Kayihura return dims hope for Uganda police overhaul

Thursday May 18 2017

Uganda's Inspector General of Police Gen Kale

Uganda's Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura. PHOTO | FILE 

By Gaaki Kigambo

The secrecy that shrouded the vetting of the Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura last week appears to have been aimed to frustrate a protest to block his reappointment that human rights activists and the opposition had planned. This even if its value, in real terms, would have been nothing more than a public relations headache for the embattled police boss.

For one thing, the opposition comprises just 20.8 per cent (or five seats) on the Appointments Committee that vetted and confirmed Mr Kayihura – or 13.6 per cent (or 57 seats) of the entire Parliament. Both numbers, needless to say, are insignificant to influence anything, much less re-nomination of someone the appointing authority has publicly castigated for sleeping on the job while criminals infiltrated the organisation he heads.  

“The proper practice has been that notice is issued at least a week before and CVs are supplied to those who sit on the Committee. In Kayihura’s case adequate notice should have been made because of the person in question since the letter nominating him for reappointment came in March,” said Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, the opposition’s chief whip.

“Of course they (the IGP and the Speaker) knew we were mobilising, we were still preparing our evidence, including video clips, to argue a strong case against his reappointment.

Fifth term

Gen Kayihura, perched at the helm of the police service since November 2005, arrived at Parliament on Tuesday, May 9, to be vetted for a record fifth term just a day after notice for the purpose had been sent out.


He drove in in a small private car and carried himself around meekly. It was in stark contrast to many of his previous appearances at the National Assembly where he is usually chauffeured in a fleet of cars packed with armed, stony-faced policemen who often temporarily took over sections of security at Parliament.

Gen Kayihura’s security has been beefed up even further since the broad daylight assassination of Assistant Inspector General of Police, Andrew Felix Kawesi.

Therefore, the decision to ditch his massive security detail reflects his changed circumstances. Kayihura has not had a smooth sailing through Parliament. During his last confirmation hearing, the four-star army general apologised profusely especially for the brutality and incompetence of the police and promised reform.

Yet the much-needed positive change has been very slow in coming, if at all. Gen Kayihura begins his new term amid degenerating security especially in urban centres in the central region whose elimination the government has always touted as one of its greatest achievements. His officers face many allegations of collusion in this resurgent crime wave, allegations of torture to extract confessions, and child rights abuses.

Crime wave

The frightening insecurity has been marked by gangs wielding machetes, clubs and other weapons wreaking terror through a number of districts. At a recent press conference, Gen Kayihura paraded alleged suspects of this crime wave. He was, however, left smarting after one of them claimed they enjoyed police protection when planning their reign of terror. 

The revelation served to buttress President Yoweri Museveni’s public frustration at Gen Kayihura that he had let the police service be infiltrated by criminals. The president was speaking at the wake of Mr Kaweesi on March 19.

Mr Kaweesi, a blue-eyed student of Kayihura, was gunned down on the morning of March 17 alongside his guard and driver. Eleven other people have also lost their lives over the past five years in unexplained circumstances.

The search for his killers has left the police service badly exposed as to its investigative competence and methods of obtaining information. Three weeks ago, they arrested several people, among them, 15 children and a two-year-old in connection with Kaweesi’s killing. They then provided vague explanations regarding the motive for detaining the children in a place they declined to reveal even to their mothers.

Initially they feigned ignorance about the whereabouts of the children. Later they admitted to have them in custody. They claimed to have completed plans to release them to their guardians. Hardly had they said that than they changed tune, claiming they needed to run DNA tests to ascertain their paternity. By the time they set them free on May 11, they had cast sufficient doubt as to the reliability of their investigations.

Police brutality

What was worse, a number of the older people appeared with wounds they claim to have sustained courtesy of police torture to induce confessions to Mr Kaweesi’s murder. Until they begged the court to be transferred to Luzira Prison, they were held at the police multipurpose centre at Nalufenya, located on the outskirts of Jinja, where several other people have complained of torture and mistreatment.

One of the Kaweesi suspects, a mayor of an upcountry town, is still hospitalised at a top private hospital with severe wounds to his knees, ankles and other parts of the body. His care and bills, running into millions of shillings so far, are reportedly being met by the police service.     

“The record of Gen Kayihura particularly as it relates to human rights observance, partisan politics and the substitution of institutions with parallel/informal mechanisms such as crime preventers and squads of stick and whip wielding gangs that police affords both tacit and overt protection disqualifies him to head the police and instead makes him a ripe candidate of investigation for a range of crimes,” noted Andrew Karamagi, an activist lawyer with Alive Uganda; one of the two NGOs that petitioned Parliament on May 3 requesting it to block Kayihura’s reappointment.

Whereas the police have promised to investigate these allegations and bring whoever is responsible to book, prompt watertight investigations are not among the strengths the officers are known for.

According to well-placed sources within the police service, say that robust investigations, detection and prevention of crime have been undermined by lack of expertise and understaffing. Instead, greater interest has focused on political intelligence by which Gen Kayihura has kept opposition to President Museveni in firm check.