A few days ago, President Museveni made a mini-reshuffle in the Uganda Police Force (UPF) leadership. This comes exactly a month after it is alleged the Force mismanaged protests in Kampala after security forces arrested presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine.
In the reshuffle, President Museveni replaced Maj Gen Muzeyi Sabiiti, who until his deployment as Deputy Inspector General of Police (IGP) 33 months ago, deputised Lt Gen Muhoozi Kanierugaba, as commander of Special Forces Command with Maj Gen Lokech Paul,a battle hardened commander of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).
Currently, four other senior UPDF officers are serving as directors in the Uganda Police Force, and this addition of Maj Gen Lokech shows that soldiers will continue to retain a dominant foothold in the civilian Force.
Why would President Museveni bring in place a battled-hardened commander to steward the police, whose responsibility is to protect life and maintain internal law and order?
It is imperative to note that prior to this reshuffle, on December 9, the chairman of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mr Elliot Engel, named Maj Gen Sabiiti and others among senior UPDF officers that he asked the US Government to sanction for alleged rights violations.
Mr Mike Pompeo, the United Sates’s Secretary of State in a rejoinder, said they were closely monitoring certain individuals for human rights violations in Uganda. Some schools of thought suggest that replacing commanders like Maj Gen Sabiit and others early would prevent the Magnitsky Act sanctions, which includes travel and financial transaction blockades, from crippling operations of the key police and Special Force Command (SFC) offices they hold, if punished by Washington.
Therefore, replacing Gen Sabiiti with Gen Lokech, who is said to have a stellar record of service on international duty and more so foreign diplomacy, could work to avert the pending justification to directly get involved in a country’s internal democratic process disguised as protecting human rights like it happened in Egypt and Libya.
Others argue that President Museveni is replacing young and less experienced officers faced with a complex situation with older and more experienced commanders with a record of excellence in managing a fragile political situation in Kampala that may require Gen Lokech’s eloquence and calm approach like he did in Somalia, endearing him to the Somalis the nicknamed “the Lion of Mogadishu”.
Whether Gen Lokech will be the lion of Kampala or the lamb of Kampala is just a matter of time. Others think that the President is aware that the electoral process is ongoing as planned, but what is uncertain is what next in the aftermath of the election? The President needs his best foot soldiers with experience in urban warfare because Kampala, in his thinking, is likely to on the ground .
The media recently reported that President Museveni, while speaking during a campaign in Kotido District, is alledged to have said:
“Those who have been attacking NRM people in the Kampala area will soon lose that appetite, they have entered an area we know very well, the area of fighting, they will regret.” The protests, which took place in Kampala and other parts of the country, lead to the death of more than 54 people and more than 60others injured.
In the same address, President Museveni criticised foreign groups calling them homosexuals for sponsoring opposition protest in Uganda which could lead to an insurrections like in Egypt and Libya.
In all this, only time will tell whether Gen Lokech turns out to be the Lion or the Lamb of Kampala.
Mr David Martin Aliker is an opinion leader based in Gulu.