Kayihura to Ochola: A fundamental change, or mere change of guards?

Monday March 12 2018

Inspector General of Police Martin Okoth-Ochola and his predecessor Gen Kale Kayihura

Changes: In-coming Inspector General of Police Martin Okoth-Ochola and his predecessor Gen Kale Kayihura. PHOTO BY ERIC DOMINIC BUKENYA 

By Ivan Okuda

Gen Kale Kayihura is no longer Inspector General of Police (IGP) and has retreated from the hustle and bustle of the city to his exotic goat farm in Lyantonde District, watching the political space hundreds of miles away.
What lies ahead for his predecessor Martin Okoth-Ochola who worked under his nose and shadow until this week? Or better still, what lies ahead for the Uganda Police Force?
There are no easy answers. No prizes for guessing the trajectory of the more than 40,000 strong Force charged with keeping law and order as well as guaranteeing safety of the citizens and property. The signs on the wall, however, offer good insight into the past, present and future.
Parliament on Thursday gave President Museveni a nod to appoint Mr Okoth-Ochola and Brig Muzeyi Sabiti (erstwhile Military Police chief) as IGP and Deputy IGP respectively.

New contract
Ochola, whose contract as Deputy IGP was renewed for three years last year, will start on a new contract as IGP this month, running until 2021 and can apply to have it extended without limit even after he has reached the retirement age as the law gives the appointing authority legroom to keep his security service chiefs on renewable three-year contracts, albeit hitting retirement.
So Ochola can as well carve out a vision of the police he wants to build without the emotional crumps of retirement giving him migraine.

An actor in the country’s security apparatus familiar with the work of Mr Ochola who declined to be named told this writer, “We have an IGP now. Anyone who thinks Ochola will be in Sabiti’s shadow doesn’t know him and isn’t aware that the President respects him and he has the ear of the commander-in-chief as well as goodwill from the public and sister security agencies.”

As Kale went globetrotting and jumped from one crime scene to the next, Ochola did the desk work and has in his tool box uninterrupted experience spanning 30 years, his investigative and interrogation skills while at the Criminal Investigations Directorate too stand out.
He is said to have been so thorough at the job that he would interrogate all categories of suspects and reduce them to masses of human flesh urinating on themselves as he watched and took his notes.
He has also not been placed in the radar of political bigotry in a country where security officers are happy to lend themselves to partisan processes that serve the interests of the ruling NRM.

Limitations
By any standard, he is fine wine brewed over decades through a model brew master in so far as his job as an officer is concerned who, according to the Justice Julia Ssebutinde commission of inquiry into the police force, is alive to his limitations as a human being and ready to apologise and clean his act.

What then is his task? First, Ochola will have to redeem public confidence in the police and repair its tattered image, reclaim the soul of the institution and return it to the path of professionalism, immunise its structures against impunity and address systemic incompetence and malaise while also attempting to drain the swamp of ethnic sentiments after years of what appeared sectarian promotions and recruitment designed by his predecessor.

Of course, building a Force that adheres to the idealistic standard set by the Nine Principles of Professional Policing by Robert Peel who became Britain’s Home Secretary in 1822 takes time and resources coupled with socio-economic advancement levels of society, but anything close to it would require sobriety of leadership and conduciveness of the environment.
Does Uganda’s political landscape as it is today, allow any officer leg room to do his best and contribute to a better institution?

Good IGP, bad politics?
When Kayihura was summarily knifed from the coveted position, four-time presidential candidate Kizza Besigye remarked, as did other Opposition figures, that excitement about the IGPs’ sacking was uncalled for as, “he was only a pawn”.
Dr Besigye, a former Internal Affairs junior minister, argued that the country has had several heads of ISO, ESO, CMI, police but there is only one constant, and that is Mr Museveni.

As long as the top doesn’t change, the Opposition argues, efforts to rid the tap roots of rot would be akin to cutting the branches of a diseased tree while sparing its roots. If anything, some argue, the gaps in the police force are not how the regime fails but rather how it works, such as vigilante groups like Boda Boda 2010, Kifeesi and Kiboko Squad which came off as dirty blots on the image of the Force while affirming the level of criminalisation of the institution.
How Kayihura rose to virtually becoming the second most powerful citizen in the country after the unceremonious departure of Mr Amama Mbabazi who did wield influence as prime minister is the catch.
Kayihura had so much influence that ministers considered it a privilege getting his audience. His office in Naguru was abuzz with activity. Senior leaders of the Opposition found him a convenient access door to the President as did restless academics in public universities seeking to negotiate better pay, shady characters in the media, and civil society who wanted to indulge in intelligence gathering sought him like diamond.

He had the resources, the President’s ear and the confidence of a man in charge. It was not strange, for instance, that one time the President called his service chiefs to Kololo Independence Grounds for a luncheon to thank them for managing the volatile 2016 election and after the meal with his wife, thanked them and said, “Officers fall out, I will remain here with Kale.”

