A lot has been said about changes in Uganda’s security apparatus, which saw long-serving Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura replaced by veteran career police officer Okoth Ochola, and Gen Elly Tumwine taking Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde’s job as minister of Security.
Many analysts have celebrated these changes, particularly the removal of Gen Kayihura, saying it is a positive step towards making the police more professional.
This comes at a time the approval rating of the police is at its lowest, following widely documented criminal behaviour, brutality, corruption and sheer incompetence within the rank and file.
None other than President Museveni told Kayihura after the assassination of deputy IGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi that the police had been infiltrated by wrong elements, who must be weeded out. Last week, after removing the IGP, Museveni said the police had been invaded by “bean weevils”.
While it is reasonable to expect the new security leadership to tackle this state of affairs, these expectations must be tempered by the fact that it all depends on what the appointing authority expects of Okoth Ochola and his deputy Sabiiti Muzeyi Mugyenyi.
We can’t forget that the president renewed Kayihura’s contract less than six months ago!
In countries with strong state institutions, where absolutely nobody is above the law, the police operate freely and independently, just like the judiciary. In Israel, the police are questioning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife over corruption.
In South Africa, former president Jacob Zuma had the police hovering over his head throughout his time in charge. In the Unites States, President Donald Trump just can’t wish away the FBI investigation about him and Russian interference in the elections that brought him to power.
That is how the police is supposed to function. They should be able to defend the interests of the state without being compromised by individuals in government, including the most powerful.
Is Uganda under President Museveni ready for such a police force?
As long as the appointing authority is more inclined to a police force whose main preoccupation is regime protection rather than its core duty of keeping law and order, then the new changes will bring more of the old.