Before his death grip on ISO was shaken last week by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, CMI, night raid on his safe houses in Kampala, Col. Frank Bagyenda Kaka had successfully steered the reclusive Internal Security Organisation, ISO, on an authoritarian course, which firmly leans on increased repression, kidnaps, abductions, torture, illegal arrests and detention of Ugandans.
In his three year stewardship of ISO, Col. Kaka has been accused severally, threatened with legal action and sued for kidnaps, abductions, illegal arrests and detention of Ugandans. He has also earned unflattering mainstream media headlines for all the wrong reasons since January 2017 when he was appointed ISO head replacing the reclusive Brig. Ronnie Barya.
He has steadily walked off-the-well-trod path of professional intelligence gathering and instead embraced unorthodox methods that include; arbitrary arrests, detentions and broad daylight kidnaps that have dumbfounded even the police.
In this article, we track the bold and subtle Kaka led ISO actions that have spilled into public view –defying the once taken-for-granted governmental norms, which ultimately triggered court orders and public outcries from lawyers, parliamentarians, journalists.
The CMI raid on safe houses last Thursday surprised many but also signalled that Kaka now has a big fight for survival on his hands with higher forces probably fed up or rattled by his methods of work. And Kaka admits as much in a Sunday Vision interview. He claims he is being fought by elements within security circles opposed to his love for the truth.
“I have always stood for the truth,” he said in a brief telephone interview.
The raid also signals that Kaka could be on the brink of exit from ISO after a long trail of excesses that could ultimately have offended some people close to the presidency. Multiple sources say ISO has authored some reports that accused some big military big shots of working against President Museveni.
Before his ouster from police in June 2018, CMI first raided several police outfits and arrested several close aides of the then Police Chief Gen Kale Kayihura. Months later he was also arrested following a long trail of complaints against his work methods.
Could Kaka follow a similar path? His transgressions as ISO chief have been well documented. Interviews with victims and a random survey of newspaper headlines found a not-so-flattering coverage of ISO actions since January 2017. One such headline was “Lawyers criticise ISO over abductions Monday August 5, 2019 (Daily Monitor).
In the story, lawyers under their umbrella body, the Uganda Law Society (ULS) accused Kaka of arresting, detaining and torturing citizens and usurping the powers of other security agencies and acting outside the law.
During a media conference ULS president, Simon Peter Kinobe, said Kaka had taken over the role of other security agencies and turned ISO into a clearing agency for wealthy individuals to the detriment of regular citizens.
“Despite the lack of statutory mandate to arrest and detain, the same has continually detained citizens in places not gazetted by law and beyond the statutory period of 48 hours. The most notorious safe house used by ISO is in Kyengera protected by the military police under the command of the UPDF,” he said.
Kinobe then accused ISO operatives of threatening and arresting advocates for doing their legal work saying that any actions taken by the security agency amount to kidnap as they are illegal.
Interviewed earlier by journalists in November 2017, Kaka denied hijacking the police mandate. Kaka said ISO’s arrest of suspects accused of various crimes were not meant to usurp police roles but to render support to the sister security agency. Col Bagyenda told journalists then that security agencies cannot work in isolation when the country is facing high rates of criminality and impunity.
“ISO is not taking over the role of the police neither are we in conflict with them but we are only providing support. In this work of ending rampant criminality in Kampala Metropolitan and elsewhere, we are working with External Security Organization and the police,” Col Bagyenda said then, according to a Daily Monitor report.
People then wondered why ISO, a security organ tasked with spying or intelligence work, was arresting suspects, a role supposed to be handled by the Uganda Police Force. Such concerns increased after ISO and the police were reportedly involved in a clash over which of the two agencies should take charge of the home of Christine Mbabazi, an alleged former girlfriend of slain former police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi.
“Police work in Uganda is intelligence led and that is what we do. But if we arrest suspects we hand them over to the police for onward management because we do not have cells. But there is no conflict with the police at all,” he said, according to a Daily Monitor report.
Another headline read, “MPs denied access to safe houses September 10, 2019 (URN)."
On camera and in broad daylight, members of parliament on the Human Rights Committee were blocked from accessing suspected ‘safe houses’ in Nkokonjeru, Kyengera and Nalukolongo.
