Ugandan police said Tuesday they had deported a French national and a Rwandan employee of the MTN Uganda telecom firm, claiming they were a threat to national security.
Olivier Prentout from France and Annie Bilenge-Tabura from Rwanda had been using their positions to “compromise national security”, police spokeswoman Polly Namaye said in a statement.
“We strongly believe that the deportation of the two foreigners, who were using their employment as tools to achieve their ill motives, has enabled us (to) disrupt their intended plans of compromising our national security,” she said.
MTN’s Uganda branch said in a statement that Mr Prentout, their marketing chief, was arrested at Entebbe airport after returning to Uganda while Ms Tabura, who heads sales and distribution, was detained at their office in the capital Kampala.
“Both Mr Prentout and Mrs Bilenge have been deported from Uganda to their home countries, France and Rwanda respectively,” MTN said in a statement.
“MTN Uganda, together with all its employees, remains fully committed to operating within and respecting the laws of the country,” it added.
Based in South Africa, MTN is one of the largest telecom operators on the continent.
This incident is not its first brush with Ugandan authorities.
Last July, MTN said armed men claiming to be from Uganda’s Internal Security Organisation “kidnapped” two of its contractors and forced them to open up the company’s main data centre, where they made an unsuccessful attempt to access servers.
MTN Uganda said at the time that it took the “criminal incident” seriously and had reported it to the authorities, while adding it didn’t believe it was under investigation.
Rwanda and Uganda have had strained relations in recent years. The two East African neighbours each accuse the other of espionage.
Uganda has occasionally arrested suspected Rwanda spies, while Rwanda has accused its northern neighbour together with Burundi of supporting rebels opposed to President Paul Kagame.