What you need to know:
In the final instalment of The Kale Files, Derrick Kiyonga offers a detailed account of the never-reported-about contents in Kale Kayihura’s handover report as he paved the way for Martins Okoth Ochola on March 15, 2018.
On March 15, 2018, while handing over the police chief reins after a dozen years in the job, Gen Kale Kayihura took great pride in building capacity in the Force while also bringing down Uganda’s crime rate.
The four-star general oversaw an increment of directorates from five to 18, as well as specialised and command units from four to 19. With police stations also swelling from 101 in 2005 to 1,676 in 2018, the crime rate, Gen Kayihura wrote in his handover report, “has been on a downward trend since 2006 to date.”
Between 2005 and 2006, when Gen Kayihura was learning the ropes of his new job, “the crime rate [was] on an upward trend.” This was the time when Uganda, at the behest of Western donors, was transitioning from a movement system Mr Sabiti Makara, formerly at Makerere University’s Department of Political and Public Administration, called “an intricate structure of resistance councils from village to district level.”
Gen Kayihura conceded in his handover report that “there was political turbulence caused by the removal of Article 249 from the Constitution [that restricted political space.]” He proceeded to note that when “the multiparty party dispensation was ushered in, [it gave an] excuse to irresponsible Opposition that they could do anything…”
‘Opening’ up political space
A referendum whose verdict resoundingly threw its weight behind multiparty politics had been held on July 28, 2005. Dr Kizza Besigye returned from self-exile on October 26, 2005, with the view of taking part in the 2006 elections.
Gen Kayihura would go on to have many run-ins with Dr Besigye, including during the 2011 Walk-to-Work protests that official government records show claimed nine lives.
“It’s no small achievement that we were able to defeat the campaigns, and the sinister objectives of the perpetrators, and, as I hand over, the country, [after the defiance campaign of Dr Besigye fizzled out after the 2016 elections,] is enjoying unprecedented peace and stability,” Gen Kayihura purred in his handover report.
When Mr Martins Okoth Ochola took over the police chief reins from Gen Kayihura, unsolved killings such as that of Andrew Felix Kaweesi, a former police spokesperson, senior prosecutor Joan Kagezi, and a litany of Muslim clerics stuck out like a sore thumb.
In terms of prosecuting and convicting terrorism suspects, Kayihura could only claim success with respect to the 2010 Kampala twin bombing suspects. In 2016, Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, then a High Court judge, handed down sentences ranging from life, 50 years, and community service to eight of the 13 men accused of killing 76 people.
In 2017, Kayihura thought he had secured a terrorism conviction when the International Crimes Division (ICD) handed out life imprisonment sentences to Sheikh Yunus Kamoga, the leader of the Tabliq sect, together with his brother, Sheikh Murta Mudde Bukenya, Sheikh Kawooya, and Sheikh Fahad Kalungi. In the same judgment, Yusuf Kakande and Abdulsalam Sekyanja were slapped with 30-year jail sentences. But in 2021, the Court of Appeal led by Alfonse Owiny Dollo, Cheborion Barishaki, and Elizabeth Musoke quashed both convictions and sentences.
Conspicuously absent in Kayihura’s handover report was the sense of accomplishment he felt in 2015 when he paraded the erstwhile elusive Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) leader Jamal Mukulu before a scrum of journalists.
“The magnitude of this event is for us like Osama bin Laden was to the United States,” the four-star general bragged.
In terms of fighting terrorism, Kayihura was optimistic that the Uganda Community Policing Model and countrywide sting operations such as “Dumisha Usaalama” would decisively end the problem of terrorism and violent criminality. Yet no sooner had his replacement settled in office than a spate of high-profile killings (Ibrahim Abiriga, then Arua Municipality lawmaker, Muhammad Kirumira, the former Buyende District police commander inter-alia) took centre stage.
During Gen Kayihura’s 12-year tenure as police chief, the police-to-population ratio improved from one to 1,734 in 2005 to one to 805 in 2018. The international standard is one to 500.
Kayihura also recognised that the budget under him had increased from Shs86 billion in 2005 to Shs540 billion in 2017—a staggering cumulative increase of 525 percent. The increase in funding, Kayihura said, had contributed to the qualitative and quantitative improvements in various policing areas.
Citing the Naguru apartments, Naguru forensics laboratory, construction of the Nateete police divisional headquarters, and Bugiri staff unit among others, Gen Kayihura said police had undertaken investment in infrastructure projects. This, he added, was not only to improve the working and living conditions of the personnel but also to improve service delivery countrywide.
“I regret leaving when we have not yet decisively solved welfare problems in the Force such as accommodation [in a big part of the country], healthcare, family income, and education of the children,” Kayihura said.
Dr Besigye has previously stated that the solution to the issue of welfare is to get the priorities right. “[Shs]110.3 billion ($32m) paid to buy 3 more aircraft for Uganda Police! Police Officers earn $100 a month &some go without salaries for months; the welfare of Police Officers is appalling and many violent crimes involve policemen! Decadence?” the doyen of opposition politics in Uganda posted on social media in 2018.
To solve the welfare malaise in the Force, Gen Kayihura proposed that a directorate of welfare to spearhead welfare initiatives be created. He also supported the creation of the directorate of public health to support the healthcare of police officers, the creation of exodus Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisations (Saccos) to promote a culture of savings, tapping of government poverty alleviation programmes such as Operation Wealth Creation, National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads), among others.