At just 35 years, the flamboyant personality of slain police officer Muhammad Kirumira endeared him to masses that viewed him as a hero in a stained force.
Even through his controversial lifestyle and troubles within the police, he rose beyond the uniform to become a public figure. The Observer looks back at what made him special in spite of being a relatively junior officer.
“The Almighty is above all of us. I wish everybody well.”
This was ASP Muhammad Kirumira’s last Facebook post on September 8 at 5:05pm before he was shot dead three hours later. He had been attending an introduction ceremony with other relatives in Nsangi along Masaka road.
Kirumira has recently been using similar words every day as though he had a premonition that his life was ending soon. Kirumira became a social media enthusiast after falling out with the police establishment in 2014.
He changed his facebook name from Muhammadi Kirumira to Mwoyo gwa Gwanga. He intimated to our reporter during an interview in 2015 that he chose the name, literally translated as ‘soul of the nation’, to identify himself as a “patriot”.
“Whenever I find people who know me, I don’t pay bills. They just shout Mwoyo gwa Gwanga and pay my bills,” he says.
In 2012, Kirumira raided slummy Kisenyi to arrest thugs in the no-go areas of Kakajjo and Muzaana which were feared by officers from Old Kampala police. With only 10 officers, Kirumira says he arrested about 600 thieves in one day.
“Everyone was surprised by such a huge number; the public was happy but my bosses who were conniving with these people were angry with me. Remember, I serve the public not interests of selfish individuals,” he said.
Born 35 years ago to Hajji Abubaker Kawooya and Sarah Namuddu at Lubaga Hospital in Kampala, Kirumira was raised in the ghettos of Katwe before moving to Mpambire along Masaka road where he was laid to rest on Sunday.
Kirumira said his early life in the crowded, dingy alleyways of Katwe where he was a young scrap dealer equipped him with information about most hideouts for thieves and drug dealers. Whenever he returned from Lubiri High School, he first collected and sold scrap metal to Musa body, a renowned scrap dealership in Katwe.
He did not engage in crime as a child, the officer told The Observer, but most of the criminals were known to him. Around 2003, Kirumira thought about joining the police force. Upon completing his diploma in education at Nkozi NTC, he used his A-level certificate to enlist in 2004, to the dismay of his father.
“My father never at any one time wanted me to be in police. He felt bad but I had to follow my heart. I was teaching while studying but the salary for a teacher was too little,” he recalls. “There was a time he [father] confiscated my academic papers and vowed to return them only when I agree to do what he wants.”
During the entry interviews, others chose traffic, bomb squad and fire brigade units but he opted for criminal investigations.
“When I was first deployed at Old Kampala police as a police constable, I knew all the corners in town. Some thieves were my friends because we grew up together [in Katwe]. If it was not for my father’s toughness, I wouldn’t have studied,” he recalls.
Kirumira thus set off on a colourful journey, demonstrating his abilities as an able crime-buster. He recalled his first case at Old Kampala police when an Indian wholesaler trader reported the theft of his drugs worth Shs 395 million.
“The Indian said it openly that he would reward any officer who recovers even half of the drugs,” he remembered.
By evening, Kirumira had arrested the men who had sold the stolen drugs to another pharmacy around Pioneer Mall in central Kampala.
Kirumira told The Observer that he initially turned down the reward money but the Indian pleaded with his boss to allow him accept the token of appreciation. He used part of this money to buy a plot of land. When asked about other investments from his police earnings, Kirumira said everything has been provided by his father.
“My father still treats me like a child. When I started my house, he is the one who completed it and also constructed for me rentals. I am a landlord but I don’t know how electricity and water bills are paid,” he said.
The only things he personally purchased are household items and his car in which he was shot on Saturday. The car was bought using a salary loan in 2014.
“I bought that car at Shs 6 million. I taught myself how to drive it but some people think I am just hiring it for showbiz,” he says, bursting into laughter.
“I will not fear death. The only thing I am always scared of is someone trading lies about me. It pains and pisses me off but I will fight it until they kill me. I know I have a good heart but the evil ones don’t know that.”
When Kirumira was deployed to then Nansana police post as Officer-in-Charge in 2013, his fallen comrade former Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi was enthusiastic about his prospects.
“We shall empower him. We shall train him, give him ranks and motivate him to work. Kirumira is a very hardworking man and he will serve,” Kaweesi, who was also assassinated in similar fashion in March 2017, said then.
Unfortunately, at the time of his death, Kirumira had been demoted from Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) to Assistant Inspector of Police (AIP) after the police disciplinary court found him guilty of gross misconduct contrary to the police conduct.
Until his death, Kirumira was appealing the court ruling and continued to refer to himself as ASP.
“I will not rest. I will not leave any stone unturned until justice is served, truth revealed and culprits exposed. If police has lowered my rank, let them come and pull off my insignias. I have prepared my lawyers [including Erias Lukwago and Jude Mbabaali] to challenge everything,” Kirumira said after the ruling at police headquarters in Naguru.
Outspoken and stubborn, Kirumira quickly ran into trouble with his superiors, some of whom he alleged were very shady characters. But if there is any person that he held in high regard in the force, that was the late Kaweesi. Even when he was invited to several meetings by top officers to urge him to stop exposing culprits in the media, he declined to change.
“I told them openly that the only person who can challenge my brain is Afande Kaweesi. For the rest, I outcompete them in lots of things. I am not boasting but truth is, I am wise.”
Kirumira had taken to tagging journalists along on his operations, or calling boisterous press briefings to the chagrin of some senior officers, especially former police chief Kale Kayihura.
So, Kaweesi’s death was a big blow to his police career. Kirumira told a colleague that he had been “orphaned professionally”.
