Army command, power in Uganda police widens
What you need to know:
- President Museveni has deployed military officers to six of the 20 top positions in police, stalling progression of career police officers.
Maj Tom Magambo, a senior intelligence officer at the Internal Security Organisation, yesterday took over office as Police’s Director of Criminal Investigations (CID), replacing career police officer Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Grace Akullo.
AIGP Akullo had been at the helm of the directorate for a decade, having risen from a cadet officer when she enlisted as a graduate trainee in 2001.
Yesterday’s change of guard at the CID headquarters in Kibuli, a Kampala suburb, made spy chief Magambo the seventh military officer to serve as director in Uganda Police Force, which under Uganda’s Constitution is a civilian law enforcement agency.
The handover was presided over by Maj Gen Jack Bakasumba, a senior military officer deployed as a pioneer Chief of Joint Staff in police in July 2019. He is being replaced by Maj Gen Abel Kandiho, the immediate past chief of Military Intelligence, the spy outfit of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).
The position of Chief of Joint Staff reportedly does not exist in the formal police structure approved by the Ministry of Public Service.
However, months after Maj Gen Bakasumba was named the police Chief of Joint Staff, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Martins Okoth-Ochola handed control of all of the institution’s procurements, except purchase of firewood, sugar and salt at the region level.
“Ration requisition, consumable, [and] stationery must go through the office of the Chief of Joint Staff for scrutiny and approval. Construction requisition of all police projects should go through the office of Chief of Joint Staff for scrutiny,” IGP Ochola ordered in the January 2020 communication.
Police sources at the time told this newspaper that the consolidation of procurement, which previously was the mandate of finance and administration, was to stamp out graft and fraud.
Yesterday’s leadership change at CID meant that President Museveni, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, has now deployed military officers to six of the 20 top positions in Uganda Police Force, stalling progression of career police officers.
These include Deputy IGP, Maj Gen Godfrey Tumusiime Katsigazi; Chief of Joint Staff, Maj Gen Kandiho; CID director, Maj Tom Magambo; Human Resource and Development Director, Col Godfrey Golooba; Human Resource (Administration and Management) Director, Maj Gen Jesse Kamunanwire; and Crime Intelligence Director, Brig Christopher Ddamulira.
In addition, the Police Air Wing is commanded by UPDF officer, Col Patrick Mbayo Mutome.
More than 100 soldiers are deployed in lower police units like in the directorate of ICT and Crime Intelligence.
The positions that the military officers occupy give them tight control of the policy making and high degree of decision making in the police, crowding out some police personnel from operational and strategic work.
With the new deployments of military officers in key Police Force positions means there will be more soldiers than police on the Police Authority, which is the highest organ of the police.
The Police Authority comprises eight members and its secretary is the Internal Affairs Ministry Permanent Secretary, Lt Gen Joseph Musanyufu, himself a senior military officer.
The ministry is the political head of police and the line minister is Maj Gen (Rtd) Kahinda Otafiire, one of the historical members of the UPDF. He chairs the Police Authority meeting on which IGP Ochola is the only active-duty career police officer who sits.
Other members are Maj Gen Katsigazi, Maj Gen Kamunanwire, the former Inspector General of Police, John Cossy Odomel, the former Mayor of Entebbe Municipality Stephen Kabuye, and Ambassador David Mwaka.
According to the Police Act, the Police Authority determines terms and conditions of service in the police force, appointments of senior officers and also advises on the policy matters in the Force.
In the day-to-day running of the police, the military now occupies four of the top six posts in the police. These are DIGP Tumusiime, CID director Maj Magambo, Maj Gen Kamunanwire and Brig Ddamulira.
Senior police officers, who talked to the Daily Monitor on condition of anonymity, said the appointment of soldiers in top police directorates has led to the fusion of police and military operations.
For instance, the Special Investigations Division at Kireka is jointly managed by police and military officers, with the soldiers having an upper hand on suspects and decision-making although the facility and documentation used belong to police.
“Even during Gen Kale Kayihura’s regime as IGP, it was difficult for a suspect to be arrested by police and end up in a military facility without due process. We even had a challenge on who manages 2010 terror suspects. Right now, there are no boundaries,” one of the top police commanders said.
