatives of
political and armed groups with an avowed aim of
toppling the Khartoum regime could potentially
complicate relations between Uganda and Sudan.
President Bashir has been facing domestic unrest in
Khartoum sparked off by economic hardships and
over 200 people were reportedly killed last month as
security officers cracked down on demonstrations.
In response, the Sudanese leader has gone on the
diplomatic and political offensive, holding talks with
President Kiir of South Sudan over the contested
Abyei border region while pushing dissenting voices
out of his ruling National Congress Party.
A review of Uganda’s External Security Organisation