Why Museveni dropped CMI boss Gen Kandiho

Maj Gen Abel Kandiho. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Analysts cite the recent US sanctions, Muhoozi visit to Rwanda and Gen Kandiho’s performance in regional, political, and security operations.

Analysts and lawmakers last evening dug into what the army leadership called “a routine transfer” and linked the sacking Chief of Military Intelligence, Maj Gen Abel Kandiho, to Uganda’s frosty relationship with Kigali and the recent US sanctions.

The President Museveni yesterday dropped Maj Gen Abel Kandiho with Maj Gen James Birungi as the new CMI director.

The President posted Maj Gen Kandiho to neighbouring South Sudan as Head of Security Monitoring Mechanism.

He was replaced three days after President’s son Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the Land Forces Commander, returned from Rwanda where he held closed-door meeting with President Paul Kagame. The details of the meeting were not made public but Lt Gen Muhoozi reached unity between the two brotherly nations.

“I have been alive long enough to know that Uganda and Rwanda are one country!  In exile in the 1980s me and my family were also called ‘Rwandans’. Only enemies would fight for our unity. Let us resolve these small problems quickly and move forward together as always,” Lt Gen Muhoozi sent out a tweet with a photo with his “uncle” Paul Kagame.

While it’s unclear whether the decision to drop Maj Gen Kandiho was in any way requested by president Kagame as MPs and other analysts claim, the army spokesperson, Lt Col Ronald Kakurungu, explained in a statement that: “This is one of the routine transfers and reassignments and in the line with the prerogative of the commander-in-chief to transfer, assign and appoint officers of the UPDF in areas where he deems them fit to serve from time to time.”

Dr Gerald Kagambirwe Karyeija, an Associate Professor of Public Administration and Dean School of Management Sciences at Uganda Management Institute, and Prof Solomon Asiimwe, a scholar of international relations and security, yesterday linked Maj Gen Kandiho to Rwanda.  

Dr Karyeija, without delving into the specifics cited the recent US sanctions; the recent Muhoozi visit to Rwanda and Kandiho’s exception performance in regional, political and covert security operations as basis for the transfer. 

Last December, Gen Kandiho joined a growing list of Ugandan security chiefs such as former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Maj Gen Kale Kayihur, to be sanctioned by the US.

The US was the first to condemn the November 18, 2020 killing of 54 people and wounding of several others in protests and riots.

According to Prof Asiimwe, Uganda is a sovereign state and it has full powers in transferring and appointing the army leadership, Americans cannot force Uganda to do what they do not want, that’s why they never acted.

“I can also connect it [Kandiho transfer] [to] the visit of Gen Muhoozi to Rwanda, because ...Rwanda has been complaining about Abel Kandiho as a person who was sponsoring people fighting Rwanda, the transfer came immediately after Muhoozi’s visit and may be Rwanda was tired of Abel’s leadership at CMI,” Prof Asiimwe said.

However, Lt Col Kakurungu said: “I can only respond if those complaints were brought to the attention of UPDF, besides if there was a complainant anywhere, there are mechanisms of how they are reported, the government of Uganda and [that] of Rwanda have established mechanisms at a senior level.” “Even these engagements that have going on between Rwanda and Uganda, there are established communication channels at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs levels even at levels of the President, so there was anything, it would be filed and received,” he added.

Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba also agreed with Prof Asiimwe, saying: “I can only speculate as one of the conditions set by Kagame to normalise the relationships with Uganda.”

On the connections with the US sanctions, Mr Niwagaba said: “The sanctions are largely personal in nature and wouldn’t affect an office that would ordinarily have no much  connection to foreign policy.  However, don’t rule out the influence in terms of evidence and other information given to US government by Rwanda against him…”

According to Dr Karyeija, in the transfer of Gen Kandiho, “there was kind of defiance against the Americans , if President Museveni had dropped him and give him a lite assignment, the Americans would have earned but now he is given a big post and he is going to be meeting the American security chiefs in South Sudan.”

Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Muwada Haroon Nkunyingi questioned Gen Kandiho’s transfer on account of the US  sanctions.

“Even in the circumstances that there must be investigations that are ongoing coupled with sanctions by the recognised international agency like US, ...it cannot serve Uganda’s international interests to find him deployed in a foreign country,” Mr Nkunyingi said.

The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Mathias Mpuuga, said: “Gen Kandiho’s deployment confirms the extent of regime insensitivity. He is supposed to be investigated and prosecuted for gross human rights violations, including murders and disappearance of citizens and torture.”

The deputy presidential press secretary, Mr Faruk  Kirunda, accused Opposition MPs faulting the President’s decision of playing to the gallery, and challenged them to compile the facts and take them to court.