On Friday last week, the former Inspector General of Police (IGP), General Kale Kayihura appeared before the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) General Court Martial in Makindye Division in Kampala. He was charged with failure to protect war material as well as abetting and aiding the kidnap and illegal repatriation of Rwandan Refugees.
Kayihura pleaded not guilty to the charges and was sent back to Makindye Military Barracks pending the hearing of his bail application on Tuesday this week. Kayihura was until a few months ago, one of the most powerful government officials, with a direct connection to President, Yoweri Museveni and a classified budget, big enough to run a Ministry.
He was loved and hated in equal measure because of his operation style. On March 4th, 2018, President, Museveni dropped Kayihura as the Inspector General of Police and replaced him with his Deputy, Martin Okoth Ochola, bringing his 12 year reign over the Uganda Police Force to an end.
To many, Kayihura’s problems began with the appointment of General Henry Tumukunde as Security Minister, which oversees the operations of the Internal and External Security Organizations, whose rivalry with the police force is a public secret. Tension between Police and the sister security agencies escalated when Kayihura convinced Museveni to transfer their budgets to the Police Force, which severely affected their funding.
However, some analysts believe Kayihura started losing favor in the eyes of the president in 2014 when several cases of corruption were swept under the rag with his help. In addition to meddling with investigations, the IGP also came under the spotlight when he cleared Senior Police Officers like Joel Aguma, the former Commandant of the Professional Standards Unit of any wrong doing when they were implicated in the illegal kidnap and extradition of Joel Mutabazi, the former bodyguard of Rwandan president, Paul Kagame in 2013.
Kayihura suspended Aguma following pressure from the United Nations and other foreign agencies but reinstated him and promoted him a year later to Deputy Director Crime Intelligence. “I heard the President rebuke him several times for what he called failures of the police Force in front of his juniors, something he had never done,” said a source that met the president together with Kayihura.
In October2014, the president publicly criticised the Police force for corruption more specifically the traffic Police whom he called ‘devils in white clothes and ordered Kayihura to put his house in order. The same year, President Museveni appointed the late Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the former Chief of Defense Forces as Internal Affairs Minister, which was seen as his attempt at trimming Kayihura’s powers.
Until his death in September 2015, General Aronda had taken charge of the Police Force and would issue orders to Kayihura. Some of the orders included suspension of the accelerated promotion of officers. General Aronda also directed Kayihura to ensure that he consults the Police Authority before taking any serious decision.
Security Analyst and retired Police Officer, Fred Egesa, says prior to the appointment of Gen. Aronda Nyakairima had usurped the powers of the Internal Affairs Minister.
The tension between Aronda and Kayihura was evident prior to the minister’s death. At one time, Kayihura skipped the passing out of police officers after completing their intermediate command course at Kaweweta.
He instead invited all journalists who were scheduled to cover the pass out at Kaweweta to go to Jinja where he paraded Jamil Mukulu, the suspected leader of the rebel Allied Democratic Force (ADF).
At the time Kayihura shifted his focus on recruiting crime preventers, a project that softened president Museveni’s stance towards him, but drew hostility from police officers. He promised to arm the Crime Preventers who included members of Boda Boda 2010, a group he is now being accused of arming illegally. According to Egesa, Kayihura made irrational decisions and acted like he wasn’t the head of the Police Force.
The appointment of Tumukunde dealt the last blow to Kayihura. He came with one plan to expose Kayihura, which he successfully did. He exposed Kayihura’s supposed role in the illegal repatriation of Rwandan Refugees, arming civilians and mismanagement of cases to both the public and President. Tumukunde superintended over the arrest of Nixon Agasirwe and Joel Aguma, both confidants of the former IGP. They were charged before the General Court Martial.
This was followed by the arrest of Abdallah Kitatta, a close friend to Kayihura who is also being tried before the army general court martial for illegal possession of war material. During Kayihura’s tenure, several senior police officers both in service and retired, complained about various issues ranging from Militarization of the force, violation of human rights, favourism in deployments and promotions and to failure to utilize the expertise of senior officers.
One of the officers was Herbert Karugaba, a retired Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police who wrote a three page letter to Kayihura in 2014. Karugaba penned his letter after he was invited to attend the Police Centenary Celebrations at Kololo. He however, turned down the invitation, saying he couldn’t be party to the function because of the things that were going wrong in the police force under Kayihura’s watch.
In his letter, Karugaba criticised Kayihura for politicizing the Police Force and using it as a machinery of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party to suppress the opposition. He blamed Kayihura for using the police budget for his own personal benefits like donating food to Muslims on their festivities. Karugaba told this publication on phone that he warned Kayihura about the repercussions of his actions but he didn’t listen.
Egesa advises the incumbent police leadership to learn from Kayihura’s experience that from civilians you come, to civilians you go.