Led by the committee chairperson Janefher Egunyu Nantume, the MPs drove to safe houses only to be stopped at the gate. One soldier who identified himself as Vincent Kalibala, the in-charge of the Kyengera facility, told MPs that they could only be granted access by Kaka. He advised the committee to go to ISO offices in Nakasero and seek permission from Kaka.
“It’s unfortunate that we cannot be allowed to access this facility in an effort to exercise our mandate. We are going to discuss as a committee on the way forward,” said Nantume.
Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi said then that the development further exposed a blatant abuse of human rights by ISO. Kawempe North MP Latif Ssebbagala said the committee couldn’t keep quiet and let Ugandans be harassed and tortured.
At another facility in Nalukolongo in Musoke Zone, UPDF officers and Local Defense Unit (LDU) personnel stopped the MPs from entering. They told the MPs to seek permission from an officer only identified as Maj Sulait at Nateete police station. Interviewed then, some people in Nalukolongo said the facility is always under tight security. Two residents claimed that a timber seller identified as Yiga was tortured to death at the facility, and soldiers disguised his death by shooting in the air claiming he wanted to flee.
At Kyengera, residents who gathered on arrival of the committee said that the facility was no go area for them since they were barred from standing near the premises.
“We stay around here but the army officers never allow us to get close to the gate. We only see soldiers entering and coming out and sometimes we hear cries of help from inside,” said one of the residents.
The speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga had directed the parliamentary Human Rights Committee to investigate the alleged presence of safe houses in Lwamayuba and Kyengera where several Ugandans are reportedly being tortured. The directive followed concerns raised by MP Ssebaggala and his Arua Municipality counterpart, Kassiano Ezati Wadri who narrated the horrendous torture of Ugandans in ungazetted places.
Ssebaggala cited several complaints about missing persons from different constituencies across the country explaining that he was approached by some people who managed to escape after allegedly being kidnapped by the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) operatives.
Ssebaggala claimed that after picking the suspects, ISO takes them to Katabi in Entebbe from where they are loaded onto canoes and boats and taken to Lwamayuba on Kalangala island. Equally, Wadri reported a case of kidnap and rights violation, claiming that Jamila Asha Atim, a records clerk at Arua regional referral hospital was kidnapped by men in a white vehicle on April 17, 2019, as she was heading home.
“As the relatives went further to try and find out from other security agencies, it was later discovered that Atim is being detained in a Kyengera safe house along Kampala-Masaka road. In this same safe house people have undergone horrendous torture, they are given one meal in four days,” said Kassiano.
Several people have in the past been grabbed off streets by gun wielding men in broad daylight. And one such person was New Vision crime reporter, Charles Etukuri. The kidnap grabbed media headlines including; “Court orders ISO to produce Etukuri dead or alive February 18, 2018 (URN).
After the journalist went missing for days, High court ordered Kaka to produce Etukuri in court dead or alive. The order made by deputy registrar of the High court Civil Division, Alex Kauju followed an application for a habeous corpus filed by the New Vision legal department backed with an affidavit sworn by Jimmy Ariko, an employee of New Vision following the kidnap of Etukuri.
Etukuri was allegedly picked by ISO operatives for writing about the death of a Finish national at Pearl of Africa hotel commonly known as Aya.
In its application, New Vision claimed that ISO had been holding their employee incommunicado. Interviewed then Kaka, “…declined to confirm or deny whether they are holding the journalist.
Etukuri was reportedly kidnapped by five men driving in a Toyota Double Cabin vehicle registration number UAH 038A, outside the New Vision premises in Industrial area.
In another story headlined; “ISO boss sued for contempt of court,” (The Observer) Hope Kampaire, the wife to Jack Erasmaus Nsangiranabo, a security officer attached to the Internal Security Organization [ISO], sued Col Frank Kaka Bagyenda for contempt of court.
In a miscellaneous application 671 of 2019 filed on October 2, in the High court in Kampala, Kampaire through her lawyers of M/S Masereka & Co. Advocates, sought a declaration that Kaka, the director general of ISO, was in contempt of court for refusing, ignoring and failing to implement an earlier High court order directing him to release Nsangiranabo from illegal detention.