To him, the media played a vital role in shaping him and exposing wrong elements.
“The media, which police thinks is bad, has been my judge. The world has watched my work and judged who is right and wrong. All the culprits that police used to frame me, were either killed in other robberies or imprisoned,” he said.
To whoever has been angered with his works, he asked for forgiveness. Shortly, he picked a Bible and urged the public to always reflect on Psalms 49.
He read out the verse: “Hear this, all you people; give ear, all you inhabitants of the world. Both low and high, rich and poor, together. My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall understand.”
His interpretation of this biblical proclamation was that whoever is fighting him, God will create a springboard for him to prosper.
While his campaign to expose the rot in Kayihura’s police was still on, Kirumira believed that “there is no junior officer like me who will defy the police establishment to expose its wrongdoings. Maybe if am dead, another crop of officers will be born.”
He has died an angry man for “associating with an institution that doesn’t appreciate my efforts. Just imagine how police paraded armed thugs in Nansana to pin me! If I did not take a swift measure, I would be no more in 2014,” Kirumira is quoted telling a close associate.
He was concerned that Kayihura was deploying his “people” without requisite skills and art to fight crime.
In June last year, he met the president and they discussed Kayihura’s dealings in police. When Kayihura was replaced with John Martins Okoth-Ochola, Kirumira loudly celebrated.
Later, he was upset when Ochola had no kind words for him. “Kirumira is undisciplined. He deserves to be tried in hell,” Ochola told MPs when he was quizzed about how police arrested Kirumira at his home.
His hope for reforms under Ochola had given way to disillusionment by the time he was shot dead last Saturday. He sounded bitter when speaking on the matter recently.
“I pity police now because he [Ochola] is worse than Kayihura. He has embarked on destroying KK’s establishment while bringing easterners into positions of influence. The country will also not benefit because he only knows how to sit in office and draft draconian laws. He lacks public interaction skills and modern operating systems to engage urban crime.”
“Ochola is also a colonial mentored officer who can’t allow juniors to have independent minds. That’s why he feels so worried when I challenge their work. They don’t want anyone who awakens juniors to show them that they live in despair,” he said.
Police spokesman Emilian Kayima was another officer who came in for criticism.
“He doesn’t look himself!” Kirumira said. “He is so worried. If they transfer him, it will actually save him.”
When the Flying Squad Unit fired bullets and teargas during the controversial arrest of Kirumira at his home in Bulenga, Kayima asked the public not to sympathise with an officer who does not comply with the code of conduct of the police.
“This should inform all of us in the force to maintain discipline because we are a disciplined force. We must play by the rules of engagement right from the Constitution to the Police Act and others.” Kayima said. “A police officer that will be short of that, the law will call them to order.”
Kayima’s words were remembered by mourners in Mpambire. The spokesman was forced to flee under police guard as mourners pelted him with stones, a fate similar to that suffered by Internal Affairs minister, Gen Jeje Odong.
As in life, so even in death, Kirumira continues to provoke so much emotion in people.
Born: May 20, 1983
Education: Mpigi Umea Primary School; Lubiri High School (S1-S2); Lukalu SS, Butambala (S3-S4) and Crane High School Nateete (A-level).
In 2002, he applied at Makerere to study Mass communication or law but did not succeed with his 18 points.
He enrolled at Kyambogo University for a diploma in education on government sponsorship and was posted at Nkozi NTC, completing in 2004.
Employed as a history teacher in Bulenga-Kikaaya, at the time, his father wanted him to join Kyambogo again and upgrade to a Bachelor of Education but he opted to join the police force.
Work: Passed out as a police constable on December 20, 2005 at Kabalye Police Training School in Masindi district.
After passing police CID interviews in 2006, his first deployment was Kibaale, a district he didn’t want to serve given the distance.
Together with six other colleagues, they were given marching orders without transport to their duty station. He served there for one year and transferred to Central Police Station in Kampala in 2008 as a detective.
In December 2008, he went for further training and was later posted in Kaliro. He spent there a few months and sent to Namungoona.
2009: He was Officer-in-Charge at Owino market, Kulambiro and Nansana stations.
2012: Posted to Nakulabye and Kisenyi stations at the rank of AIP.
2014: Attended a six-months training at Non-Commissioned Officers Military Academy in Jinja.
2015: Promoted to Inspector of Police and posted to Bwera [Mpondwe boarder] police station in Kasese as OC for one year.
Due to overwhelming reports of stolen mobile phones, he was brought back to Old Kampala police on March 15, 2016 serving as the DPC. This was the period when Kifeesi gangs were notorious in the city centre. Conducted operations and recovered over 1,000 mobile phones which he publicly displayed in the media to the annoyance of his bosses.
According to Kirumira, a team was sent from police forensic department to take all the phones to Naguru police headquarters for scientific examination. To-date no phone has been returned or a report issued about them.
After three months, a security meeting was held which resulted in Kirumira being transferred to Buyende district as the DPC in 2017. Former IGP Kale Kayihura replaced him with ASP Edgar Akankwasa with immediate effect after he had taken to social media to announce his resignation from the police.
Then, he was slapped with 18 charges which were later reduced to three.
The police court chaired by SCP Denis Odongpiny found Kirumira guilty of parading flying squad operatives [Allan Ainebyona and Ibrahim Nsubuga] to the media and declaring them as thieves, unlawfully arresting people and excessive use of authority. Kirumira was demoted from ASP to AIP.
Survived by a widow, Mariam Kirumira and four children (two girls and two boys); the eldest girl is in primary six. In memory of AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi, he had fittingly named his six-month-old son, Kaweesi.