Before the appointment of Gen Kale Kayihura as the Inspector General of Police, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, then an Assistant Superintendent of Police, was little known.
The slender man worked in Gen Katumba Wamala’s office at Kibuli, where the Police Headquarters were situated then, without anyone noticing his skills.
In the first years of Gen Kayihura’s leadership, senior officers had started complaining about an ASP, who was making it hard for them to see the police chief.
It was unheard of for a mere ASP blocking a senior officer [above his rank] from seeing the police boss. When I heard of the grumble, I picked interest in understanding who the person was.
Certainly, ASP Kaweesi’s word would be taken for that of the IGP.
Whoever wanted to meet Gen Kayihura had to go through Afande Kaweesi.
After any meeting, Gen Kayihura would direct those he met to follow up with ASP Kaweesi for any amendments or results.
If police were State House, one would equate Afande Kaweesi to the stature of the former Presidential Private Secretary, Ms Amelia Kyambadde or Maj Edith Nakalema for that matter.
Journalists too started developing rapport with ASP Kaweesi since his comment on any matter would be regarded as Gen Kayihura’s statement.
April 12, 2007 turned out to be my first close contact with Kaweesi. This was during the Mabira Demonstration at Entebbe Road on Clock Tower in Kampala City.
A semi-trailer had been burnt by rioters in the middle of the road and the protesters were hurling stones at the police from Quality Chemical building and the side of Railway line.
Police had left protesters to converge at Queen’s Way grounds near the mosque.
A towering ASP Kaweesi appeared at the scene and had a brief chat with the anti-riot commander, Godfrey Obachi, who was his senior in rank.
Obachi followed him and then Riot Police officers started throwing tear gas canisters towards the city centre and Ggaba Road.
Entebbe Road that had been blocked by protesters was eventually opened.
Three months later, he was transferred to Masindi Police Training School as a commandant.
I recall getting many complaints from senior officers why such a young, untried and more so a “cadet” would be entrusted with such a big post.
Stories about the tragedy awaiting the police for assigning the training to a raw officer made headlines in major newspapers but Kaweesi remained steadfast.
Kaweesi never hunted the journalists or newspapers that wrote the stories, but he made sure that he befriended them.
He would often tell me that he wanted his story in Daily Monitor Newspaper because of its credibility in the public.
Previously, Police had established a training camp in a bushy area surrounded by cane and Budongo Forest at Kabalye in Masindi District, but most instructors were still operating in a well-established military wing a few kilometres away.
My first visit to Kabalye that year, an officer came under a mango tree where we were seated and whispered to us: “Do you know where the commandant stays?” the officer asked.
We expressed our ignorance.
Then he showed us a hut which was a few metres away from where we were seated.
“That is the Commandant’s Palace,” the officer said.
All along I had thought that it was a hut for a guard. It struck me that the commander was spending a night in a hut when his trainees were enjoying reasonably better accommodation.
Kabalye had only grass thatched houses and a few groovy houses that were constructed for the cadets that were to arrive that September and the armoury.
When Gen Kayihura had gone to rest, ASP Kaweesi took me aside for a chat.
“Why do you write such bad stories about us? He asked and continued, “ASP Moses Kafeero Kabugo, who was his deputy, and I are teachers by profession and what we are doing here, is part of what we were taught at university. Why should you depend on rumours from officers from headquarters that we have no capabilities?” he asked again.
I laboured to explain to him that the stories were written by my seniors and that I didn’t have a clue of how they were sourced.
He asked me to get time to write a story about his plans for the school. I promised him to visit soon, but I didn’t.
From that day, we became good friends.
He was amiable and hardworking, loved, acclaims and publicity, especially positive news. His major problem was microphone fever.
He could articulate issues well when he is relaxed, but you fix a microphone or camera in front of him, he would forget words or fail to pronounce them properly. He detested misquoting him.
He was a meticulous officer and he loved his family.
A few months at Kabalye, he made news when he reported to Gen Kayihura of suspected rape cases of female trainees by police instructors.
The officers were arrested and he didn’t care even when the story leaked.
His discipline would extend to his interaction with journalists.
Journalists, who would commit criminal and traffic offences, expected him to help them out.
One time, I was called by a colleague to talk to him to bail him out from a traffic offence but when I called Afande Kaweesi, he openly told me that he couldn’t bend the law to help the journalist. He ordered the journalist to pay a fine.
Kaweesi however, had a tough time with journalists during Walk-to-Work. Severally, journalists would be beaten, but Kaweesi would shoulder the blame.
He would call me to get in touch with the journalists to resolve the problems. But he could held police officers responsible for the crimes against journalist. He was humble and many police officers loved him.