The confrontational relationship between Police chief Gen Kale Kayihura and Security minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde is no secret.
And meeting security chiefs behind closed doors at State House Entebbe last week, President Museveni moved to confront this very vicious public feud between the two men.
It was not a regular security briefing, more so, convened in the wake of an expanded army crackdown on city crime against a backdrop of allegations of police collusion with criminal elements.
During the meeting, Museveni was reportedly interested in knowing why Security minister, Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, and Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura continue to fight in public – a conflict some fear is undermining national security.
In what may be the first attempt to confront the Tumukunde-Kayihura hostilities, the president, sources said, wondered why this unrest has not been brought before the National Security Council (NSC).
The NSC is a policy organ sitting Internal Affairs minister Gen Jeje Odongo; Chief of Defence forces Gen David Muhoozi, Kayihura, Tumukunde, Commissioner General of Prisons Johnson Byabashaija and Internal Security Organisation director general Col Frank Bagyenda Kaka.
Others are Joseph Ocwet (External Security Organisation), Col Abel Kandiho (Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence) and Maj Gen Joseph Musanyufu (Army Joint Chief of Staff).
Details of the meeting remain scanty but the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, Ofwono Opondo, acknowledged in an interview with The Observer that it could have been called, partly to address the feud.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the president called a meeting of heads of the security agencies or had a one-on-one with [Tumukunde and Kayihura] because that is the best way of understanding the problem,” Opondo said.
“The public spat between Kayihura and Tumukunde is completely uncalled for, I can’t find a concrete reason why the IGP could not open investigations into accusations against the police,” Opondo added.
So, where or when did things unravel between these two bush war veterans?
Most of the bad blood reportedly started flowing as far back as 2005. Kayihura, then a brigadier, led a 50-man force to arrest Brig Tumukunde, accused of making unsavoury political remarks on Radio One’s evening talk show, Spectrum.
At the time, Tumukunde was cultivating a risky reputation as a regime critic from his perch as one of the 10 army MPs. He had spoken critically against plans to scrap presidential term limits from the Constitution.
The dramatic arrest was sanctioned based on a report Kayihura, who was thriving as the blue-eyed military assistant to Museveni, and chief political commissar of the UPDF, had written. Tumukunde was sentenced to a serious reprimand, subjected to the twin humiliation of a lengthy detention at the Kololo officers’ mess. He was also withdrawn from the cushy position of representing the army in parliament.
That same year (2005), Kayihura was promoted to major general and appointed police chief, an office he has enthusiastically used to brutally clamp down on political opposition to Museveni’s presidency.
Ten years later, Tumukunde was back in favour. In 2015, Museveni was assembling forces to counter the unusual leadership challenge presented by his long-time confidant, former prime minister Amama Mbabazi.
Museveni set Tumukunde to work, infiltrating and neutralising Mbabazi’s considerable networks. His long-held wish to retire from the army was also finally granted in September that year, with a promotion from brigadier to lieutenant general.
In July 2016, a new cabinet was announced in which he was named security minister, a docket that brought a rehabilitated Tumukunde into direct confrontation with the police chief.
On the very day he took office, Tumukunde vowed to crash criminal gangs such as Kifeesi which was said to be collaborating with police.
“We defeated terrorism, it was very sophisticated, very organised… These general-duty criminals here, baptising themselves good names, I hear kifeesi; I don’t know why not ka-face…all those are just skirmishes, an attempt to scare the public,” Tumukunde said as his predecessor Mary Karooro Okurut handed over to him in 2016.
He subsequently compiled a dossier that asked pointed questions about Kayihura’s countrywide web of so-called crime preventers. Hints were reportedly made about the political possibilities present in such a network being turned into someone’s campaign vehicle in 2021.
Kayihura was reportedly forced to drive to Entebbe and explain himself to Museveni. In May 2017, Tumukunde asked harder questions about Kayihura’s work methods which he blamed for escalating crime, including the infamous Wakiso women serial murders. Some thought Tumukunde was angling for the IGP job but the security minister remained coy.
“I’m not competing to be the Inspector General of Police; I am not even too sure whether I want to be a policeman,” Tumukunde told NBS TV.
The two generals clashed again in September last year at the height of the mysterious murders of women in Nansana and Entebbe. Both men opened parallel investigations into the unexplained murders, forcing a visibly unsettled Kayihura to publicly hit back.
“These songs of police this, police that...Kayihura alemeddwa [has failed]. People, okay, Kayihura can be sent to Luzira but I tell you, if you don’t address the problems in society, even if you put I don’t know who, [but] whoever you put there [IGP], the problems of crime will not be solved,” Kayihura said during the 23rd annual general meeting of the Uganda Local Governments Association in Mubende on September 16, 2017.
Tumukunde, however, pressed ahead with his parallel operations, prompting Kayihura to ask parliament to seek an explanation for the perceived public feud from the former director general of ISO.
“I have no problem with [Tumukunde] but I don’t know how he gets involved in operations; ask him,” Kayihura told MPs on January 16.
During the same meeting, Kayihura also accused ISO of collaborating with criminals who the police had prosecuted like Paddy Sserunjogi aka Sobi.
“Sobi was in jail, he was convicted of murder, we are investigating how he got out, and those statements he made on TV,” Kayihura said.
During the Christmas season, Sobi had addressed journalists and confessed to a series of murders and robberies around Kampala. He alleged that his Kifeesi faction was shielded by elements in the police.
The police violently arrested him on January 14 but released him a day later after ISO, according to Kayihura, demanded he is freed on grounds that Sobi was helping them (ISO) with some investigations. A week later, military intelligence swung into action and snatched Kayihura’s blue-eyed boy, Abdallah Kitatta off the streets.
For more than a week, the military has now been pursuing mainly members of Boda Boda 2010 – a blood-thirsty gang which Gen Kayihura has been praising as a useful appendage of the police.
The crackdown started on January 19. In short order, its leader Abdallah Kitatta and his brother Huzair Kiwalabye were rounded up as the unrelenting military dragnet was cast wide.
Alongside several other crimes, the ruthless brothers are being accused of being either accessories to, or having directly participated in the actual kidnap and vicious killing of Francis Ekalungar, an accountant at Case hospital.
Those in the know say that before the crackdown, Tumukunde held a briefing session in his chambers in Office of the President buildings.
Tumukunde wanted ISO and ESO; two agencies which report directly to him, to lead operations. A list of notorious criminals who the police could not touch because of their alleged closeness to Kayihura was reportedly circulated. But some in the meeting suggested that police should be brought on board since ISO and ESO have no legal mandate to arrest and detain.
There were also questions in regard to detention facilities to be used since the targets were civilians. Others wondered why the operation should be conducted under the cover of darkness. Night operations posed the real risk of friendly fire exchanges with police patrols who would not have been briefed.
Eventually, Tumukunde drafted in military intelligence, an organ he once headed. He also consulted Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda who insisted on police involvement in the operation. Rugunda reportedly sought audience with the president who called a meeting in which Tumukunde laid out the nature of operation he intended to conduct.
Tumukunde reportedly explained why he did not want to include the police. Like Rugunda, Museveni too insisted on the involvement of police units, but asked that police deploy officers from upcountry stations. This was based on suspicion that officers in Kampala are already heavily compromised and would alert their underworld acquaintances.
“The police had, for instance, indicated that it had failed to get clues on Ekalungar’s murder but Tumukunde, using his ISO operatives, had gathered enough technical evidence which they withheld from the police,” the source said.
Kitatta was arrested three days after Kayihura had praised him before the Defence and Internal Affairs committee of parliament, as a patriotic Ugandan.
“Kitatta is a politician; he is only linked to us because he helps us to fight crime. He is a leader of the Boda Boda 2010 [cyclists], they may have weaknesses but they helped us especially during the Walk-to-Work [protests of 2011],” Kayihura told the MPs.
Tumukunde had long viewed Kitatta’s questionable control of the city’s boda boda transport industry with suspicion. After all, following the broad daylight killing of former deputy inspector general of police/force spokesman Andrew Felix Kaweesi in March last year, Tumukunde attempted to organise elections for boda boda cyclists in Kampala but Kitatta foiled the plans.
Both Rugunda and Tumukunde couldn’t be reached for comment. Interviewed, Julius Mucunguzi, the communication adviser to the premier, said, “I really can’t say whether the meeting happened or it didn’t; you need to speak to the prime minister himself….”