Sam Omala, the officer watching over Besigye
Posted Saturday, February 9 2013 at 02:00
Zealous police officer. He has found himself recently showing more face on TV than the police spokesperson or the IGP, and
although some of his actions have made him unpopular, this police officer is just any other, going about his work, albeit
He may never have intended it, but Sam Omala now has a personal relationship with the country’s most famous opposition
politician, Dr Kizza Besigye. Because, if the State has had its hands firmly coiled around the doctor in clenched fists,
then Mr Omala, the over 6ft, dark, tough-talking and mean-looking police officer, has been the fingers of the State.
This officer is the face behind all the might and strength of the State’s machinery trained on Dr Besigye’s every movement.
Omala, a senior superintendent of police, is the operations commander for Kampala North, stationed at the Kawempe Police
Station. But chances are that his office at the station treats him like a stranger, because his defacto office has in
general, been Kasangati, Dr Besigye’s estate in particular.
It is here that a man of humble beginnings, who has bid his time in the Force, rising to his current position, has found
the contrasting combination of fame and infamy. It is also here that he has built a relationship - a bitter, battle-worn
relationship - with the opposition politician. And it is here that has been laid before us, the makings of a man who is
overflowing with extreme zealousness and eagerness to please his superiors, even to a fault.
Cat and mouse chase
It is wise counsel that you do not ever swear that something will happen except if you are certain, beyond doubt, that it
will. Omala could have chosen to make his usual threats of tight security around Dr Besigye during the police’s deployment
at the doctor’s house in October last year. But no; he opted to dare the gods, saying, “I swear, he will not leave this
Opposition politicians had organised a new wave of protests, dubbed Walk-to-Freedom. Police had responded by raising
barricades around opposition politicians’ homes to block them from leaving. And Omala was in charge at Dr Besigye’s house.
On October 4, a day after he made the statement, he and his band of officers surrounded and crawled all over Dr Besigye’s
home, thinking they had contained him. The politician was instead right in the centre of Kampala, 20 kilometres away,
waving at and greeting supporters who jammed his car. The joke was squarely on Omala.
That evading incident was one of many climaxes in Dr Besigye-Omala relationship, where each takes turns at trying to undo
the other. And like it is in the Tom and Jerry tales, the weaker Dr Besigye, without guns and patrol pick-up trucks to
summon at his whims, came out smarter.
There is more to pick from the character of Omala, just by reading into Dr Besigye’s evading incident. It reveals the
character of a man who does not find it easy to speak in measured tones. He is the kind who when excited, speaks first and
reflects later, a typical extroversion trait.
When Hassan Bassajabalaba was presented at court for a bail hearing, and his protesters showed up in protest, he dispatched
his commando-looking boys to disperse them. And what did he say? “I don’t want hooligans (pronounced holygans) in court.” “But they have come to listen to the case,” queried a reporter. “No. It is not their job,” he replied, as if to say
everyone who goes to listen to a case at court, is on assignment.
Omala is an authoritative man. He often works to make his presence and authority felt. This is largely denoted from his
words. His speech quickly graduates into threats of violence when he feels his authority questioned.
For instance, when FDC’s Salaam Musumba complained that police officers had defecated all over Dr Besigye’s home, he shot
back: “Can you speak arrogantly around me like that and you finish? Go back. I don’t want you here. And if you want, I will
force you to go back.”
It is probably an outward display of what many people who have seen him work call an excessive zealousness in his modus
operandi. It is this very zealousness that often outshoots his reasoning, observers say, leading to tough actions such as
when he slapped, struck and arrested a journalist covering the police deployment at Dr Besigye’s home.
It also shows him as an individual who seeks physical confrontation. Observers say he thrives on the heat of the moment
that comes along with being a police officer in conflict situations.
The act of bringing about order using force, is sometimes inevitable, his body movement switching mode and his muscles
twitching when a potentially explosive situation is on the cards. His body itches to get something done, and when he has
‘restored order’, a sense of contentment overcomes him. He will then walk back to his truck, sit back, and sip on a bottle