In the very last years of his leadership, deposed police chief Gen Kale Kayihura was lurched into a full-blown war with top-ranking police officers, several police insiders interviewed over the last two days have revealed.
According to the officials, who asked not to be named so as to speak freely, Kayihura, who was sacked on Sunday, had become deeply suspicious of all his senior officers. Even his guards largely drawn from the Counter Terrorism Unit were out of favour.
Kayihura believed, the officials said, that his people were leaking damaging information about the force, himself and were out to fail him. To secure himself, the inspector general of police reportedly dropped his police guards and had them replaced by personnel from the Police Presidential Guards (PPG).
The PPG is trained by the elite army formation Special Forces Command. They are assigned to protect the Vice President, First Lady and Prime Minister.
Kayihura, according to the interviewed officials, also carefully avoided engaging with his police directors numbering about 25. Many are assistant inspectors general of police. He preferred to work with juniors who took orders without question.
If he fell out with a particular director, according to the interviewed officials, Kayihura would create a parallel department. This is what happened to the sidelined but once cherished Grace Akullo, the director of the Criminal Investigation Directorate.
When the two clashed, the general ignored the directorate and created multiple investigative arms including Special Operations Unit, Compliance Unit, Witness Protection, etc. All these were doing CID work. This, the sources said, severely demoralised staff at CID. Out of frustration, some asked for early retirement, which the police chief readily granted.
Some officials who have worked closely with the outgoing IGP said he now spent very little time in his official office at Naguru police headquarters – and avoided meetings. His unavailability made consultation with his directorates impossible since he also rarely answered telephone calls.
On Tuesday police spokesman Emilian Kayima stoutly defended his outgoing boss. On the charge of inaccessibility and deep-seated suspicion of ranking officers, Kayima said, “In my view, he [Kayihura] was more accessible to all officers who wanted to see him much as he chaired many meetings outside his office such as the Police Advisory Committee (PAC) and Joint Intelligence Operations Committee (JOC), which took some of his time. He could meet officers.”
“Kayihura chaired so many meetings and had a lot of work. If people believed [he had little time for his office], they would have brought that issue before to find a solution. But bringing such issues now can’t help, and police will remain with so many challenges,” Kayima added.
Kayima further noted that if Kayihura was suspicious of police personnel around him, it was down to individual character. He also insisted that Kayihura’s guards were largely policemen although he was unsure whether they were trained by SFC.
By the time Kayihura was sacked after 12 years at the helm of police, the force was the most indebted government institution. During the recent Police Council meeting at Kigo, Kayihura revealed that Shs 125 billion is owed to various suppliers. Currently, the force is severely short of fuel and food.
Kayima acknowledges they are grappling with lack of food and fuel but insisted that Kayihura cannot be blamed for their indebtedness. He said some issues are a shared responsibility.
On budget matters, police officials told The Observer that Kayihura preferred to work with just three people; Under Secretary Rogers Muhirwa; Director, ICT, Amos Ngabirano; and former Parliamentary Police commander, now director of Welfare and Production, AIGP Lemy Twinomugisha.
Within police circles, these men were referred to as the ‘three pigeons’. They reportedly made most of the financial decisions, side-stepping most directors.
Another official talked about how Kayihura pumped a huge chunk of the police budget into his pet project; Mayumba kkumi community policing, crime preventers, buying motorcycles for crime preventers, and dishing out money to civilian functionaries.
He encountered stiff opposition for this style from many directors. For instance, at the height of police scandals and the mysterious murders of women last year, Kayihura had numerous run-ins with police spokesman Asan Kasingye. Kasingye was ultimately fired.
When women were being killed in Nansana, Katabi and Entebbe, and the public criticism of police’s handling of the situation grew louder, Kasingye and Kayihura disagreed on how to communicate to the public.
Kasingye, an official said, refused to parrot Kayihura’s narrative of cause and effect. Kasingye wanted to present a near-to-the-truth narrative, a suggestion roundly rejected by Kayihura. Frustrated, Kayihura reportedly accused Kasingye of failing him.
An angry Kasingye in one heated meeting, according to a police official familiar with this incident, asked Kayihura whether he was the same spokesman who failed him in the aftermath of Andrew Felix Kaweesi’s murder.
In March 2017, police struggled to find a coherent message and response to the shocking broad daylight assassination of the assistant inspector general of police, his driver and bodyguard.
Kasingye reportedly asked the general, “When you were sick [last year] and I covered for you, was I failing you then?”
Last year, Kayihura spent some time out of the public eye, prompting speculation that he was critically ill. Kasingye went to a great length at the time, reassuring journalists and the public that his boss was fine and in good health.
To counter the speculation, Kasingye released pictures of the police chief away in Turkey, looking in relatively good health. Kasingye laughingly declined an interview yesterday. He said he didn’t want to appear in the newspapers.
Kayihura’s almost weekly reshuffles and deployments of officers also injected a heavy dose of confusion in the force. The communication department, which he considered a total disaster and his weakest link, was in disarray in his last days.
The same could be said of many other departments and police regional offices. Consider how Kayima, the police spokesman is a Senior Superintendent of Police, yet he was deputised by Polly Namaye who holds the higher rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police!
And Fred Enanga, the former spokesman himself, who is even more senior than both Kayima and Namaye, being a Commissioner of Police, was rendered redundant in the same department.
Elsewhere, dubious deployments and redundancies became commonplace and a source of tension and discontent.
Inside sources say the last nail in the coffin was driven by the circular he issued directing police officers summoned by any sister security agencies; CMI, ISO, to share security information to first seek permission from headquarters.
This was understood by many sister security agencies as an attempt to isolate police as an institution and as a snub to the president’s call for joint operations by security agencies.
Other sources have pointed to the kidnap and handover of refugees to Rwanda, for which some of Kayihura’s closest allies in the police were arrested by soldiers, as the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
The endless feuding with other security bosses, his close association with tainted Boda Boda 2010, and the security agencies’ collective failure to rescue Susan Magara who was last week murdered by kidnappers must have left the appointing with no choice but to act.
But all was not gloom and doom during Kayihura’s reign. He got rave reviews for increasing the police purse, force strength through training, and increasing its mobility. One interviewed official said at least every police post in the country, including in hard-to-reach areas, now has at least a motorcycle.
“Go to any remote place, you won’t fail to see a police motorcycle,” he said. The police patrol fleet increased tremendously with the only drawback being the lack of fuel.
And in terms of human resource, under Kayihura, they grew from about 14,000 men to 43,000 strong. However, many cadet officers, even though university graduates, returned from training with their shiny three-stars only to remain undeployed.
And relatively fewer lower cadre police constables were recruited yet it is they who do most of the leg work. Nevertheless, many police officers have undergone specialised training in Italy, China, Ireland, Rwanda and Kenya, among other countries.
Many others have trained at Gadaffi Junior Staff College in Jinja and at Bwebajja, along Entebbe road. The police budget also swelled five-fold under Kayihura, from less than Shs 100bn to Shs 570bn.
Kayima noted that Kayihura has midwifed the construction of decent police housing in the expected 1,020 housing units in 17 blocks at Naguru police headquarters.
“Seven blocks are about to be completed; each block has 60 units…” he said.
Additional reporting by Zurah Nakabugo