Most of the incidents were a fusion of the military and police that happened during the recent general elections and thereafter.
Before President Museveni took power in 1986, previous regimes, including the military government of Idi Amin, didn’t deploy military officers to command police.
That changed almost immediately after the National Resistance Army (NRA) succeeded to capture State power. For example, the late Aronda Nyakairima, then an army captain, was one of the first NRA soldiers sent to the police.
He was deployed at Central Police Station, Kampala. Others joined police, but at lower positions and they were later sent to police training schools to retrain to become attested police officers as per the police law.
We were unable to get an explanation from State House on why the President prefers to deploy senior military officers to top police posts as Senior Presidential Spokesperson, Ms Lindah Nabusayi, did not answer or return our telephone calls.
Similarly, Information minister and government spokesman Chris Baryomunsi was unreachable.
Mr Simeo Nsubuga, a former police officer and legislator, said the Constitution gives the President powers to deploy a military officer in the police if he or she wishes.
“But the issue of whether they will be able to perform to the expectation of the public and the appointing authority lies on the individual officer deployed. If the soldier is willing to learn police work, he or she is going to do wonders,” he said yesterday.
Mr Nsubuga cites the example of Gen Katumba Wamala, the first army general under President Museveni to command police in 2001. He said Gen Katumba took time to study the police and subsequently performed well.
“When Gen Katumba came to the police, he said he was learning on the job and then working with the existing team. He learnt and the teams helped him,” he said.
He said if the soldiers work with the existing teams, especially in the CID, they will perform well.
But in an earlier interview, the former Director General of Internal Security Organisation, Col Kaka Bagyenda, said CID is rotten to the core and that Maj Magambo would fail if he worked with the detectives in place.
It is unclear why President Museveni has intensified deployment of military officers to do police work, but he has previously rebuked career police officers as lazy, corrupt and infested with criminal elements.
He also said they lack clarity of ideology. The erosion of the Force began at low intensity, with the disbandment of the Special Branch, which was considered meticulous in investigating criminal cases. It was alleged some of the personnel were proxies for foreign interests.
In the past, President Museveni also said he would lose an election at Nsambya Police Barracks, the biggest in the country, even if he stood against a cow. This followed a string of polling losses he suffered at police stations across the country when he began subjecting himself to the vote.
From the time Gen Katumba took charge of police, the military have dominated overall direction including in the person of longest-serving police chief, Gen Kale Kayihura, who focused more on logistics and law enforcement than the welfare of the officers.
President Museveni initially praised him as a “loyal cadre”, but dropped him in March 2017 after publicly accusing police of being infested with “bean weevils” and criminals.
Gen Kayihura was replaced with his deputy Okoth-Ochola, a lawyer and career police officer. Okoth-Ochola was, however, undergirded with Maj Gen Paul Lokech, another senior army commander promoted posthumously to a Lieutenant General when died after a short illness last year.
President Museveni side-stepped eligible replacements from the top crop of career police officers, and tapped Maj Gen Katsigazi to be the number two in the civilian Force.
In an interview yesterday, Mr Muwanga Kivumbi, the MP for Butambala, said position soldiers in police isn’t about improvement of the welfare or the standard of policing, but “regime patrolling”. “The army is now the most trusted institution for retention of power. Deploying the military in the police is an issue of strategic control of the police,” MP Muwanga said.
It is not only police being militarised, but other sectors where the army has lead role, according to the Opposition lawmaker. The soldiers have been deployed in running Operation Wealth Creation after years of flailing government poverty eradication programmes.
Last year, President Museveni also ordered that key infrastructure projects in health and education should be handed over for implementation by UPDF engineers.
MP Muwanga, who until last year was the shadow minister of Internal Affairs, said unfortunately ballooning police budget, which rose under military commanders from Shs50b to nearly Shs1 trillion, had not translated into significant improvement in the welfare of the rank-and-file of police.
“Most of the increment in the police budgets go to classified expenditure that is buying military grade equipment. The money doesn’t go to CID or increase the wage of the police officers, but buying weapons to keep the regime in power,” he said.