There was something personal in the way they conducted State business. Senior security officials who had called for his sacking gave up as the President’s confidence in his right-hand man appeared unshaken even with reports of the man amassing political arsenal to give him a run for his job.

But it took Kale over a decade to build that cosiness between the police and NRM political apparatus. The police under John Cosy Odomel, John Kisembo and Katumba Wamala was resource strained and an innocent bystander in the pax Musevenica political paradigm.

There was a war to fight in the north and the army itself had little resources, the country’s resource envelop wasn’t the fattest at the time but the President also didn’t see the police as a guarantor of his power. If anything, a good number of officers were a carryover of the Idi Amin and Milton Obote eras who didn’t warm up to him.
Little wonder that before Kale came to the scene, the oppressive arm of the State that beat Opposition to line and secured Museveni’s electoral fortunes such as in 2001 election were ISO and CMI hence the prominence Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde as ISO director general enjoyed as did Brig Noble Mayombo at the helm of CMI. It followed that they enjoyed resources and clout too.

Kayihura’s ascendancy to police meant securing the President’s confidence that the police can as well or even better, do his bidding. Resources grew and he was given leeway to openly use the Force as overtly as he did to do NRM’s political machinations with crime preventers coming onto the scene in 2016 election.
In 2016 he was caught red-handed coaching informants to connect Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga to Mr Mbabazi’s botched presidential bid. The President called him a good cadre of the NRM and he took the praise with honour.

If Besigye and Mbabazi had an opponent in Museveni, the unseen second candidate as the media was to Donald Trump, was Kayihura as a person and police as an institution. The excesses of the Force were hence forgiven as the President enjoyed their protection of his throne.
Criminal enterprise set in, constitutionalism was reduced to utopia, professional police officers gave way to trigger happy, media attention seeking, get rich quick and belligerent youngsters who ran the show and had their excesses condoned.

The police degenerated into an outfit whose mandate was to secure the presidency of the commander-in-chief first and do regular policing as an after-thought. And all of it was by design.
Whether Mr Museveni desires that the police continues to dominate his political machinations scene or not will partly determine how high Ochola can fly for he can only operate in the prevailing political eco-system.

Mr David Pulkol, former director general of External Security Organisation told Sunday Monitor, “I am told Ochola, despite his experience, is timid and not assertive. So he may not be able to bring the change he ought to bring because he will be sitting on half of the chair. But let’s give him the benefit of doubt because it is possible he was playing it cool being in Kayihura’s shadow.”

The other stumbling block, other than Ochola’s own personality, Pulkol says, is that, “The boss (President) has become everything, he is self-contained. He collects intelligence and doesn’t even bring it to the services for analysis, and uses it to give command and directions so he has been taken advantage of.”
As Mr Museveni’s increasingly authoritarian rule reaches its evening years, he has become more suspicious of all around him and broken the State into units he can ably keep tabs on, relegating regular institutions to mere paper tigers.

Less political will
How Ochola wiggles out of that maze, where there appears less political will to have a police that works for everyone, is intriguing.
This newspaper, for instance, has it on good authority that Kayihura’s axing may have had less to do with police failures or his public fights with Tumukunde (for the general had fought with the late Gen Aronda Nyakairima too and it was business as usual) but infiltration of security operatives from Rwanda into the police inner circle, which threatened the political status quo in Kampala.

Pulkol adds, “Sabiti, the young man who is coming, is a home boy who cannot go back and reason with the President. He is like a maid whose duty is to clean the house and do the assigned house chores without questioning because that is how Kayihura too emerged having worked as Museveni’s aide and so on becoming IGP he felt the biggest crime in Uganda is opposing Museveni, hence tailoring the police into that mode.”

The ex-ESO chief adds that Ochola finds himself in an intricate political and military context where security chiefs are close to the first family, “the first son is in special operations and president’s brother in security too. Where does Ochola fit there? He is an outsider who cannot do much despite the will and ability because the entire security is configured to safe guard Museveni’s life presidency”.

To reform the police would require a deeper inquiry into what has gone wrong since colonial time, what needs to be done to create a 21st Century Force and above all, greater reform of the security sector, experts argue, adding that change of the leadership is only window dressing. Who will break the egg to make the omelet in a political context where no one will bell the cat?

What experts say

[Brig] Sabiti, the young man who is coming, is a home boy who cannot go back and reason with the President. He is like a maid whose duty is to clean the house and do the assigned house chores without questioning because that is how Kayihura too emerged having worked as Museveni’s aide and so on becoming IGP he felt the biggest crime in Uganda is opposing Museveni, hence tailoring the police into that mode,” Mr David Pulkol, former director general of External Security Organisation.

We have an IGP now. Anyone who thinks Ochola will be in Sabiti’s shadow doesn’t know him and isn’t aware that the President respects him and he has the ear of the commander-in-chief as well as goodwill from the public and sister security agencies, ” An actor in the country’s security apparatus who declined to be named told this writer

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