Do I feel sorry for Kayihura over US sanctions? No, I don’t

Asuman Bisiika

What you need to know:

  • Delegated power. There is always a red line for delegated power; just don’t cross it. But Gen Kale Kayihura did. And worse, he even started giving this delegated power a life of its own.

All Rwandans were supposed to know Dr Sam Nkusi, the PDG (chairman and managing director) of Rwandatel, the national telco.
A very flamboyant fellow, it was not uncommon for Nkusi to get out of his big car, dress up in overalls and jump into a manhole to fix some technical this or that. But what made him a name was Rwandatel’s ‘arbitrary’ disconnection of fees-defaulting phone lines. Nkusi was so famous (actually infamous) that he was nicknamed Rwanda Sam by Kigalians.

People complained and petitioned authorities. He explained that the system was automated and it would cost Rwandatel lots of money to reconfigure it. Mr Paul Kagame agreed with him. Case closed. Rwandan Sam reigned.
Dr Nkusi, as he always insisted I address him, was a real powerful man who had exclusive access to the source of power. And his ‘powerfulness’ increased when the RPF bought shares in MTN Rwandacel (must have been RPF’s first investment). Actually, at some time, Rwanda Sam was the CEO of Rwandatel and MTN Rwandacel. Thank the gods, Dr Nkusi was not a soldier.

Yet for all his faults, Dr Nkusi should be recognised as the father of the digital phenomenon in Rwanda. When the Internet was introduced, all telephone lines were Internet- loaded. We, Rwandans, had ATMs before Uganda. Dr Nkusi was (still is) a genius. But as is always commonplace in such power games, those to whom power is delegated tend to overplay their hands with it. One day, Dr Nkusi had an avoidable tiff with the Tanzanian Ambassador over a parking slot at Telecom House on Avenue de l’Umuganda.

In response, Ambassador Gen Mwakalindile immediately shifted the Embassy Offices from the corporate Telecom House to some ‘ordinary’ neighbourhood behind the Ministry of Justice. Unfortunately, that very day, Mr Paul Kagame was going to Tanzania for a working visit. And bang! Dr Nkusi’s stock of ‘powerfuleness’ started going down after that incident.
From that day, Tanzanians became ‘unco-operative’. One day, the Tanzanians almost exposed ‘us’ (and our little brave games) to the Ugandans (in the small matter of Uganda’s PRA rebels). The intelligence linked Tanzania’s ‘hostility’ to Dr Nkusi. And Dr Nkusi had to pay.

Gen Kale Kayihura overplayed his hand with delegated power. And he has to pay. His cries that he was working on orders are actually hollow. He should not have weaponised his proximity to the President.
Orders from above (written or verbal) are as good as the law allows. Thereafter, it is always the executor of the order to account (in most cases as an individual). That’s why I laughed hard when Gen Kayihura said the US was soiling his good name. And then he was later to be quoted as saying he wanted to negotiate with the US.
Isn’t this the Kayihura who claimed responsibility for the kidnap of Dr Stella Nyanzi (and scandalising some of us by calling it an arrest)? Do you still remember the tall tales Kayihura weaved to make a case for the Kasese killings of November 2016?

But point of departure from Gen Kayihura was when he publicly claimed responsibility for the raid on Parliamentary Chambers. From that day, I concluded that Gen Kayihura lacked the sophistication and temperament to run or hold that venerable office of the IGP of the Uganda (at least the one created by the Constitution).
There is always a red line for delegated power; just don’t cross it. But Gen Kale Kayihura did. And worse, he even started giving this delegated power a life of its own. Do I feel sorry for US sanction on him? No, I don’t.