Kampala- Parliament’s Appointments Committee yesterday approved the new Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Martin Okoth-Ochola, after he promised to make radical reforms to reorganise and reshape the force.
However, sources who attended the session said Mr Ochola faced the roughest time and MPs reluctantly approved him after rigorous quizzing over human rights abuses by police, corruption, allegations of extortion by police officers and collusion with criminals.
Mr Ochola was approved together with the incoming Security minister, Gen Elly Tumwine, and Deputy IGP, Brig Sabiiti Muzeyi.
A source that attended the meeting said Buhweju County MP Francis Mwijukye asked Mr Ochola to explain the genesis of the rot in the police.
Mr Ochola laid the blame of the excesses in the Force on his predecessor, Gen Kale Kayihura.
The source quoted Mr Ochola as telling the committee that the police took a turn for the “worse” in 2005 following the appointment of Gen Kayihura whom he said disregarded formal police structures.
Mr Ochola reportedly said Gen Kayihura opted to work with individual police officers and created a clique of young officers who took orders only from him and reported only to him.
To illustrate the breakdown of structures in the police, Mr Ochola reportedly told the committee that he recently ordered the arrest of former Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Siraj Bakaleke but was overruled by Gen Kayihura.
Mr Bakaleke had been implicated in a scam where two South Korean nationals were allegedly defrauded of Shs1.4 billion by police officers.
He has since been dropped as the Regional Police Commander for Kampala Metropolitan South.
An MP said Mr Ochola looked genuinely frustrated about what has been going on in the police but said he had to be respectful to the IGP who was very powerful.
In convincing the MPs to win his approval, Mr Ochola reportedly pledged to clean up the Force with emphasis on following the formal police command and ensuring promotions are merit-based.
Mr Ochola declined to answer press questions after the committee proceedings.
Gen Tumwine was tasked to explain what he will do to harmonise the icy relations between the police and sister security agencies following the simmering friction that had pitted the outgoing Security minister, Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, and Gen Kayihura.
Gen Tumwine reportedly told the committee that the friction will be settled amicably.
He later reiterated to the press, after the committee proceedings that the differences between security agencies will be resolved through dialogue.
However, he declined to respond to questions on why, as a senior military officer and Army MP, he remained indifferent when security operatives raided Parliament last year as the government battled to force through a Bill to remove the presidential age limit from the Constitution.
On his part, Brig Muzeyi was asked how he will mutate from a military officer to a police officer, given the prevailing concerns about militarisation of the police, but he declined to explain.
“Let us finish with this, then I will talk to you. I have just been in the committee. When all is done, we shall arrange and we talk. I am ready for the office,” he said.