Incompetent or below par police officers holding key positions will have to go, Okoth Ochola, the new Inspector General of Police, has warned senior officers privately.
The looming shake-up in police became clear days before he took charge. Ochola spent days meeting senior police commanders, dropping hints about how business will now be run.
After he was officially installed on March 15 at a brief function inside the main boardroom of the police headquarters, Naguru, Ochola revealed it will be very different from Gen Kale Kayihura’s way.
The new man reportedly said that he will no longer entertain officers who occupy offices without actually doing anything. He is also reported to have spoken about the right people being deployed in the right positions, and of streamlining force command and management.
"This basically has to do with promotions and deployments. If you must be given a rank or appointed to any office, it must be based on merit not because you are well connected," the source said.
During his appearance before the Appointments Committee of Parliament, Ochola spoke critically of the manner in which his predecessor handled promotions in the force. He told MPs that he plans to either transfer or sack officers who don't measure up to the task.
Ochola blamed Kayihura for promoting the growth of cliques, as well as breaking the chain of command by creating informal structures. All this undermined performance. Ochola described the embarrassing situation prevailing in some police districts where junior officers were overruling their commanders simply because they could speak directly to Kayihura.
It is this sort of thing, according to a senior police officer who preferred not to be named, that rendered the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) redundant.
"There has been a lot of duplication of roles, we have units that are doing similar jobs and you keep wondering which is which," the officer said.
The Grace Akullo-led CID was stuffed with multiple sub-units under it which were reporting directly to Kayihura, including Special Operations Unit, Compliance Unit, Witness Protection, etc.
While Akullo’s office remained under-funded, some of these sub-units were flush with operational cash.
"[Ochola] is right when he talks about streamlining the management of the force because we have a lot of duplication of roles. You have a unit for operations and then you create another one for special operations. What is ‘special operations’?!" wondered a senior police officer.
At the hand-over ceremony, Internal Affairs minister Gen Jeje Odongo told the new team that their immediate task should be to clean up the tarnished police image and restore public trust.
"Your first challenge is the negative image that the police has acquired over the past few months. What are you going to do about it?" Gen Odongo wondered.
"It is a fact we can't wish away. Like I mentioned in the Police Council meeting, you need to look into yourselves; that negative image is the biggest challenge you have to deal with," Odongo said.
Cases of unresolved murders have been growing since 2014 with the police appearing unable to effectively investigate.
"The spike in crime; the various incidents of crime, some being high profile, have painted a bad picture. Crime is a function of our society and does not happen in isolation," Odongo said.
Meanwhile, the hour long handover ceremony was also an opportunity for Kayihura to publicly re-establish himself as a senior army officer. He arrived in the ceremonial dress of a General.
"You have been good to me but please don't forget me because I have now gone on katebe [undeployed]. But I am not very far, I am very near here at Mbuya [Army Headquarters]," Kayihura told his former subordinates who lined the corridors to follow the proceedings.
Kayihura spoke for 28-minutes, pledging his loyalty to President Museveni, while making veiled attacks at his critics. One barb was directed at Ochola whom he told that having worked as his deputy, they have a shared responsibility over the bad and good that happened during his tenure.
"The fact that it’s Mr. Ochola who has been appointed shows that the Commander in Chief appreciates that something good has been done by our team," Kayihura said.
Ochola had sensationally told MPs during his vetting that police died the day Gen Katumba Wamala was removed as IGP. Kayihura, however, said that he did not want to go into the controversies that dogged the police during his tenure.
"I may have fallen short in my assignment but I’m only human, but I deeply regret," Kayihura said.
"In case there is any officer on whose feet I might have stepped, I am sorry, it was not because I had some personal issues, I was only doing my job, and for the peace and stability of the country," he added.
The criticism notwithstanding, Kayihura said there are many positives that can’t be brushed aside.
"In spite of the recent bad image, I’m handing over a police force that is in a much better shape than when I took over and no one can deny that. I believe strongly that the force is now built on a strong foundation and is heading in the right direction," Kayihura said.
"During my tenure, crime went down. And you cannot rub it from my record," he added.
Kayihura was appointed IGP on November 10, 2005 at a time when the country was preparing for the first multiparty elections since 1986. A clearly partisan appointment, his immediate task soon turned out to be to neutralise opposition Forum for Democratic Change strongman Dr Kizza Besigye.
Besigye had just returned from self-imposed exile in South Africa and was riding a tidal wave of public acclaim ahead of the 2006 election. Kayihura is proud that he was successful in carrying out this assignment as a true cadre of the ruling party.