As a wave of unexplained murders and violent crime gripped the country last year, Gen Kale Kayihura declared that kicking him out of office would not stop spiralling criminality.
The police chief was clearly feeling the heat from the relentless public criticism when he talked to local leaders. Below The Observer re-visits those comments of the man who lost his job as inspector general of police a week ago on March 4...He had been invited to address the 23rd annual general meeting of local governments in September 2017.
For more than one hour, the audience gathered inside St Peter’s Technical Institute Mubende watched and heard him point fingers at anybody or anything else but himself. He referred to President Museveni’s gloves-off lecturing of police commanders from central region for failing to end the spate of murders.
“The president was criticising us that we have failed to stamp out crime...If we are to prevent crime, we must address the root causes of crime in society,” Kayihura said.
He drew attention to his differences with the now former Security minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde over the women killings in Nansana and Entebbe. At the time, Kayihura and Tumukunde were running parallel investigations into the deaths, which remain unresolved to-date.
“These songs of police this, police that...Kayihura alemeddwa [has failed]…Okay, Kayihura can be sent to Luzira [prison] but I tell you, if you don’t address the problems in society, even if you put I don’t know who, whoever you put there [as IGP], the problems of crime will not be solved,” he said.
The police chief had come in for heavy criticism, including from the minister, over his association with known criminals and prostitutes in Nansana and Entebbe. But he pointed out that he had learnt from these dealings that they turned to crime and sex work because they were unemployed.
“It has now become fashionable to criticise the police in parliament instead of highlighting the actual problems and strategise on how to solve them,” Kayihura said.
He said that much as the police are accountable to Ugandans, local leaders also have a responsibility to help weed out bad elements from the force.
“Instead of waiting for the president to complain, why don’t you arrest those corrupt police officers?” Kayihura wondered amidst murmurs from the district and sub-county chairpersons.
“You have a constitutional mandate as leaders. Discipline any corrupt characters in the police instead of complaining… I have given you the authority as IGP,” Kayihura said.
This was a rather strange proposal; exactly how these politicians should go about disciplining police officers, he never said. The IGP instead talked about how tired he was of human rights groups ranking the police as the most corrupt institution, and as the leading abuser of human rights.
He seemed to be at his wits’ end, grasping for straws as his fate loomed. Kayihura said police would now partner the Uganda Local Governments Association (ULGA) and cultural leaders to monitor its police personnel.
He defended the so-called ‘crime preventers’, that dubious addition to his community policing pet project. Crime preventers were supposed to help fight crime, but were instead being berated for being at the forefront of breaking the law.
“Now a person like [former prime minister] Amama Mbabazi who is knowledgeable, a highly respected legal scholar and a great leader...how could he go to the Supreme court and claim that crime preventers are a Kayihura militia?
“You can see how someone can get corrupted by politics. Really, someone who has got a great history of the revolutionary struggle degenerates because he wants power?” Kayihura said.
Despite their shortcomings, the police chief said he believed crime preventers were part of the answer. He announced new measures to establish a policing presence right at the grassroots; revealing that each parish would now have two motorcycles for police patrols.
“We are [also] in advanced stages of procuring a national CCTV camera system. It is a project that the president is micromanaging because we want something good and implemented fast because if he is to leave it to some people, it can be mishandled,” Kayihura said.
Once installed, Kayihura said, the entire country will be monitored from a single point in Kampala. In hindsight, however, none of this eventually mattered. He left with the police image in tatters; its institutional structure compromised by his tendency to surround himself with unquestioning yes men at the expense of experienced professionals, derided for wanton human rights violations, heavily infiltrated by extortionists, sheltering a homicidal mafia and hopelessly corrupt – in effect, unable to protect and serve the people…