Simple things, from overzealous supporters of former Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura to his overt and covert activities, raised the suspicion of President Museveni and other generals that he could have been mobilising for the ultimate seat.
Different people in both police and the army have told The Observer that the former blue-eyed boy of the president sealed his own fate.
“When his supporters appeared at Makindye Magistrates Court, some of them had posters reading ‘Kale for president’. That was not by mistake,” said an official.
“Then there were powerful headlines of some people proclaiming to protect him at all costs. This gave credence to intelligence reports that were suspicious of his deeds.”
As counter-intelligence reports flew in, The Observer learnt, the general conclusion pointed to the possibility of Kayihura mobilising for a post-Museveni era, one official said. The dossiers presented to Museveni indicated that while Kayihura projected a hardman exterior, and appeared unquestioningly loyal to the president as he cracked down on the opposition, he was quietly doing quite the opposite.
Kayihura was arrested last week and locked up at Makindye military barracks. No charges have been preferred against him although New Vision, a government paper, has reported that he could be charged with the murder of former AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi.
While the president was unsettled by the increasing crime in the past few months, this alone could not have led to the firing of Kayihura.
“He believed this crime could be sorted with Kale in charge until intelligence reports pointed to other areas,” said one leader close to both Kayihura and Museveni.
At one point, Kayihura had become so self-involved, he went into a full blown war with senior police officers, cutting many off from his top level meetings and critical decisions.
This narrative was corroborated by two senior officials in the police force we interviewed in March. They both recounted how he had become deeply suspicious of all his senior officers. The paranoia played out publicly at Katabi in Entebbe, as the IGP met the community over the Wakiso women murders rampant in the area.
This reporter looked on as Kayihura’s guards seeking to relieve himself asked one of the assistant inspector generals of police present to keep an eye on Kayihura’s chair. The officer refused and told the guard to carry it with him. He did.
On Monday, the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) called for a judicial inquiry into the police crimes under Kayihura’s leadership and other aspects including recruitments, reshuffles, and deployment.
“The 13 years of suffering and shooting of some people by some police officers during the regime should be investigated,” said MP Semujju Nganda, FDC spokesperson.
POWER & MONEY
Among generals in active service, Kayihura seemed second to Museveni in terms of power, money, influence and name recognition.
Kayihura once described Museveni as his hero in an interview with The Observer in 2014. He publicly professed his love for the president, beyond the mere fact that he was his boss.
“He [Museveni] is one of my heroes,” Kayihura told Observer.
Years later, the president returned the favour, referring to Kayihura as a good NRM cadre. In 2001 after the Justice Julia Sebutinde-led probe unearthed shocking dirt, underhand dealings, incompetence, and corruption within the force and recommended radical measures, Museveni swiftly appointed Gen Katumba Wamala, a distinguished officer, to lead the clean-up.
Wamala came in at a particularly tricky time, when Museveni’s post-revolution popularity was dwindling and the opposition, especially Museveni’s former bush-war medic Dr Kizza Besigye, were gaining ground.
Wamala’s tenure was not one which included cracking down on regime opponents. Little wonder then that Wamala’s police was starved of resources, to the extent that he turned to the public to solicit some money to purchase patrol pick-up trucks.
“Despite its weaknesses, the force then was still loved by the civilians. That is why they could contribute,” one official told us.
In 2005, Kayihura, a former military assistant to the president, emerged. He was ready to do his boss’ bidding, particularly to clampdown on resentment from the public. From Mbale to Masaka to Kampala, the force became ruthless, reports of people shot and killed during protests were rife.
This ruthlessness ensured resources flew in Kayihura’s direction with the force’s budget growing to Shs 580 billion last year.
“This money did not necessarily improve the welfare of the individual officers,” said another official on Sunday.
On top of money, Kayihura gained trust and freedom to do whatever he needed.
He recruited with abandon, bringing the men and women under arms from 10,000 to about 50,000 in the police force. And he would move these men and huge military style equipment at will –in the name of cracking down on opposition functionaries—without notifying the principal (Museveni).
