As news of General Kale Kayihura’s sacking as Inspector General of Police (IGP) spread within the force, two camps appeared to emerge pitting the young officers on one side and the old guard on the other.
The officers shared information via their Whatsapp groups within hours after Martin Okoth Ochola was elevated to take over Gen Kayihura’s job and Brigadier Sabiiti Muzeei was drafted in from the Military Police to be Ochola’s deputy.
In the other changes announced by President Museveni on Sunday evening, General Elly Tumwine was appointed Minister for Security, replacing Lt. General Henry Tumukunde.
This reporter contacted a total of 20 officers between the ranks of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP).
Some of the officers are seen to be very loyal to Gen Kayihura, while others were critical of his management style but all of them had one common factor.
They could not believe what had happened and how he could be fired just like that.
“That guy as much as I don’t like him, was the true definition of loyalty to the president. I could never have imagined him being thrown away like that, “an officer at the rank of AIGP told this reporter. Another said, “At least now our colleagues will think twice before selling their hearts out to politicians.”
Although, many people in the public had foreseen the action of the President against Gen Kayihura and Tumukunde for their fights and bickering, most officers felt it was the president trying to trim Kayihura’s power but he would serve until his contract expired.
Gen Kayihura’s three-year contract was renewed in March 2017. But the shock did not stop some of the officers from expressing their relief and others their misery.
The senior officers who have been in the force for long, were the most relieved having complained over the years in private about the disrespect they had been getting from Gen Kayihura.
Picked from the military in 2005 to head the police force, Gen Kayihura was known to openly despise career police officers, especially those who dared criticise his management style.
Their biggest problem with Kayihura was how he passed them over in preference to the young officers fresh from training. The latter, however, lacked requisite skills and experience in law enforcement and policing.
It was a cold war whose effects were mainly felt at the level of directors where the old guard secretly fought the young and ambitious officers.
Officers such as the late Andrew Felix Kaweesi, Grace Akullo, the Director Criminal Investigations and Amos Ngabirano, who resigned recently as Director ICT, were leading the pack of new officers that Kayihura preferred to work with.
Kaweesi had risen to the rank of AIGP at the time of his death in March 2017, when gunmen sprayed his vehicle with bullets killing him, his driver Godfrey WambewO and bodyguard Kenneth Erau instantly.
Many of the old guard see changes in fortune since Okoth Ochola, the new Inspector General of Police, is one of them.
A good administrator, Okoth Ochola had never served in the area of Operations for the more than 30 years he has been in the police force. Without the operational ability, the young and enthusiastic Brigadier Sabiiti Muzeei who joined the army in 1998 is likely to overshadow his boss and make the decisions.
“It’s hard to tell what will happen now. Okoth Ochola is about to retire but even for the few years he has left, I don’t think he has the capacity to make operational decisions for the force,” one of the old guards said.
While the uncertainty is shared by most officers, those who have been close to Gen Kayihura and highly favoured are pained by the changes and the uncertainty about their future in the force is even much more worrying.
After six years as Deputy Inspector General of Police, sitting and observing from the shadow, Okoth Ochola is credited for his understanding of the personnel; their strength and weaknesses.
This is a factor that some officers’ fear may work against them. Freddie Egesa, a former police officer says “this is the best decision that the president has made in 2018.”
A known critic of Gen Kayihura’s management style, Egesa adds: “I hope now the police decisions and authority can flow through the ranks and not through the windows as has been the case.”
Another former police officer went on social media last night and expressed his excitement after Kayihura was relieved of his command duties.
Francis Muzahura posted: “I can now go back to police. I hope a police officer will regain his respect and confidence.”
President Museveni’s message dropping Kayihura, Tumukunde
“In the Exercise of the powers vested in the President by Articles 113 (1) and 213 (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, I hereby appoint General Elly Tumwiine as Minister for Security, Mr. Okoth Ochola as the Inspector-General of Police and Brigadier Sabiiti Muzeei as the Deputy Inspector General of Police.”