UK sanctions spark Kayihura fight back

The former Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura (centre), with UK police trainers at Kololo in Kampala, in 2010. The British government has imposed travel restrictions and an asset freeze on Gen Kayihura. Photo | Andrew Bagala

What you need to know:

  • The new sanctions, which come four years after a similar one on related grounds by the United States government, also provide for freezing of assets owned or linked to the four-star general.

The British government has imposed travel restrictions and an asset freeze on former Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, accusing him of grotesque rights violations while in-charge of the Uganda Police Force.

The new sanctions, which come four years after a similar one on related grounds by the United States government, also provide for freezing of assets owned or linked to the four-star general.

“Kayihura was the Inspector General of the Ugandan Police Force between 2005 and 2018. Kayihura is an involved person under the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 because he is or has been responsible for activity that violates the right to life and the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” ,” the statement adding him to the United Kingdom sanctions list reads.

In a rejoinder by his lawyers, Gen Kayihura scoffed at his blacklisting as inconsequential since he neither owns nor transacts finances through the UK and counter-accused London of simply of regurgitating already debunked claims by the US against him.

Washington sanctioned Kayihura, still an active-duty military general facing trial at Uganda’s army court, in 2018 for allegedly superintending the violation of rights and torture of suspects and engaging in corrupt practices when he led the police until March of that year.

He denied the accusations by the Donald Trump administration as he has dismissed the December 8 accusations levelled against him by London.

“At that time the US sanctioned Gen Kayihura, the UK didn’t agree with the US about the sanctions. M5 (UK’s domestic spy agency) told them (Americans) that the allegations were false because they (US and UK agents) both came here and interacted with the terror suspects,” Mr Jet Tumwebaze of Kampala Associated Advocates said in yesterday’s statement on behalf of Gen Kayihura.

He added: “In fact, after the success of the case, they [foreign governments] awarded Gen Kayihura an award as one of the best police officers in Africa.”

On Friday, the UK government sanctioned Gen Kayihura on allegations of violating human rights during his tenure as the Inspector General of Police between 2005 and 2018.

The former police chief studied at the University of London in 1981, obtaining a Master’s in Law degree.

The new ban now means Gen Kayihura, fondly called KK in heydays, is an unwelcome guest on UK soil and can neither wire money through British banks nor benefit from UK government funds.

After he was dropped as IGP in March 2018, Gen Kayihura was arrested on charges in the General Court Martial of failing to protect war materials, supervising police officers and abetting kidnap in the military court before he was given bail. His prosecution is pending.

Both the American and British punishment of Gen Kayihura stem from claims that suspects arrested in relation to the twin bombings in Kampala City on July 11, 2010 in which 76 people died were tortured under his watch.

Secret agents from both countries were invited and participated in the interrogations, and the court dismissed the suspects’ claims that they were tortured. Most of the suspects were eventually convicted and imprisoned.

Mr Tumwebaze said when the US first brought up the torture allegations, they engaged the former US Ambassador to Uganda, Ms Deborah Malac, and other embassy officials to establish specifics of the case against their client.

“… They (American officials) didn’t come up with the specifics. The evidence they presented, we debunked them. The allegations centred on suspects in the 2010 terrorism case. Each of those allegations had been fully investigated and each still has a file. They promised to get back to us. They didn’t,” he said.

He claimed that the Western states are just using the human rights issue as a cover for their imperial goals.

“They were doing their imperialistic work using human rights allegations as a cover while violating Gen Kale’s rights. What does your child and wife have to do with your work?” he said, adding, “If you have a case, bring it and give the accused the right to be heard. Over time, some sober people get out of office and those doing politics come in. They are regurgitating the same old allegations.”

The lawyer said Gen Kayihura played a frontline role in advancing rights protection and promotion, especially in the forces, citing the establishment of the Professional Standards Unit in Uganda Police Force to check the excesses of officers.

He, however, said they are willing to have an engagement with the UK government as they had with the US government so that their client’s defence can be heard.

During Gen Kayihura’s tenure, US diplomats including former US Ambassador Steven Browning, and European envoys and their experts were permanent furniture at the police events.

As the chairperson of the security subcommittee of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting National Task Force, he worked hand-in-hand with the UK security agencies to secure the event.

The US even sent Dr Nick Walling, an expert in community policing, to Police Training School Kabalye, Masindi District, to train officers.

But the western powers were in part rattled by Gen Kayihura’s hobnobbing with North Koreans and Iranians, both under United Nations sanctions, as well as Turkey. Some western countries even offered to give Uganda twice the type of aid it was getting from the three countries if they terminated their police relationships.

Contacted for government comment on the UK sanction against a senior Ugandan military officer, the State Minister for ICT, Mr Godfrey Kabbyanga, said the army or Defence ministry were best placed to respond.

Brig Felix Kulayigye, the UPDF spokesman, said he hadn’t been briefed about the sanctions and was, therefore, unable to comment.

Mr Moses Kasibante, the former legislator of Rubaga North Constituency, who was among the people arrested severally during Gen Kayihura’s tenure, said the sanctions against the former police chief came too little, too late.

“If the sanctions came when he was still the Inspector General of Police, it would have made an impact. Now [Gen] Kayihura is just an ordinary Ugandan and may not have interest in going to the UK,” he said.


The Opposition and civil society organisations accuse  the Gen Kayihura-led police of rights abuse that they say occured during the Kayunga riot in 2009, Walk-to-Work protests and the general elections of 2006, 2011 and 2016. Several people were killed and others injured in these events.