By Hellen Mukiibi
Uganda has expelled a Sudanese diplomat over suspected espionage activities. Dr. Jad-el-Seed Mohammed Elhag, given 24 hours to pack his bags, left the country on Tuesday.
Elhag, who security has been monitoring, is said to have been in a habit of contacting different high level offices in the country with the aim of trying to obtain information illegally.
“We have been tracking his movements. In some cases, he would offer to pay some people for documents and over the weekend we set up a meeting between his contact and someone who had agreed to co-operate,” a senior security officer revealed on Tuesday.
The unsuspecting Elhag, was reportedly nabbed on Sunday as he was paying out money to an agent to secure classified information. The operation where he was “caught red-handed” in Kampala involved personnel from the Special Forces Command (SFC), Joint Anti-Terrorism Taskforce(JATT), External Security Organisation (ESO) and the Police.
Foreign Affairs ministry on Monday sent a diplomatic note to the Sudan embassy demanding for Elhag’s immediate departure.
“He was a diplomat but was not behaving as one. He no longer conducted himself as a diplomat and had been cited in cases of espionage,” said Asuman Kiyingi, the state minister for regional affairs, on Tuesday.
He added that after the arrest, Sudan embassy asked “to be given time to recall” the officer to which the ministry objected. Kiyingi maintained that the two countries’ diplomatic relations remain intact.
Elhag aged 50, came to Uganda in 2010 for a four-year diplomatic tour. He was a liaison officer external security although his formal title is “Foreign Service Officer”.
In a telephone interview, the Sudanese ambassador, Adil Sharfi, confirmed his officer’s exit saying that he has been recalled by Khartoum. Expressing ignorance about the diplomatic note from Foreign Affairs, he insisted that Elhag had not been expelled.
He, however, said he did not know why his government had recalled the officer.
Asked why Elhag’s diplomatic tour had been interrupted, the ambassador said it was normal. “I do not know how you got that news. It’s a normal return not anything else. He had finished his work here and has something else to do in Sudan . We expect a replacement soon,” said the ambassador.
The incident, he added, will not in any way affect the relationship of the two countries which he described as ”good”. Additionally, Sharfi said his mission had plans to ”develop the good relations” between the two countries.
The expulsion of a senior diplomat is not an isolated case since there have been cases of conflict between Khartoum and Kampala.
In March, Sudanese Parliament speaker Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir said that his government was working with forces in Uganda that are opposed to President Yoweri Museveni to bring about “positive political influence”.
Al-Tahir did not provide any details on Khartoum’s efforts in this regard. But reacting to Tahir’s remarks, Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa said Sudan has no chances of succeeding in such plans
“They can try but there is no chance of succeeding. We have no intentions whatsoever of overthrowing the Sudanese government,” Kutesa said, while state minister Henry Oryem described the remarks as “the usual Sudanese rubbish”
Sudanese government was infuriated this year after rebel forces and opposition groups signed an accord in Kampala last January calling for toppling the regime of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir.
This has prompted Khartoum to lodge several complaints with the African Union and other regional blocs against Kampala, saying the latter is supporting regime change in Sudan.