What you need to know:
- In the third instalment of this series, Isaac Mufumba spotlights the errors or shortcomings of the Gen Kale Kayihura’s overbearing character, which exacerbated with near catastrophic results a colonial-era standoff between the Inspector General of Police and the director of the Criminal Investigations Directorate.
There are two records from Gen Kale Kayihura’s 13-year tenure as Inspector General of Police (IGP) that he is in a hurry to forget.
The first is that his tenure was peppered with many high-profile murders. The second is that they remained cold cases on his watch.
In April 2022, when she handed over office after an 11-year tour of duty as Director of Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), retired former Assistant Inspector General of Police Grace Akullo expressed regret that she was leaving before the aforesaid cold cases had been solved.
They included the February 2020 killing of Sheikh Mutumba; the September 2018 killings of former Buyende District Police Commander Mohammad Kirumira and his friend, Ms Resty Nalinya; the July 2018 killing of former Arua Municipality Member of Parliament Ibrahim Abiriga, and his bodyguard Saidi Buga Kongo; the February 2018 killing of Susan Magara; and the March 2017 killing of former police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi.
Others are the November 2016 killing of Sheikh Maj Mohammed Kiggundu, and his bodyguard, Sgt Steven Mukasa; the June 2015 killing of Sheikh Ibrahim Hassan Kirya; the May 2015 killing of Sheikh Abdulrashid Wafula; and the March 2015 killing of Assistant Director of Public Prosecution Joan Kagezi.
On the same list are the December 2014 killings of Sheikh Mustafa Bahiga and Sheikh Daktur Abdul Khadir Muwaya; the April 20, 2012 killing of Sheikh Abdul Karim Sentamu; and the June 22, 2012 killing of Sheikh Abubaker Kiweewa.
Shortly after Kaweesi’s killing, thugs went on rampage in parts of Greater Masaka, Wakiso and Kampala, breaking into houses and dropping anonymous letters. They asked residents to make ready large sums of money and electronic devices for them to take away as and when they visited.
All of a sudden, the police appeared toothless in the face of a growing wave of crime. The retired former Deputy IGP, Mr Julius Odwe, blamed the deterioration of the situation on the drastic reduction in the Force’s investigative capacity and abilities. This, he believes, arose out of ill-informed decisions on the part of Gen Kayihura.
The first and biggest one, Mr Odwe says, was the disbandment of the Special Branch, a specialised unit for preventive intelligence to avert crime.
Some quarters have always attributed the decision to disband the Special Branch to Gen Kayihura’s “big ego.” They claim the unit was disbanded because it was seen as one that owed more allegiance to the resident district commissioners (RDCs) than to the IGP. Whichever way, Mr Odwe says the country is still feeling the effects of that decision.
“We had the attack on Lhubirira Secondary School in Mpondwe in which the students were killed. Where is the intelligence? There has been this talk about insecurity on the Entebbe Expressway and the Northern Bypass. Where is the intelligence?” he asks rhetorically, adding, “The crime intelligence which they established is nothing because those officers have never been prepared.”
An associate of Gen Kayihura’s told Saturday Monitor that he could not have disbanded the force without the consent of the Commander in Chief.
“Kayihura had a Minister for Internal Affairs above him and the President too. He could not have made the decision to disband the force without the consent and approval of the President,” our source said, adding, “He only implemented a decision that had been made at a very high level.”
Another source indicated that scrapping of the unit had been recommended by the International Police (Interpol) several years before the Special Branch was actually sent packing.
Mr Odwe has also always argued that haphazard reorganisation of the CID department saw inexperienced and ill-trained upstarts replace well-trained seasoned investigators.
“Most of the professional capabilities became history. The directorate of training and retraining for command and specialised work ceased to exist. Instead, an officer fresh from training is deployed directly in CID, irrespective of the rank or responsibility” the retired former Deputy IGP told Saturday Monitor.
Soon, a departure from practices such as the maintenance of serious crimes’ registries right from the regions to the centre in Kampala took root per Mr Odwe. Ditto the decision to render some of the seasoned investigators redundant.
“Katebe (undeployed) had been unknown to the police before 2006. There were many officers who I know were some of the best investigators, but may have been frustrated due to being underutilised. Some may have retired to avoid embarrassment,” he said.
Mr Odwe has previously argued that the police under Gen Kayihura had “the hardware” but not the “software required to do police work, especially interpretation of intelligence information.”
It is a conclusion that the former Political Commissar of the Force and retired AIGP Assan Kasingye dismissed out of hand.
“At the time Mr Odwe and myself joined the police, Uganda had not had to deal with terrorism-related challenges. We had never seen bombs dropped at restaurants or in Lugogo. The Force had to change the training regime in order to meet the challenges of the times,” he argued in a previous interview.
Mr Kasingye was referring to the July 11, 2010 suicide bombings during the screening of the 2010 World Cup final in Kampala. The bombs left 79 people at both Kyadondo Rugby Club and the Ethiopian Village in Kabalagala dead.
“Similarly, when I visited London in 1995, I never saw a gun at Heathrow Airport. But now, police officers there have machine guns. Uganda cannot be an exception,” Mr Kasingye added.
