Interviews with 10 people, including an area local leader and neighbours, offer a look at the tumultuous Friday morning Andrew Felix Kaweesi was fatally shot as he left his home at Kulambiro, a Kampala suburb.
According to neighbours, Assistant Inspector General of Police Kaweesi, his driver Godfrey Mambewa and bodyguard Kenneth Erau were killed at about 9:25am in a volley of bullets as they drove to Uganda Christian University in Mukono.
Kaweesi was to join the army and prisons spokespersons to speak at the university’s career guidance day, largely to encourage students to join security forces.
People interviewed on the fateful Friday morning said two men, who turned out to be the assailants, spent some time outside Kaweesi’s gate fidgeting with their motorcycle.
With the benefit of hindsight, they were simply lying in wait for Kaweesi. When Kaweesi was driven out of his gate, the assailants, disguised perfectly as rider and passenger followed on their motorcycle.
About a kilometre from his home, the men, now masked, opened fire at the police chief’s car instantly killing him, his driver and bodyguard. According to eyewitness accounts, the shooting lasted about five to 10 minutes, prompting a brief exchange of fire with a private security guard manning a nearby residence of some Europeans.
“I met boda boda cyclists fleeing from their stage; for them, the bullets were coming from Kaweesi’s car which they thought had developed some mechanical problems. But when the shooting intensified, I told them to run to safety because the problem seemed bigger than they had thought,” a resident who preferred not to be named told The Observer on Friday.
A curious cyclist who heard bullets and rushed to the scene, dived to safety after the gunmen shot in his direction. He bruised his face. Patience Asiimwe, who lives about 50 metres from the scene of the shooting, said she first mistook the gunshots for stones falling on her roof until the shooting intensified. At the time, she was inside her house.
When she heard a motorcycle speeding off in the direction of Kisaasi and all was quiet again outside, she said she moved out to see what had happened. In a distance, she said, she saw a police car with its doors flung open and headlights on.
“I was among the very first people to get to the scene,” Asiimwe told The Observer.
“I think by that time he [Kaweesi] hadn’t died yet because he appeared to be breathing but with a lot of blood oozing from the head and the chest,” she added.
Within half an hour, no police officer had arrived at the scene. Locals used the opportunity to take photos of the three slain police officers that circulated on social media.
The gunmen first shot and deflated the left-sided hind tyre of Kaweesi’s car, registration N0. UP 4778, before showering it with bullets, smashing the rear windscreen. More bullets were shot through the sides, instantly killing the three occupants, according to a statement issued by Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kale Kayihura.
Charles Musoke Sserunjogi, the mayor of Kampala Central division and a resident of the area, said he did not first pay too much attention to the shooting.
“At first I thought the police were chasing a thief because we have too many bad boys in this area but when the shooting changed from single shots to rapid shooting, that is when I sensed it was a bigger problem,” Sserunjogi said.
The first officers to arrive came on a motorcycle from a police post within the locality. They were followed later by others on a police patrol truck ahead of Kayihura’s convoy.
Onlookers were then chased away and the place cordoned off as more truckloads of police personnel arrived. According to Samuel Kisame, the area councillor, none of the people police found in houses close to the scene of the shooting was allowed to leave. Police recorded statements based on their accounts.
For close to two hours, police’s forensic officers examined the bodies before they were loaded into three separate ambulances that drove to the city mortuary.
Relatives wailed as the ambulances shifted into gear, some castigated government for not being mindful of its citizens’ security. Some police officers who worked with Kaweesi in the force’s human resource directorate were crestfallen. Some recalled moments with their boss at office but also worried about their safety.
“If they [thugs] are now targeting people they know are armed, who is safe? If they can hunt down an officer of his [Kaweesi] rank, how about me?” one police officer who declined to be named said.
To Sserunjogi, Kaweesi’s killing pointed to a laxity in the country’s security system.
“This is an indicator that no one is safe; it is an indicator that there is a lot of laxity in our security system. The security should be more preventive than reactive,” Sserunjogi said.
One security chief said the guns control policy needs to be reviewed. He said there are too many guns in private hands.
“Right now I have at my desk over 15 applications for firearms and I’m wondering why is it that there are so many people asking for guns,” the officer said.
According to a UN- backed website, www.gunpolicy.org, the estimated number of guns in private hands in Uganda stands at 400,000.
Some of the guns are held by NRM functionaries. Some have gone as far as posting their photos on social media posing with the guns. Security minister Henry Tumukunde told journalists that Kaweesi’s killers seem to have been highly trained.
“There is some resemblance in the way [former state prosecutor Joan] Kagezi was murdered; secondly, the killers were too courageous, they made sure that before leaving, their mission had been fully executed. No ordinary killer can be so daring like that,” Lt Gen Tumukunde said.
Both Kayihura and Tumukunde told journalists that although preliminary investigations had yielded some important clues, and said it was too early to draw any conclusions.
Nonetheless, well-placed sources pointed to a possibility of an internal job. They said the deceased had made some enemies within the force.
“Many [senior] officers, especially the older ones, were not happy with his rapid rise through the ranks,” an officer said.
Kaweesi was commissioned as a police officer in 2001 after serving as an aide to then Masaka LC-V chairman Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja, the current minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.
Between then and now, Kaweesi has twice skipped some ranks to become assistant inspector general of police and director of the force’s Human Resource Development and Management directorate. One officer said the recent disbandment of the original composition of the Flying Squad, a violent crime crack unit, didn’t go down well with many.
“Many were not happy when a decision was taken that the Flying Squad be replaced. There are some [Flying Squad officers] who have been using it to [extort] money and the majority of them have either been sent for further training or deployed in other units,” a source said.
“Being a director of human resource, it is highly believed that he was behind the decision,” the source added.
Some have also tried to link Kaweesi’s death to his role in last year’s clashes in Kasese as well as the arrest of Muslim clerics linked to the rampant killing of Muslim leaders. Kaweesi is scheduled to be buried tomorrow (Tuesday) at Kitwekyanjovu village, Kyazanga sub-county in Lwengo district.