During his time as the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura became the symbol of torment to the Opposition in Uganda, particularly the largest party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).
Gen Kayihura was termed ruthless in executing enforcement against the Opposition and accused of playing to the whims of the NRM government. He was on occasions hailed by the President as being a good NRM cadre.
History is not short of videos of beatings, teargas and sometimes fatal encounters between the police under Gen Kayihura’s leadership and the FDC. Former party leader and four time presidential contender Dr Kiiza Besigye on many occasions faced the wrath of the police under Gen Kayihura.
Gen Kayihura’s dramatic fall in 2018 following his unceremonious sacking and subsequent arrest and prosecution by the army was received with relief by the Opposition.
This explains the surprise when first time presidential contender and FDC's flag bearer Patrick Amuriat termed the sacking of Gen Kayihura as mistreatment. While campaigning in Kisoro, Gen Kayihura’s home district last Sunday, Mr Amuriat told the people to vote against incumbent Museveni for the mistreatment meted against the former police chief. Gen Kayihura was for long regarded as one of the influential Bush War comrades that had played a big role in maintaining the NRM’s strong grip on power.
This, without context, was an unexpected stand by the party that had, after Gen Kayihura’s sacking, called for an independent judicial commission to investigate the 13 years of his reign, citing allegations of human rights abuses.
“…this man[Kayihura] became the chief promoter of NRM, extremely partisan, chief promoter of crime and he did all this because Mr Museveni was there to defend him…We need to set up a probe, sort of judicial commission of inquiry into the last 13 years of Kayihura’s terror,” Mr Ssemujju Nganda, the FDC spokesperson, said in 2018.
According to media reports, Mr Amuriat accused Mr Museveni of using Gen Kayihura and later dumping him, which he said is representative of the lack of regard that the current government has for the people of Kisoro.
“Do not trust Mr Museveni with your vote because he is not your friend. Ask him what happened to your son Kale Kayihura,” Daily Monitor reported on Monday. For a party that spent years calling for the sacking and punishment of the former police head, the comments came as a surprise, raising questions as to whether the party had long forgotten its sour relationship with Gen Kayihura, and gone back on its position.
Mr Nganda, however, said the position of the party on Gen Kayihura has not changed. He explained that the context in which the statements were made is not in any way a form of vindication for what Kayihura did.
“The position, not just of FDC, but of Uganda remains that Kayihura was a ruthless commander of police who blindly executed the orders of his boss, the same way Ochola is doing. If Museveni said go and shoot people, he would shoot them so he takes personal responsibility for implementing unlawful orders.”
Mr Nganda explained that Mr Amuriat was simply showing the people of Kisoro, who are big supporters of the NRM party, that the President only keeps around those who do his dirty work.
“It is a warning that you do not allow Museveni to use you the way he used Kayihura, the same way your own was used. That was not in praise of Kayihura. Many of these people who are working with Museveni are victims, you saw police firing teargas at their own wives,”
Mr Kayihura’s 13 years at the helm, were characterised by a sour relationship with the main Opposition party, especially during the election periods of 2006, 2011 and 2016. Mr Kayihura was repeatedly accused of interference in party activities, as well as manhandling of top party officials.
Gen Kayihura was relieved of his duties as head of police in 2018 and replaced with his then deputy, Martins Okoth Ochola. Kayihura now faces cases of aiding and abetting the kidnapping, repatriating Rwandan exiles and refugees and Ugandan citizens to Rwanda between 2012 and 2016, and failure to protect war material by issuing arms to unauthorised persons