The symbolism of President Museveni ordering former Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura to clean his ‘house’ and the sight of a woman walking past Naguru police barracks holding her nose to ward off the stench couldn’t have been more apt.
Uganda Police, under Gen Kayihura, went off the rails and, strange as it sounds, the majority of the men and women supposed to ensure law and order appeared clueless about their jobs.
They were left to their own devices. Some took blackmail and extortion as an evening pastime. Others lent out guns to criminal gangs. It is under Kayihura that we saw the emergence of the kibooko squad beating up opposition supporters.
One time police leadership denied their existence, even when they clobbered ordinary citizens in broad daylight. Later, they were baptized “peace-loving volunteers.” A few unlucky ones, together with some police officers under whose command they fell, were arrested and charged before the police’s professional standards unit for unfathomable offences.
As intriguing as it appears, Kayihura formed another near-militia group, the crime preventers, ostensibly to detect and prevent crime in communities.
Although a lot of money was spent on training them in arms handling and less in intelligence gathering, their legal status remained suspect. They were not known in law but police insisted on calling them community policing agents.
Later, in the Amama Mbabazi v Yoweri Museveni election petition case (2016), the Supreme court confirmed them as part of community policing.
But their work came to an abrupt halt as soon as the 2016 presidential elections were concluded. And then people who were supposed to prevent crime became heavily involved in brutalizing Ugandans and stealing their property.
So, since he was appointed to command the national police, Kayihura had little faith in forces and preferred to work with informal groups such as Boda Boda 2010. This outfit rained terror on opposition supporters and boda boda riders who failed to fall in line.
The group was commanded by the Abdallah Kitatta, whose notoriety is well remembered when he organized goons to block the trial of Gen Kayihura at Makindye Magistrate’s court. Indeed, the trial was frustrated, and the thugs were never arrested nor reprimanded.
It took the courage of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence and Military Police to weed out the untouchables in the police force. Even when the Internal Affairs minister, Gen Jeje Odongo, advised him to rescue the image of police, Kayihura appeared not to notice any dirt in the force. He insisted mistakes were not unique to the police force.
Kayihura unceremoniously leaves the force with so many unresolved murder cases including high-profile ones.
There are the mysterious murders of women in Entebbe and Nansana, the killing of Muslim clerics, the death of the former police spokesman Andrew Felix Kaweesi, the murder of prosecutor Joan Kagezi, not to mention the botched-up kidnap and subsequent death of Susan Magara, among others.
African sages say the day when a monkey is to die, all tree branches become slippery. For Kayihura, he lost grip of the branches the moment outsiders started cleaning up his house. And the fall has really been hard.
There are lessons to learn from Kayihura’s fall. One, the moment the president gives you a job and starts praising and defending you as an impeccable person, just know he has given you a rope to hang yourself.
It happened to former prime minister Amama Mbabazi who he once described as Mr Clean who does not womanise and drink. But Mr Clean could not be trusted with the NRM secretariat!
Two, Kayihura chose not to do a police job and concentrated on political work, which naturally put him on collision course with many people including the man he was working for.
Three, it is important to learn to be humble and to tame our ambitions. And this is the advice retired army commander, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, once gave to an errant police officer who was battering opposition supporters.
“Tomorrow you may find yourself out of that uniform. You had better work for a situation out there so that when you are out of uniform, you are safe where you will be. Use your head, my friend,” Muntu told the officer.
It appears Kayihura failed to pick cue from his fellow general. If he had endeavored to work within the constitution, and not for the interests of an individual, perhaps his fall would not have been as loud.
The president has been clear that he has no personal friends, only colleagues who share beliefs. Cleary, Kayihura’s belief had started to conflict with the visionary’s.
A cursory view of what is trending on social media is not favourable to the general. I am sure Kayihura thinks he has been unfairly criticized yet he worked so hard. But he leaves a tattered police image. For lack of a better word, it is a near-rogue police force!
The author is the business development director at The Observer Media Limited.