As Uganda’s security deteriorates to pervasive levels, President Yoweri Museveni acted on March 4 and sacked the Inspector-General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura.
This is despite the head of state having praised the general’s policing credentials and his 12 years on the job.
Security Minister Henry Tumukunde was also sacked. Since being appointed in 2016, Mr Tumukunde had engaged in public spats with Gen Kayihura over the management and handling of security as violence, kidnap and murder cases spread over the country, with hundreds of nationals and foreigners falling victim.
President Museveni appointed Gen Elly Tumwine as the Security Minister and promoted deputy IGP Martin Okoth Ochola as the new police chief, to be deputised by Brig Sabiiti Muzei.
While presiding over International Women’s Day celebrations, President Museveni publicly ridiculed the police force under Gen Kayihura, and promised better security now that he had “uprooted the bean weevil that had infiltrated the police force.”
The president is known for using public events to explain how the country is doing under the guidance of the National Resistance Movement. He used the celebrations to blame the rising insecurity on corrupt police, inefficient courts and prisons officers.
Gen Tumwine has promised a force that collaborates with the public while IGP Ochola envisions a disciplined, corruption-free police.
Experts agree on discipline within the police force being a major issue, but it is difficult to know whether IGP Ochola can deal effectively with the mess left behind by Gen Kayihura.
Former deputy IGP Julius Odwe (now retired), said IGP Ochola will have to gauge the competence of his commanders, put some on probation, fire others and retrain those who were recruited and then quickly rose up the ranks because of their political connections instead of competence.
However, it is difficult to see how IGP Ochola can deal with the president’s strong belief in the army, which is now the main implementer of NRM’s critical programmes. Military officers have been posted to the police force since 2005.
The new deputy IGP, Brig Sabiiti Muzei, previously served as Deputy Special Forces Command and until his new appointment was Commandant of the Military Police.
According to Mr Odwe keeping the army in police leadership stifles growth within the force, and demotivates professional police officers.
While Gen Kayihura, an army man, used his connections to increase recruitment and police budget from Ush58 billion ($16 million) to Ush600 billion ($163.2 million), his firing was celebrated, as most people blamed him for focusing on fighting politicians opposed to the regime instead of dealing with crime.
Internal Affairs Minister Jeje Odongo, who supervises the police, said the new appointments are important because they will see security forces collaborating.
“Collaboration between security agencies is important as it ensures improved security,” he said.
Last year, Mr Odongo was in the limelight for telling parliament that evil spirits and illuminati were to blame for 23 murdered women in the Entebbe and Nansana Municipalities of Wakiso District.
Despite Generals Tumukunde and Kayihura having only served for two years together in the security docket, their public spats have also been blamed for the crime wave in the country.
Uganda’s former police chief Gen Kale Kayihura (left) and the immediate former security minister Henry Tumukunde at a past function. The two have been fired by president Yoweri Museveni. PHOTO | DAILY MONITOR
Their public disagreements saw the army arrest police officers and known associates of Gen Kayihura for such crimes as murder, kidnap and repatriation of Rwandan refugees.
While the police used social and traditional media to accuse army intelligence officials of murdering different foreigners and kidnapping Congolese nationals.
President Museveni said that for years, security forces have been investigating and providing evidence that can successfully convict criminals.
He listed several unresolved cases including the murder of over 10 Muslim clerics by boda boda riders. The first Muslim cleric was murdered in 2012.
Killers on boda bodas are also alleged to have murdered senior prosecutor Joan Kagezi in 2015 and police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi in 2017. According to the president, the killers of these crimes are yet to be apprehended and prosecuted.
President Museveni added that some criminals who had been terrorising parts of central Uganda had been apprehended, but that some escaped due to the incompetence of prison officers and the unreasonable rules set by the courts.
According to members of parliament, the courts have been incapacitated by lack of funding and staff. The parliamentary budget committee notes that based on the resources allocated to the judiciary, only 1,500 cases can be tried annually, yet there are over 27,000 suspects in remand.
“This means it would take about 18 years to clear the current number of cases,” said the budget report for the 2017/2018 financial year.
Faced with years in prison before one can have their case heard and determined, police officers have been extorting prisoners to get them out of jail.
But, according to Mr Odwe — a former IGP under General Kayihura — some of the current 27,000 cases can be stricken off the court records if skilled criminal intelligence officers are employed to sort through them.
The criminal investigation department under Gen Kayihura is alleged to have been rendered dysfunctional due to the IGP’s interference and the fact that recruitment and promotions are based on allegiance to NRM and not on qualifications, performance or experience.