For a long time, Uganda’s immediate former Inspector General of Police, Gen Edward Muhwezi Kale Kayihura (2005- 2018), went by the moniker ‘a loyal cadre’ of the President. He was so close to President Museveni, that he was viewed as powerful and seemingly untouchable. Then the President not only dropped him like an unpalatable hot potato, but also jailed him and left him to his own devices as he faced prosecution. Now he is in some more hot water despite putting on a brave face.
The US Government has under the Global Magnitsky Act, sanctioned Kayihura for his role in what it described as ‘serious human rights abuses and corruption.’ The Magnitsky Act, is formally known as the Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. It was intended to punish Russian officials responsible for the 2009 death of Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky, 37, in a Moscow prison cell where he had been held for 11 months.
In 2007, Magnitsky was hired by American-born British financier Bill Browder to investigate the Russian government’s seizure of three of Browder’s Russian subsidiaries. Magnitsky implicated two senior police officers for embezzlement in relation to Browder’s companies.
In an act of impunity, the police officers then arrested Magnitsky and charged him with the very crime he had exposed. Since 2016 the Bill, which applies globally, authorises the US Government to sanction those who it sees as human rights offenders, freezing their assets, and banning them from entering the US.
When the rather verbose Kayihura was appointed way back in 2005 replacing Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, he hit the ground running, promising heaven on earth. Before long, it turned out that Kayihura would be more than the loyal cadre that most people claimed he was. He became the equivalent of Bwiruka of the Kinyankore lore; the one who was praised for being a fast runner and indeed he ran past his own home!
Kayihura was an unrepentant, unreasonable and unstoppable NRM party activist whose strategy to set himself a stage on which to play to the gallery was simple. The script was always the same; one trick from a one track mind. For instance, he would shock and awe with mainly concoctions that he described as ‘intelligence reports’ that there were terrorists who intended to burn the city.
Terrorist here was liberally used to describe whoever was perceived to be an enemy of the NRM government in most cases. He would then deploy police officers and some rogue elements passing as security agents who had a licence to visit violence on whoever they felt was not compliant in this quest to secure Uganda.
Securing Uganda here meant safeguarding the interests of the ruling NRM for which he was batting. They would bar people whom he assumed were going to cause trouble from leaving their homes (local travel ban,) stop rallies and demonstrations of the Opposition, etc. If they felt that a court decision was wrong, they would either be complicit in helping to have it ignored or would forcefully demonstrate their displeasure like re-arresting those who had been granted bail, right on courts premises.
During his reign, militias, the likes of the Kiboko Squad – a group of stick-wielding lumpens supplemented the Uganda Police Force’s efforts to ‘keep law and order.’ He praised their efforts as the acts of local business people fed up of disruptions in the city thus acknowledging this illegal mob action. To be in Kayihura’s good books, anyone irrespective of their criminal record would only have to show loyalty by any means (even extra-legal) to the cause of perpetuating the NRM in power and they were good to go.
That is how Boda Boda 2010 managed to stick out its ugly head like a sore thumb, terrorising motorcycle taxi riders under the watch of the police force. It is how crime preventers, many of whom were known to commission crime and other militias, ruled the roost under Kayihura’s watch.
No wonder so many people were murdered during his time as police chief, yet for all the resources at his disporsal, nearly none of the perpetrators were convicted. Instead as a compromise, we were always treated to a parade of suspects who were tortured as an appeasement that something was being done. From the Muslim clerics, Joan Kagezi, the women of Entebbe to then Deputy IGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi we are still in the dark.
But God does not forget his people. Kayihura now knows that the world is much bigger than the little town in which he and his ilk could break the law then brag that they were immune to criticism and prosecution. Their reason; they sacrificed their lives in the jungles of Luweero fighting dictatorship while the rest ate sausages and hid under their beds.
Kayihura now understands that being a General in these banana republics with a close relationship to what is called ‘above’ is not a guarantee that one is safe until they leave this world. This is because above that ‘above’ are the bigger boys who rule and bully the world as they please.
The way Field Marshal Saddam Hussein, Gen Manuel Noriega, Gen Augustine Pinochet and Col Muammar Gadaffi, who were more powerful than Kayihura are there for him and his ilk to see.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues.