Kisoro rejoices at Gen Kayihura’s freedom

The former Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, walks out of the General Court Martial in Makindye, Kampala, after charges against him were dropped yesterday. PHOTOS | ISAAC KASAMANI

What you need to know:

  • Many community leaders and ordinary folk in this remote rural enclave in the deep southwest of Uganda rejoiced at his freedom, expressing boundless joy, a sense of relief and a cautious hope for new beginnings.

From the steep hills and along the deep, wide valleys of chilly and mountainous Kisoro District, news that Gen Kale Kayihura had been set free by the country’s top military court was proclaimed loud and proud yesterday morning.

Many community leaders and ordinary folk in this remote rural enclave in the deep southwest of Uganda rejoiced at his freedom, expressing boundless joy, a sense of relief and a cautious hope for new beginnings.

A hope that their “treasured son” would be rehabilitated. That he could bounce back into government where, in his heyday, the General presided over the country’s security and police forces with almost limitless power.

Yet this freedom did not come cheap. It has taken six years since his arrest in June 2018 for high crimes against the state. The storied officer was detained without trial at Makindye Military Police barracks in Kampala for more than 70 days. On securing bail, his movements were restricted as his fate hang in the balance.

Therefore, for many, the dropping of all charges against Gen Kayihura was received as an early Christmas present from President Museveni to the Bafumbira people.  It was said to be an affirmation of the grace of God.

The head of the local chamber of commerce and business community in Kisoro, Mr Expedito Byansi, happily spoke for many, paying homage to the higher power for enabling the absolution of the former Inspector General of Police.

“Praise be to God that our son, Kale Kayihura, has finally been set free!” he gushed.

Within that adulation, the political implications were also apparent almost immediately the Army General Court Martial had on Wednesday morning cut Gen Kayihura loose.

Thanking the “Almighty God for keeping Kayihura alive”, Mr Byansi also praised President Museveni for fulfilling his promise to pardon him. Mr Byansi said: “The Bafumbira now have all the reasons to continue supporting the NRM government 100 percent in the next general elections.”

This enthusiasm was echoed in the voice of district chairman, Mr Abel Bizimana, who appealed to the President to redeploy Gen Kayihura.

They were grateful that all the charges against him were dropped. Bizimana also expressed “special thanks to President Museveni and the first son, Gen Muhozi Kainerugaba, whom I am sure played a great role in setting free our son”.

“It’s our humble appeal to President Museveni to consider appointing Kale Kayihura to a strategic leadership position, preferably a ministerial job or the head of any parastatal, so that he can serve the people in the country he worked for,” he said.

The district leader hailed the former police chief and blue-eyed boy of the President for his contribution to the community’s development, including helping many jobless graduates from Kisoro get employment in the police.

Because their “treasured son” is now a free man, the secretary for social services here, Mr Martin Hakizimana said, the Bafumbira have a reason to smile.

“We are trying to mobilise our colleagues to organise a party to celebrate,” he said.

About Gen Kayihura

Gen Kayihura’s story is well-known: emerging from the bushes of Luweero as a bit-part player in the five-year guerilla war, which brought Mr Museveni to power in 1986 to command military units here and broad, including during the ill-fated 1990s expedition into the DR Congo, he was a close lieutenant of the President.

Upon being appointed to head the police, Mr Museveni would later lionise him as an ideologically committed and true regime cadre. Gen Kayihura did not disappoint, fulfilling his functions as an enforcer with single-minded dedication -- making many enemies along the way, both in and outside of government.

His fall, though largely expected given the subsequent excesses of the police under him, was spectacular. Hardly three months after he was sacked from the police leadership in March 2018, Gen Kayihura was arrested and later dragged before the General Court Martial in August that very year.

Among the charges, he was accused of failing to protect war materials contrary to Section 33 of the UPDF Act and was liable on conviction to suffer death.

He also faced charges of abetting the kidnap and illegal repatriation of Rwandan refugees who were reportedly fleeing danger back home, and failing to supervise officers under his command.