I was holed-up in my ancestral village in Bubulo visiting my parents, away from messy Kampala and the vicissitudes of breaking news.
I kept my cell phone off most of the time. But then a BBC producer in Kampala got through. ‘The Kayihura drama,’ she started.
I almost wondered if Uganda’s former defacto ‘deputy’ president had formed a drama group and was planning a big stage performance in Kampala!
Kale Kayihura served the Museveni regime with remarkable distinction. Museveni’s leitmotif of securing himself in power and continuing to run Uganda as a personal fief, was the primary task Kayihura vigorously executed. And he did so with unrivalled tenacity since taking the helm of security in 2005.
In his pivotal role for the regime, Kale amassed unprecedented power for the office of the Inspector General of Police. He received a free latitude so as to fully and faithfully serve the master.
But the same powerful position he occupied and the enormity of power he wielded, made him inordinately vulnerable and highly resented within circles of palace politics and at the institution he headed.
In the scramble to please the master and demonstrate his outstanding role, Kayihura openly insisted he was the lead security person and all other agencies had to work under him! In this, of course, he was not referring to the security of Ugandans and their property but securing the master in power.
In 2010, in the wake of terrorist attacks in Kampala, he publically feuded with the Chieftaincy of Military of Intelligence, then commanded by Maj Gen James Mugira over handling suspects; engaged in open altercation with Gen David Sejusa, then coordinator of intelligence services, and most recently literally had a public quarrel with the now sacked security minister Lt Gen HenryTumukunde.
But power is a double-edged sword. The more Kayihura became powerful, the more he was doomed to fall with a big bang. Someone close to the ruling palace, once told me Kayihura had antagonised way too many and run roughshod, that he would be on his own from the very day he got sacked.
We knew his partisanship all too well, and the fact that his remit in police was to make it the frontal tool for regime survival. This column repeatedly underlined the damage done to the police as a law and order institution at the altar of serving the narrow agenda of a one-man rule.
Officers known to stick to the professional creed and who insisted on remaining loyal to the cause of working for the public good, not the private needs of the rulers were side-lined.
Senior officers like Julius Odwee, with a distinguished track-record and high-level professional competences, either opted for early retirement or simply stayed around quietly.
In came the politically overzealous-type, who took command positions at district and regional levels and occupied critical positions at headquarters. Many had been recruited without regard to merit but on account of ethnicity and political connection. They lacked basic professional experience and a proper grasp of police work. The upshot was a police force whose top command make-up looked decidedly partisan and highly ethnicised.
Kale on his part scoffed at critics who he thought did not appreciate his earnest determination to modernise the force and especially his pet subject of community policing, which he sought to activate via a dubious if criminal scheme of ‘crime preventers.’
As it turns out, quite predictably, the demands of securing the regime necessarily looped in criminal conduct and runaway individual gross misconduct.
In some ways, the police under Kayihura took the tenor of privatised use of the state coercive arsenal for personal aggrandisement. Ascending to higher service ranks was not predicated on professionalism and meritorious training but on blind loyalty, supplication and ethnicity.
Many who ascended and became so powerful, including the few that are currently incarcerated or alleged to be subjects of investigation, received personal rewards for rendering personal, if illegal, service to Kale who had to meet the needs of the master in state house.
Those individual officers in turn felt they too could get away with the criminal use of their positions and the police uniform and rank to pursue wealth and rushed enrichment.
The whole ‘Kayihura drama’ remains mysterious, for there was scarcely anything new that suddenly came to the attention of the master, for him to pull the plug on Kale in March and, worse still, move on him in a manner that has bewildered the public.
He had only recently reappointed his man and defended his record. An eerie signal appeared earlier though, when a small coterie of Kale’s ‘boys’ including the notorious Abdallah Kittata, was slang into the track of detention, which the master Kale too has now trudged.
Is it palace politics especially since Kale was known to be in the bad books of a very powerful member of the rulers, or was it matters of a neighbouring country? We may never know the full truth.
What we can’t avoid seeing though is the perils of roguish politics. All those who engage in it either as servants or masters, beneficiaries or benefactors one way or the other, end in tragedy.
The author is an assistant professor of political science at North Carolina State University.