A week ago, President Museveni brought to an end Gen Kale Kayihura’s 13-year tenure as Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde’s 20 months tenure as minister for Security.
This followed months of a simmering fight between the police and both the Internal Security Organisations (ISO) and the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) which first manifested in August last year when they launched parallel investigations into the killings of women in Wakiso District.
In October, in what appeared to be an attack on the police, some police officers believed to be protégés of Gen Kayihura were arrested and arraigned before the General Court Martial to answer for the alleged kidnap of a former body guard of Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame and other crimes including extortion, orchestrating robberies and unlawful possession of military stores.
Then in January, Abdullah Kitatta, a civilian aide of the general and his brother Huzair Kiwalabye were arrested by CMI.
Gen Kayihura on the other hand issued strong statements in which he urged police officers not to be intimidated by the army. He also barred them from sharing information with the army, a decision which ISO indicated it would not respect. He also threw a barb at ISO for allegedly working with criminals on the police’s radar. It was apparent that lines had been drawn.
The jostling sparked off fears that the various institutions’ images would be left dented and that national security would be compromised, fears that retired Deputy Inspector General of Police Julius Odwe echoed.
“They were entrusted with overseeing the security of the country. This continued bickering is diverting them from the real work. This can be an advantage to any enemy,” Mr Odwe said amid the jostling.
Gen Kayihura sought to allay the fears. In January while appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs, he acknowledged that there were tensions between him and Lt Gen Tumukunde and the institutions that they were heading, but that they were not so fundamental as to compromise national security.
On February 14 while addressing sections of the media at Kawumu demonstration farm in Luweero, Museveni had sought to downplay the fight, suggesting that it was a tiff between the two men and not necessarily the institutions.
“They (Security agencies) are not the ones fighting but their heads and we shall not allow it,” he was quoted to have said.
Interagency fights are not new. The last was in 2001 when handmade bombs rocked Kampala and Jinja. Back then the tensions arose out of jostling for control of the anti-terrorism kitty. Back then, ISO was not only taking the bulk of the money, but also enjoying the limelight that came with the effort to snuff out threat.
Gen Tumukunde was one of the protagonists in the fight back then and he has been back in it, but this time round it is hard to put a finger at what the fight has been about.
President Museveni has not yet explained why he sent the two men packing. He does not have to anyway, but there are suggestions that the fighting had reached that critical point at which it could compromise national security.
A few days before Mr Museveni swung the axe, the deputy director of the Uganda Media Centre, Col Shaban Bantariza, had pointed in that direction.
“The appointing authority is the same. If he ever feels that they are a threat to national security, he will retire either one or both, but my understanding is that if they are still in office it is because they are not threatening national security,” he had told Sunday Monitor.
If Mr Bantariza’s argument is anything to go by, Mr Museveni could have acted in order to put an end a situation that was starting to threaten national security, but will the sacking of the two men bring an interagency rivalry?
Prof Paul Wangoola, a former Makerere University don who was a member of the National Consultative Council (NCC) does not believe so. He thinks that this is a temporary solution. He says the jostling between the two institutions and the men who have been at the helm points to a serious governance issue that the NRM needs to address itself to.
The party, he says, finds itself in the same situation that UPC found itself in shortly after 1966 when it abolished kingdoms, introduced a republican constitution and started stifling free speech at party, parliamentary and Cabinet levels. There was no longer a platform for people to vent, he says.
“The same has happened under the NRM. Contradictions which used to be dealt with in the civilian establishment have now been moved into the military,” he says.
Mr Odwe is of a contrary view. He thinks that the tensions have been down to the working methods of the two men and the impact that those methods have had on the institutions that they have been supervising.
In the case of the police, he says, it has over the last 13 years taken to barbaric enforcement of the law, which had an effect on its working relationship with other agencies.
“There was a spillover from this barbaric enforcement of the law. First we had the force undermining and abusing the community. It then moved to undermining and abusing those other agencies. So removal of the two men is likely to cause a change in approach,” Odwe says.
Well, it looks like only time will tell whether the sackings will end the inter-agency fighting.