Four years on katebe: Is Kayihura down and out?

Former IGP, Gen Kale Kayihura, at the General Court Martial in Makindye, Kampala, in 2018. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • March marks exactly four years since the former IGP was dropped and arraigned before the army court. With district leaders and some high-ranking army Generals pleading for his forgiveness, does Gen Kayihura have a chance of a comeback?

On the evening of March 4, 2018, President Museveni brought the curtain down on Gen Kale Kayihura’s tenure as Inspector General of Police (IGP). The sacking came as a bit of a surprise given that it came less than a year after Mr Museveni had handed him another three-year contract to lead the Force.

The General, who had over the years held various positions, including that of staff officer in the Office of Assistant Minister of Defence, chief political commissar-cum-director of political education in the National Resistance Army (NRA), now UPDF, and also headed the Anti-Smuggling Unit (ASU), took over as IGP in November 2005 from another soldier, Gen Edward Katumba Wamala.

Kayihura, who went on to become the longest serving IGP, was barred from travelling out of the country and arraigned before the General Court Martial. He was charged with failure to protect war materials contrary to the UPDF Act; failure to supervise and ensure accountability for the arms and ammunitions issued to specialised units and; aiding and abetting kidnapping from Uganda.

He was released on bail after about 76 days in custody and has been very quiet since.


The arrival of the soldiers, especially that of Gen Kayihura, in police had been viewed as the NRM’s way of trying to bring a Force that it always viewed with suspicion under its control.

Shortly after taking power, NRM subjected the Force to a purge that retired former Deputy IGP, Mr Julius Odwe, says reduced it from 12,000 officers to 5,000. 

However, by the time Gen Kayihura took over from Gen Katumba, it had been rebuilt to 14,000. It was receiving only about Shs50b per year though.

“It took government a long time to build the police to the status which Gen Kale Kayihura found it in 2005,” Mr Odwe recalls.

It was, however, matters politics that seemed to have been affecting the Force most. Mr Museveni suffered heavy defeats at polling stations near all police barracks in 1996 and 2011.

On August 31, 2002, while speaking at the wedding reception of a police cadet Muhabwe Labani in Kitagata, he said that police officers would happily vote for a cow instead of him.

“Even if a cow stood against me in a police barracks, it will get 100 votes and I get 10 votes. I always lost badly in their barracks,” he said.

He concluded by saying he would recruit cadres to right the wrongs in the there. It would, therefore, appear that his brief was to “sanitise” the Force.

Mr Muwanga Kivumbi, the Shadow minister for Finance, who was the Shadow minister for Internal Affairs during the span of the 10th Parliament told Sunday Monitor in a previous interview that if Kayihura’s mission had been to ‘‘sanitise’’ the Force, it was one that he had delivered on.

The 2011 general election coincided with the outbreak of the Arab Spring that saw regime changes in North Africa.  Back home, government found itself faced with the Walk-to-Work protests. That Kayihura did a “great” job in containing the Opposition protests cannot be in doubt.

The problem is that he seemed to have opted to employ a Machiavellian approach. His guiding principle seemed to be the dictum that, “the end justifies the means”.

His promotion to the rank of General in May/June 2013 was perhaps a reward from his commander-in-chief who had on several occasions lavished praise on Gen Kayihura for being a good cadre.

During his tenure, facilitation to police was increased from Shs50b in 2005 to Shs500b, manpower was increased from 14,000 to 43,668, the number of vehicles increased from 572 to more than 5,000 and the Force also acquired two helicopters.

Staying perched

Mr Muwanga Kivumbi, who also suffered brutal arrests under Kayihura’s watch, described his actions as a demonstration of an unwavering loyalty to the President, which have enabled him serve as IGP for such a long period of time.

“He has been a trusted cadre and very loyal to the President. He was his aide and he had developed a very close personal relationship. He understood him and did his bidding. He also managed to subordinate the police to Museveni and NRM. He recruited cadres to execute the mission of both Museveni and the NRM,” he says.

At the same time, he was pivotal in reaching out to groups of people that Mr Museveni and the NRM had never been able to reach out to. This could be seen from the way he mobilised to collect more than 500,000 people and form them into what he called crime preventers, who were actually cadres of the NRM.

Why then did the President abruptly bring the curtain down on the tenure of such a good cadre and even frog march him to the court martial?

While campaigning in Kisoro in January last year, Mr Museveni said that he would consider a request by Kisoro District NRM leaders to pardon Gen Kayihura.

“Kale Kayihura, just like the (Kisoro LC5) chairman said; there’re those who committed heavy sins and we forgave them. So then why don’t we forgive him! Because you’ve asked and said he’s our person (NRM) I’ll speak to the military prosecution and tell them your request and also add in my request to have him forgiven,” Mr Museveni said.

Is Kayihura finished?

In December last year, the Commander of Land Forces, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, pleaded with the President to pardon Gen Kayihura.

“Gen K Kayihura was one of those special cadres in the early 1990s who inspired us to serve our nation. Others were late Generals Mayombo and Kazini. If he made mistakes, let us use revolutionary methods of work to rectify them. I request the CIC to forgive and rehabilitate him,” Muhoozi said in a tweet.

There is no evidence so far to suggest that Mr Museveni has positively responded to the pleas of the leaders of Kisoro or those of his son. The question now is, Is Gen Kayihura down and out? Or is he down, but not out?

Mr Muwanga Kivumbi, did not believe so when Gen Kayihura was first arrested in 2018 and he still does not believe so.

“He created the best trained and most educated police force Uganda ever had. He helped to improve the Force’s infrastructure in the form of houses and training schools. They have their own headquarters in Naguru. Those are outstanding contributions for which he will always take credit. I don’t think he is finished,” he says.

Rehabilitation of estranged cadres

At the same time, it should be noted that Mr Museveni has a long history of removing people only to later pick them up and reappoint them to key positions.

In 1987, he fired Gen Elly Tumwine from the post of Army Commander, but Gen Tumwine has since bounced back. He has now been appointed to replace Gen Tumukunde as Minister for Security. In 1989, he fired his brother, Maj Gen Salim Saleh from the post of Army Commander, but later named him his senior advisor on defence and security, commander of the army’s Reserve Force, Cabinet as Minister for Microfinance. He is now in-charge of Operation Wealth Creation.

Gen Tumukunde who was fired from Cabinet on the same day Gen Kayihura was fired, had fallen out with Mr Museveni after serving as Fourth Division Commander and director of ISO. 

He was rehabilitated and played a major part in Mr Museveni’s campaign team ahead of the 2016 general elections before being reappointed to Cabinet. Never mind that Gen Tumukunde still went on to challenge Mr Museveni for the presidency in 2021.

Former prime minister and NRM secretary general Amama Mbabazi, who fell out with Mr Museveni in 2015 before challenging his former boss for the presidency, is now back in the NRM fold. Last October, it emerged that Mr Museveni had named the former premier as a special envoy to South Sudan and Ethiopia.

So if Gen Kayihura’s achievements and Mr Museveni’s history of dealing with his in and out of favour cadres are anything to go by, Gen Kayihura is down, at least for now, but not out.