At about 8:15pm on Saturday, March 3, all police units received a radio message from Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura, announcing new appointments and transfers of senior officers.
A man many in the opposition identify as the regime’s top hatchet man driven by a single-minded determination to crush their legitimate political activity was signalling the end to a most controversial 12 years at the helm of the police.
The message advised that more appointments and transfers would follow. Less than 24 hours later, Gen Kayihura was relieved of his duties and replaced by long-serving career officer, the amiable and scholarly John Martins Okoth Ochola, 60.
President Museveni announced the sacking of Kayihura and Security minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde in a media release posted on his official social media platforms. It now turns out that Kayihura was given very short advance notice that he was out although he still met one-on-one with the principal before.
Knowledgeable sources intimate that he only learnt of his sacking hours to the time. Tumukunde, on the other hand, had reportedly been informed about a month ago.
It is understood that Museveni met with him and said that much as he appreciated what Tumukunde was doing, it was better for both to be retired in order to maintain a balance since his activities had created the impression of a fight with Kayihura.
“Sacking Kayihura and leaving Tumukunde would worsen the animosity between the two, since Kayihura would look at it as a defeat on his side,” the source said.
Museveni is also reported to have told Tumukunde that he would bounce back to cabinet in the next cabinet reshuffle while Kayihura may be sent to school abroad. The reported Museveni-Kayihura meeting is said to have happened at State Lodge Nakasero on the same day he lost his job.
Sources say the president had summoned his police chief for a briefing about running investigations into last week’s shock murder of Susan Magara, three weeks after the 28-year-old girl from a wealthy and politically well-connected family was kidnapped.
The briefing was reportedly also attended by investigators handling the case, according to sources. It is said that Museveni was rather fed up with the unhealthy fights between Kayihura and Tumukunde, blamed for the deteriorating security situation.
Their misunderstandings had become a regular topic of discussion in the National Security Council (NSC) that Museveni chairs. In one NCS meeting, Museveni asked the two army generals why they continued to fight in public yet they could resolve their differences under the NSC.
These differences were discussed in the NSC after the January 19 arrest of gang leader Abdallah Kitatta and his Boda Boda 2010 accomplices. The matter was also discussed in cabinet. While Tumukunde has on several occasions spoken openly about their misunderstandings, it is a subject that Kayihura has avoided.
When he appeared before parliament’s Appointments committee in September 2017 after Museveni renewed his contract, Kayihura denied there was a feud. Tumukunde had a week earlier expressed reservations about a Kayihura retention in light of increased serious crime across the country.
The two are reported to have fallen out in 2005 after Kayihura, a few months before his first appointment as IGP, oversaw Tumukunde’s arrest on charges of abuse of office and spreading harmful propaganda.
About two weeks ago, Kayihura wondered in an interview why Tumukunde had taken it personal.
“I was only a military assistant to the president [then]; you can’t say that I am the one who arrested him. It was a group of people who were directed to carry out the arrest, he can’t therefore rightfully accuse me of arresting him,” Kayihura said.
The soldiers that arrested Tumukunde included Kayihura, Maj Geoffrey Kyambadde and Maj Gen James Mugira.
Ever since Tumukunde became security minister, the police chief has increasingly appeared to be under pressure.
He leaves at a time the public image of his police is in ruins; reviled for its brutality against regime opponents and civilians, and widely ridiculed as unprofessional and heavily infiltrated by extortionists, murderers and all manner of violent criminals.
Tumukunde turned the screws, pointing out how amidst widespread human rights violations the police under Kayihura were not up to the job.
And then something stunning happened early last year. In the early morning of March 17, 2017, former police spokesman Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi left a pregnant wife and members of his adoring family at home.
His Toyota Prado TX had only travelled a very short distance from the gate before coming to a cold stop in a hail of bullets fired by hit-men riding on motorcycles. Kaweesi perished alongside his driver and bodyguard. It is said that the killers made sure all three were dead by pumping several more bullets into the bodies.
According to sources, Museveni is not happy with how police went about the Kaweesi murder investigation, especially when parallel investigations by other security agencies are pointing at the possibility of an internal hit job.
Kayihura is also blamed for the delayed closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera project in the face of spiralling criminality in Kampala. Last month, the media was awash with reports that Museveni had ordered Kayihura to sack the police’s director for ICT Amos Ngabirano because of his role in the CCTV procurement and parliament security system fiascos.
Government reportedly lost over Shs 450bn meant for security systems at parliament. A full body scanner was set up in the Speaker’s chambers on the 6th floor of Parliamentary buildings instead of at the main entrance after it was discovered to be defective, according to security sources.
In a February 20 interview, Kayihura denied any wrongdoing in the procurement of parliament’s security system.
“My role was at the initial stage; we were getting threats from some terror groups on parliament. I got an opportunity to address the Parliamentary Commission and advised them to invest in security technologies to back up the manual systems,” Kayihura said.
“It was their project which was implemented by a joint inter-agency technical team,” he said.
Weeks after the 2016 election, a security report detailing the nature and unclear activities of the so-called ‘crime preventers’ was handed to Museveni. The gist was that this was an irregular network of millions of police informers clandestinely assembled by the police chief to advance his unstated political ambitions.
Kayihura’s reported attempts to clarify the issue with State House never quite passed muster. At this point, the clock started ticking …