The same wouldn’t be said of the army’s Chief of Defence Forces. Kayihura recruited at will. Total loyalty to the IGP and ability to carry out his will came first. That is how it is believed known criminals infiltrated the force’s rank and file. Museveni referred to that infiltration at the vigil held for AIGP Felix Kaweesi.
The Uganda Police Act says the inspector general may, on the advice of the police council and in consultation with the minister, make standing orders in respect of the force regarding, among other things the constitution, organisation, structure, ranks, responsibilities and command in the force.
This also includes the enlistment, training, and promotions. It is alleged that Kayihura rarely consulted. He concentrated power into his hands. Through his so-called ‘crime preventers’, he built a political force. Police funds bought food for ordinary folks wherever Kayihura would be visiting. The man was on the way to becoming an accomplished populist.
New laws, including the Public Order Management Act (POMA) 2013 gave him more powers. This law meant that no political player apart from the president could hold a rally without Kayihura’s say so
He kept his officers constantly unsettled; announcing weekly reshuffles without notifying anyone else. He recruited thugs into thug formations like the notorious ‘Kiboko Squad’ to crush opposition dissent. Prostitutes, boda boda riders and hawkers also became part of his growing army.
“You could not believe that someone would be innocently selling second-hand necklaces and shavers but when he is an informant and part of the Kayihura ‘gang’,” said one police officer.
These people were paid using police money. Then, when they got confident enough they started running protection rackets of their own and started earning their own money – allegedly passing part of it up the ladder.
It is alleged that Boda Boda 2010, an organisation that was led by Kayihura’s functionary, the notorious Abdallah Kitatta, collected more than Shs 1 billion a year.
Kitatta’s gang abused police influence to arrest and torture riders and other civilians who failed to pay monthly dues to the association.
In January 2018, Julius Odwe, the former deputy inspector general of police, told The Observer that many of these criminals masqueraded as police officers, causing mayhem in the public. In the run-up to 2016 general election, Kayihura spear-headed the training of what he said were 11 million crime preventers to ‘fight’ crime.
Yet as intelligence reports showed, this was not just about fighting crime but also allegedly the former police boss’ way of consolidating power. The resources available to him created an impression that if not nipped in the bud, the president was risking tackling him too little too late.
Col Fred Bogere, a bush war historical, told The Observer yesterday that while the army chief can move troops depending on how many and the distance they are travelling, it is not very often unless there is war.
This is different from police, which is an active force. He said it is important to move forces and do reshuffle more often – and the IGP may consult others. Bogere said that, however, Kayihura over did it and it could have partly contributed to the insecurity in the country.
“Just when an officer is starting to get used to the new place, getting vital contacts, they are moved,” Bogere said.
Discounting the serious allegations being made about the former police chief, Col Bogere said Kayihura’s problem was neglect of duty. He said that he ought to have made sure the ills that happened under his watch were not done, like the illegal repatriation of South Sudan and Rwanda political asylum seekers and refugees.
Bogere said Kayihura should have been made to stay at home.
“He is a cadre and not capable of destroying the president. Remember when [Brig Noble] Mayombo died, Museveni said NRM had only two cadres – that one had died and Kayihura was the only remaining.”
Others, however, look into the post-Museveni era to try to understand how and why this second cadre unravelled so spectacularly.
There is quiet consensus that Museveni, who has been in power for 33 years, will not be here forever. So, whoever plays their cards well could succeed him – especially now that there is no clear and public transition plan.
The trick, we have been told, is to appear to work for the principal but also assert oneself. Kayihura told reporters in December at Katabi in Entebbe that he had personally ordered the special forces attack on Parliament in the run-up to the chaotic sessions, which saw the removal of Article 102 (b) that capped the presidential age to 75 from the constitution.
He had to look tough and extra loyal at that time, said one official, especially “after reports linked him to wanting the presidency”.
As violent crime, including murders of high profile increased, the President started to speak uneasily about Kayihura.
Suddenly, Kayihura also spoke publicly that even if he was fired, it would not end crime and the spate of killings that were happening in the country.
“Even if you fire me, as long as you don’t address the root causes of crime, it will not end,” he told a gathering in Kampala last year.
At the start of March, the inevitable happened and Kayihura was fired – completing his breath-taking fall from the pinnacle of power.