American Held on Terrorism Charges in Uganda

An American citizen was arrested in Uganda on charges of terrorism just days before that country's presidential elections. Ugandan police say several machine guns were found under the bed of 59-year-old Peter Waldron. Jason Beaubien reports.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Fresh from his victory in last week's election in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni says his priorities over the next five years will be agricultural and industrial development plus strengthening political ties among the countries of East Africa.

Over the weekend, Uganda's electoral commission declared Museveni the winner in the Presidential race with 59 percent of the vote, well ahead of his main rival. Opposition leaders have rejected these results though, and some are warning the alleged electoral fraud involved could lead to fresh unrest.

In his first address to the nation since reelection, the President dismissed those allegations.

President YOWERI MUSEVENIE (Uganda): This coalition of bad forces is not acceptable to us. Those who hobnob with terrorism, they spend all of their time attacking the movement which is fighting those very evils.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Uganda's President Museveni. Shortly before last Thursday's vote, an American citizen was arrested on weapons charges. Police say he had several sub-machine guns stashed under his bed and was planning to disrupt the elections.

The prosecutor has now upgraded the charges against him to terrorism. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Kampala.

JASON BEAUBIEN reporting:

The discovery of the weapons cache at Peter Waldron's Kampala home appeared to happen by chance. According to the police, a Congolese national and a Ugandan were seen long bags which reportedly held AK-47's into Waldron's yard. When suspicious neighbors confronted the men, one of them drew a handgun. The two men fled on foot, but were pursued and caught by a group of scooter taxi drivers.

A gathering crowd wanted to lynch the men, again, according to the police. But the suspects pleaded for their lives and promised to show them where additional weapons were hidden in Waldron's home.

Waldron is a 59-year-old computer consultant who was working for the Ugandan Ministry of Health. Business cards seized by police introduce him as an advisor to the President of Rocky Mountain Technology Group, the publisher of the Africa Dispatch Magazine, and the founder of the City of Faith Ministry, in Kampala.

In a 2004 article in the New Republic, on evangelical Christians in Kampala, Waldron is mentioned briefly as a swaggering, aspiring preacher.

Major-General Kale Kayihura, the Inspector General of the Ugandan Police, says Waldron wanted to establish a political party in the country based on Christian values. The police chief also said that Waldron planned to use the four assault rifles and almost 200 rounds of ammunition to disrupt the election. He's now being held without bail.

Major-General KALE KAYIHURA (Inspector General, Ugandan Police): Terrorism, you know, is a capital offense. And there are limited circumstances in which you can get bail.

BEAUBIEN: One of the local papers ran a front-page story on Waldron's arrest under a headline that declared War. Next to the headline was a photo issued by the police of a stocky, bearded white man in a suit. The photograph, however, wasn't Waldron. It was the Austrian Ambassador to Uganda. The next day the paper printed an apology, but that too went wrong as they expressed their regrets to the Australian Ambassador.

Officials at the U.S. Embassy confirmed that Waldron is a U.S. citizen, and they say they're looking into the incident. Reporters haven't been allowed to speak to him.

The charges against Waldron could carry the death penalty.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Kampala.

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