The politics haunting sacking of a spy chief

Sunday August 15 2010

Mr Museveni, Mr Mukumbi and Mr Mbabazi

Mr Museveni, Mr Mukumbi and Mr Mbabazi 

By Chris Obore

The sacking of Dr Amos Mukumbi from heading the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) last week was the handiwork of politics, intrigue and suspicion within the intelligence community and between national politicians.

Inside Politics’ sources who did not want to be quoted because intelligence issues are not to be discussed openly in the media, say Dr Mukumbi’s fall from grace could be linked to the power play among senior ruling party cadres and top military chiefs.

Dr Mukumbi’s goose appeared to have been cooked the moment he developed what his detractors claim was ‘an air of invincibility’. Because of that disposition, it is alleged, he purportedly failed to listen to the counsel of his superiors, claiming they were essentially presidential appointees – and by implication, unqualified to advise a professional in place.

Our sources say because of this failure to listen to his superiors – a sin in the shadowy world of security work -- especially the coordinator of Intelligence Services Gen. David Tinyefuza, Dr Mukumbi’s sacking became a matter of when, not if. The more-so given the knowledge that Gen. Tinyefuza these days finds himself in the good graces of the powers that be.

That alone wouldn’t have mattered had things within the ranks of the original NRM ideologues remained the same.

Political difference
Sources say while Dr Mukumbi reportedly never paid much attention to the words of Gen. Tinyefuza, the political differences between his mentor and former boss, Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi and the President, were the trigger for his final collapse.
This poor relationship between President Museveni and Maj. Gen. Muhwezi was later to spill over to Security Minister Amama Mbabazi who today has his personal misunderstandings with Maj. Gen. Muhwezi.


This was to Dr Mukumbi’s particular disadvantage. Because since he was once a personal assistant to Maj. Gen. Muhwezi during the time the gentleman headed ISO, suspicion lingered that he could still be loyal to his former boss. And so with the President and Mr Mbabazi facing the prospect of a senior security chief possibly fraternising with an individual whose politics clashed with their world view, few options seemed available.

While there had been no publicly known conflict between Mr Mbabazi and Maj. Gen. Muhwezi, the Temangalo scandal gave the public an insight into what the two men really thought about each other’s guts. Maj. Gen. Muhwezi rooted for Mr Mbabazi’s censure in Parliament for influence peddling in NSSF affairs. But Mr Mbabazi survived the political guillotine after President Museveni threw his weight behind him.

It did not help Dr Mukumbi’s fortunes when, according to our sources, a report found its way onto President Museveni’s desk in which the doctor was accused of ‘helping’ the political forces that were ranged against the security minster at the height of the Temangalo investigations.

Over time, other NRM politicians have whispered darkly that Dr Mukumbi had ceased being a spy chief. They accused him of nursing political interests in the new district of Kyankwanzi.

But even if Dr Mukumbi didn’t have political ambitions, our sources say that some of these politicians feared that Dr Mukumbi was in a position to unsettle their own political prospects using the ISO network that has tentacles reaching as far as the parish level.

That would not have been enough to tip the scales against Dr Mukumbi -- an accomplished master of espionage, so it is said.
Our sources say the appointing authority’s hand was forced when those opposed to his internal security chief chose the emotive subject of ritual sacrifice and child kidnaps.

The President was faced with a country increasingly distraught about the authorities’ inability to come to grips with the horrifying crime. It was not good for his politics.

ISO took the flack for the spate of human sacrifice crimes. Questions were asked as to why ISO, despite its wide network, appeared operationally impotent. Comparisons were drawn between ISO and the more settled state of affairs at the sister External Security Organisation despite being run on a meaner budget.

Mundane fact
Then a more mundane fact was played up: The fact that ESO was able to build its own three-storeyed office block in Nakasero, Kampala without asking for additional funds while ISO operatives perpetually cried of miserable facilitation may have been used as the other nail to seal Dr Mukumbi’s fate.

The July 11 terror attacks which saw the President publicly castigate the intelligence community for failing to detect the threat, were just the perfect excuse to push a man who had refused to jump.