Nsangiranabo was arrested and detained at an ISO-run safe house in Kalangala district on Lake Victoria. Kampaire says she had no idea what his crimes were.
On July 31 2019, High court judge Musa Ssekaana issued orders directing the Attorney General and Col Frank Kaka to immediately release Nsangiranabo after they failed to comply with a habeas corpus order issued by the same court on July 25.
“Despite serving the respondents with the court order, the respondents have not only refused and ignored to comply but also contemptuously continue to disregard the orders and authority of this court. The applicant has not received any reason from the first respondent to justify the failure to comply with orders and there is no order of stay, precluding compliance with the said orders of court,” Kampaire’s application read in part.
She added that in case her application was successful, Kaka should be committed to a civil prison for disobeying the lawful orders of court.
“The 1st respondent holds a public office established by law and his least obligation is to be accountable to the law. This obligation he has failed by ignoring the order of this court and he not only ought to be discharged from that office but also committed to a civil prison for contempt,” the application reads.
In a statement to this newspaper, Kampaire appealed to President Yoweri Museveni to prevail over Kaka and force him to release Nsangriranabo or take him to court.
She said on several occasions she visited the office of Kaka asking about her husband’s whereabouts but his response was that he had put him away for disciplinary reasons. He promised to release him soon; a thing he never did but instead opted to stop meeting her and taking her phone calls.
And High Court Advocate, Patrick Mugisha Machiika also resurfaced after missing for days. Mugisha disappeared on July 31st, 2019 after he was reportedly picked up by three unidentified gunmen from his chambers at Kings Gate Mall in Kabalagala.
His family and friends looked for Mugisha in vain. However, according to URN Mugisha resurfaced days alter after news of his disappearance went viral. His wife, Janet Kyamazima, said Mugisha returned from a Safe house in Kyengera where he had been locked up by operatives from the Internal Security Organization.
Uganda Law Society also condemned Mugisha’s arrest, saying it was unconstitutional since he had been held incommunicado for more than mandatory 48 hours. The Kampala Metropolitan Police Deputy Police Spokesperson, Luke Owoyesigyire, said the disappearance of Mugisha had been reported at Katwe Police Station under SD/21/02/08/2019 and investigations had since commenced.
WHO IS KAKA
According to Wikipedia, Colonel Frank Kaka Bagyenda, is a Ugandan retired military officer in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). Effective January 2017, he is the Director General of the Internal Security Organisation, the Uganda government’s counter intelligence agency, responsible for providing national security intelligence to U policy makers.
Background and education
He was born in the western Uganda district of Ibanda in February 1952. He attended local schools before he was admitted to Makerere University in 1974. In 1977, he graduated from Makerere with a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
Following his graduation from Makerere, Bagyenda took up employment in the Ministry of Public Service. Later, he was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture. While there, he was posted to Masindi District, as an agricultural officer.
In 1981, Bagyenda joined the National Resistance Army (NRA), a rebel guerrilla outfit, led by Yoweri Museveni, who waged a bush war, between 1981 and 1986. He carried out covert operations for the NRA and was instrumental in the capture of Masindi Army Barracks by the NRA on February 20 1984.
To disguise himself from the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) soldiers, he adopted the name Kaka, dropping his birth names Frank Bagyenda. He served in the Ugandan military, rising to the rank of Major, before he retired at that rank in 1993.
His assignments in the military included being the commanding officer of a brigade based in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. He then served as head of the directorate of transport, and then as a member of the then Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), which today is the Chieftainancy of Military Intelligence (CMI). He also served in Uganda’s Northern Region, where commanded a brigade in the early 1990s.
In 1994, he was recalled and conscripted to assist the Rwanda Patriotic Front capture power in Kigali. He remained in Uganda however, engaging in the trucking business in Western Uganda, and setting up Panoma Hotel in Kalangala, in the Ssese Islands.
While in Kalangala, Bagyenda remained an active intelligence operative, playing a role in the disruption of illegal fishing on Lake Victoria. In 2013, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel, while in retirement.
In January 2017, he was appointed to head ISO, replacing Brigadier Ronnie Balya, who was appointed Uganda’s ambassador to South Sudan, based in Juba.