By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA (Reuters) - The Ugandan military said on Sunday it had detained a general whose frequent criticism of veteran leader Yoweri Museveni has been an irritant to the authorities, potentially raising tensions ahead of next month's presidential election.
Museveni, who is seeking to extend his 30-year rule, is facing perhaps his toughest challenge yet ahead of the Feb. 18 vote, which pits him against longtime opposition leader Kizza Besigye and his ally-turned-rival, Amama Mbabazi.
Rights groups have accused the government of using state security to stifle criticism and intimidate Museveni's rivals, charges the government denies.
Army spokesperson Ronald Kakurungu told NTV Uganda, a local television station, that General David Sejusa had been taken into custody in the capital Kampala early on Sunday.
"Today the deputy army commander...went to (Sujasa's) home and arrested him and took him to Makindye," Kakurungu said, referring to a military facility on the outskirts of Kampala.
The spokesman said Sejusa would be charged before a court marshal on Tuesday but he did not elaborate on the charges.
In 2013, Sejusa fled to Britain after making allegations of an official plot to kill officials who opposed a plan for Museveni to hand power to his son, Kainerugaba Muhoozi, a brigadier in the Ugandan military.
He returned to Uganda the following year in what analysts said was probably a fence-mending move by Museveni to prevent cracks in the military.
Since his return, however, Sejusa has maintained his criticism of government and has given several interviews to local media, in which he has criticized the president and expressed support for the opposition.
Michael Mabikke, Sejusa's lawyer, said he had been denied access to his client.
"Sejusa... has told Ugandans this is a dictatorship and I think this criticism rubbed them the wrong way," Mabikke said.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Edith Honan and Stephen Powell)