Ms Elizabeth Kuteesa was the director of CID when Gen Kayihura was named IGP. Ms Kuteesa, who later left the Force for a posting in Interpol, is best remembered for her role in the investigation and trial of Col Dr Kizza Besigye. This was for allegedly raping Ms Joanita Kyakuwa.
Ms Kuteesa, who supervised the investigation and also testified against Dr Besigye, was later charged with criminal misconduct amid accusations of falsifying a register by making an irregular entry of key evidence in the case.
She handed over to Martins Okoth Ochola, who later handed over to Mr Edward Osiru Ochom in 2009. Mr Ochom then handed over to Ms Grace Akullo in November 2011.
It is not clear whether it was in line with the need to change the Force, as Mr Kasingye argues, but Gen Kayihura soon turned his attention to the CID. He soon formed the Special Investigations Unit/Division (SIU)with offices at Kireka in Wakiso District. Whereas any form of investigations should ordinarily be under the director of CID, that particular unit was answerable only to the IGP.
Departments like homicide, human sacrifice, economic crimes, election offences and corruption were the first victims. In January 2012, Ms Judith Nabakooba, who was the deputy police spokesperson, announced that the department was being redesigned to retain only a supervisory role. Under the redesign, all case files were to be transferred from CID headquarters to SIU.
“He was undermining the director of CID. He wanted cases to be sent there (SIU) other than to the director of CID. Because of some unknown personal interests, he created that parallel office … to remove the powers of the director of CID on high profile cases,” Mr Odwe argues.
The office of the director of CID is structurally under the IGP, but it enjoys a lot of autonomy. Sources close to the police establishment revealed that when the President as Commander in Chief calls for meetings with the Police, the director of CID goes along with the IGP. The two present and hold their own brief. Could Gen Kayihura have gotten uncomfortable with that colonial-era arrangement?
The Forensics department, which had been formed to support criminal investigations, was the first to be moved and turned into an independent department. That meant that the unit, which has four different laboratories—one chemical, biological, radiology tests; one for questionable documents; one for criminal investigations and; one for cybercrime and digital forensic, was no longer under the command of the director of CID.
The director of CID now had to request for services such as crime scene management given that Crime Management Officers had been moved to the Directorates of Forensic Science and the Directorate of Police Health Services.
One of Gen Kayihura’s aides who talked to Saturday Monitor on condition that they are not named defended the decision to make a forensics an independent department.
“He did that in order to make it bigger and better equipped. By the time he left, Uganda was being looked at as a reference point. We had been lined up to be turned into a centre for excellence in forensics in the East African region,” he said.
Gen Kayihura’s working methods were also often called into question.
“You see that an officer at the rank of a District Police Commander (DPC) is going into the field to do the work of a constable—doing arrest and so on. That was a mentality that Kayihura introduced in the police. He was always rushing to the scene instead of monitoring and taking decisions or waiting for the report,” Mr Odwe told Saturday Monitor.
Whereas Gen Kayihura was often hailed for his hands-on approach, the school of thought argues that showing up at crime scenes, apportioning blame or attributing crimes to certain groups and often declaring that he was taking personal charge of investigations often impeded rather than facilitated the investigations.
Investigators who were of a contrary view would often be afraid of contradicting a man who had on so many occasions accused the CID department of letting him down. Could that explain why the Force did not get to the bottom of most of the high profile killings?
It wasn’t me
The General’s aide defended him, saying he in most cases intervened at the behest of either the President or relatives of victims who felt that the police was not doing enough.
Some of the cases he took direct interest in included the investigation into the murder in April 2008 of Christine Apolot; investigation into the murder in January 2020 of Brenda Karamuzi; and the investigation into the murder in June 2010 of baby Kham Kakama. Apolot was killed by her husband James Auren, then District Police Commander (DPC) of Mukono.
Many a police officer still talk of sharp divisions, intense infighting and petty rivalries that characterised the Force under Gen Kayihura. Officers who joined the Force before 2005 were reportedly labelled the “old guard” and perceived to be “inferior” to those who joined after 2005.
Those who joined after 2005 were deemed to be “revolutionists” and “superior” even when it was generally accepted that the “old guard” were more skilful and knowledgeable, which was a great contradiction. Little wonder that there was never unity of purpose.
Next week, the fourth instalment of The Kale Files explores how attempts by civilians to drag Gen Kale Kayihura to court fell flat on the face before he was criminally charged at the General Court Martial in 2018.
A serving police officer who preferred not to be named took issue with the decision to engage criminals to catch criminals such as was the case when “Operation Wembley” was launched. This, the officer argues, compromised the Force.
“Whereas Operation Wembley helped to eradicate violent crime, albeit for a while, and enabled the Force to study and understand the workings of criminal gangs. The criminals also benefited from the cooperation, “ the officer protested, adding, “The police found itself in a catch 22 situation because of its original approach to the problem. Now the criminals also know how the police works.”
Along the way came the militias like the Kiboko Squad, Boda-Boda 2010 and the crime preventers. Membership of those groups was never subjected to vetting. That might explain some of the false starts. And his subsequent travails in the General Court Martial.