When the nastiness of a govt ensnares those serving in it

Sunday September 22 2019

Bernard Tabaire

Bernard Tabaire 

By Bernard Tabaire

Whatever the flavour of Gen Kale Kayihura’s religiosity or even spirituality, if any, by now he may have reflected on the day and date: Friday the 13th. Western world superstition says bad things tend to happen (to good or bad people regardless) on Friday the 13th.

Now imagine the Americans, with their twisted sense of humour, coming down against the four-star general on Friday, September 13, 2019.

The officer is accused of presiding over human rights abuses and engaging in corruption while he was the Inspector General of the Uganda Police Force (UPF). For that the Americans have frozen his assets and barred him from entering the United States.
Gen Kayihura, is already down — fired, detained, bailed with tough travel restrictions, his police architecture disbanded — and now the Americans are piling on.

The statement fingering Gen Kayihura reads in part: “As the IGP for the UPF, Kayihura led individuals from the UPF’s Flying Squad Unit, which has engaged in the inhumane treatment of detainees at the Nalufenya Special Investigations Centre (NSIC). Flying Squad Unit members reportedly used sticks and rifle butts to abuse NSIC detainees, and officers at NSIC are accused of having beaten one of the detainees with blunt instruments to the point that he lost consciousness. Detainees also reported that after being subjected to the abuse they were offered significant sums of money if they confessed to their involvement in a crime.”

Gen Kayihura must be wondering how it all came down to this. His initial statement provides a window into his frustrated soul. “It is not just an absolute travesty of justice, it is also extremely hypocritical. The fact is that the FBI worked closely with me and with units of police that were involved in fighting crime, including the Flying Squad. They were not scandalised by my leadership but actually gave me an award for my contribution in the fight against terror.

There is no high profile case in which our units did not liaise with the FBI. They participated in, for example, the investigations into the assassinations of the late Joan Kagezi and the late Andrew Felix Kaweesi, as well as the 2010 terror case. The [American] Treasury would thus do well to sanction those officers also.”


Kayihura’s little game of deflection is interesting. But one of the things that stands out in his entire statement is the revelation that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is heavily embedded in our security services. Somehow, we are too incompetent or inexperienced to independently investigate killings on our soil. Hey, what else is the FBI, the CIA, or the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) doing within our borders?

Maybe these entities are doing a lot more, including spying on “friends” like Gen Kayihura himself, who appears a little naïve from his statement. This brings us to the second part of the accusation: “In addition, Kayihura has engaged in numerous acts of corruption, including using bribery to strengthen his political position within the Government of Uganda, stealing funds intended for official Ugandan government business, and using another government employee to smuggle illicit goods, including drugs, gold, and wildlife, out of Uganda.”

Theft. Smuggling. Use of proxies.
Well, the DEA fights things like drug trafficking. If agents of the DEA and other American spying entities are active here, who knows the dirt they have. Whatever it is, they considered it weighty enough to make their move at their own timing.

Gen Kayihura may be as innocent as he pleads. That is beside the point now. Until the Americans change their mind, his life and that of his family members and some business associates has just become a little hard. He now has to look over his shoulder to be sure any business or travel move he makes outside Uganda won’t bring grief to him, his family, or associates.

I don’t know about the corruption and smuggling bit. And I am not impressed that the Americans are doing what they are doing. That said, however, the conduct on the human rights front by the police Gen Kayihura headed for nearly 13 years left many a casual observer appalled. The tear gas, the beatings/torture, the detentions.

There was a brutality that attended these actions that was so egregious it was hard to fully understand its inspiration, even if one understood its ends to being power retention by President Museveni and the NRM party.

Could be the inspiration was the knowledge that one would never be held to account. Some of us remember when Gen Kayihura’s supporters — led by a self-styled boda boda leader named Abdallah Kitatta who also was a client of the police chief — stormed a Kampala courtroom to intimidate the magistrate to not have Gen Kayihura appear to answer to torture allegations. Ironically, both men have tasted the cells: Kitatta is serving eight years in jail for illegal gun possession, and Gen Kayihura, as noted, is out on bail.

Will the tragic, if self-inflicted, fall of these men serve as caution to many of the crazies who remain in the government? Hard to say. All I know is that if I were the “another government employee” used to smuggle stuff or to beat up fellow citizens for politics, I would be very afraid. If it’s not the Americans today, it will be the officials of a new government knocking at the door tomorrow. On Friday the 13th.

Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.