Six weeks since taking over as Inspector General of Police (IGP) on March 15, Mr Martins Okoth Ochola is yet to address his first press conference in his new role.
This is already a big difference from his predecessor, Gen Kale Kayihura, who took every opportunity to make news.
The image pressmen have since developed of the new IGP is of an old-fashioned, methodical and media-shy policeman keener on actions than words.
And, going by what has been happening in the police since he took over, Mr Ochola is remolding the police and in significant ways giving it a different outlook from what Gen Kayihura left in place.
During the six weeks he has been in charge, Mr Ochola has made six massive reshuffles and moved around over 1,000 senior officers ranking from the ranks of Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) to Assistant Superintendents of Police (ASP).
Traffic police is re-examining the way it works, the Directorate of Crime Intelligence and Investigations has been reconstituted. Decisions have been made on clamping down on torture by the police and on the shut down of Nalufenya detention centre, the mark of criminal torture of suspects in recent years.
Mr Ochola began by transferring 88 District and Division police commanders (DPCs). It was said for years that many, at least 20, of these officers were very loyal to Gen Kayihura.
These were transferred to upcountry places.
Many of them had virtually worked only in Kampala since they joined the police, and they were the source of envy among their peers who were habitually posted to work in upcountry centres.
One officer, for instance, is SP Benard Mugerwa who had been the DPC of Kabalagala since he completed the police course in 2010. In Mr Ochola’s reshuffle, he was transferred to Butaleja, his first upcountry posting.
ASP Grace Nyangoma, who was the officer in charge of Old Kampala, was moved to Buyende while ASP Hillary Mukiza moved from Kajjansi to Sheema as DPC.
Others include ASP Evas Ninsiima who left Kampala Central Police Station to Lwengo, ASP Norman Muhanguzi moved from CPS to Hima Town Council in Kasese, while ASP Yolam Tumwebaze was moved from CPS Kampala to Kyegegwa.
ASP Dick Tweheyo was transferred from CPS Kampala to Kamuli, ASP Edwin Ayebare was moved from CPS Kampala to Ntoroko, while Mr Geoffrey Kaheebwa, the former Kampala South deputy regional police commander, was appointed DPC Soroti.
SP Andrew Musiime, who was Gen Kayihura’s personal assistant, was deployed to Field Force Unit without title.
12 directives to commanders
On the day he took over office, Mr Ochola issued 12 directives to regional, district and division police commanders regarding the management of arms, indiscipline, crime, dress code and observance of human rights.
Mr Ochola’s order for a guns audit was welcomed with excitement by a number of police officers we talked to for this story, even DPCs, who informed Sunday Monitor that during Gen Kayihura’s reign, a number of crime preventers had been armed and had become powerful to the extent of undermining them.
The issue of crime preventers was very divisive in the police, creating a rift between Gen Kayihura and some police officers who felt that he favoured crime preventers over them.
Talking about this matter, one DPC told told Saturday Monitor: “They (crime preventers) had been threatening us with making bad reports about us to the IGP. He is now out of police and we want to see where their power will come from.”
Reversing Kayihura’s last transfers
Commenting on the choice of Mr Ochola, his former deputy, as IGP, Gen Kayihura said at his handover on March 15 that it was testament that the President acknowledged that something good had been done during his tenure and appointing the deputy was to continue the good work.
But Mr Ochola, in reversing all the changes Gen Kayihura made on the eve of his sacking, in a way communicated that he had had no input in those changes. In Gen Kayihura’s last reshuffle, Senior Commissioner of Police (SCP), Christopher Kasalawo, who had been appointed head of the Field Force Unit (FFU), was transferred to Oil and Gas as deputy director.
SCP Stephen Tanui was sent back to FFU as the deputy commander. He had been removed from FFU to Reserve Force.
SCP Ali Fadhir Kaali was transferred to FFU as the commander a week after Gen Kayihura had moved him to Oil and Gas Unit as deputy director. SCP Richard Edyegu was appointed to the directorate of Logistics and Engineering as deputy director which he occupied weeks before had been moved to redundancy in Gen Kayihura’s office.
SCP Anne Tusiime has been sent back to Logistics and Engineering Directorate as the deputy director in charge of Construction Division.
SCP Henry Tukahirwa was moved to Welfare and Production Directorate as deputy director yet weeks back he had been removed from Directorate of Research and Planning and transferred to the IGP’s office without specific duties.
In his second week in office, Mr Ochola reverted close to 20 police units that Gen Kayihura had put under his direct supervision to the directorate of Crime Investigations and Intelligence (CIID) headed by AIGP Grace Akullo.
Some of the reverted units include Special Operations Unit (SOU) Flying Squad Unit (FSU), Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU), Crime Track Unit (CTC) and Crime Intelligence (CI).
A Commissioner with 12 years of experience in crime investigations told Saturday Monitor that they had for long yearned for reversion of such units to CIID since they rendered the directorate useless.
“When I was at CIID I could get calls from my seniors instructing me to hand over the case files to a particular unit commander. We got tired of such orders and decided to just look on. I was lucky to be transferred from CIID because I was fed up,” he said.
Two weeks ago, Mr Ochola appointed several experienced Commissioners to head particular departments at CIID. Most of these had been redundant in departments such as Public Relations, Professional Standards Unit and Welfare.
Senior detectives that have been taken back to CIID include former police spokesperson Fred Enanga, now appointed commissioner in charge of administration and training, and CP Fortunate Habyara, who had been on katebe (undeployed) after he was dropped as PSU.
Mr Ochola has also transferred 88 senior detectives ranging from the ranks of Commissioner to ASP.
Experiments on traffic
During traffic peak hours, in the mornings and evenings, traffic police officers have in recent weeks tended to block off some access routes and left traffic to flow only through the main road.
This has, especially happened on Jinja Road, where the Kireka-Kinawataka route is often closed off at Kireka and all traffic forced to flow through Jinja Road. Mr Charles Ssebambulidde, the Traffic police spokesperson, says this is done to enable smooth traffic flow.
“We have realised that congestion on roads is usually caused by crisscrossing of drivers. Some drivers will spend minutes blocking others because they want to pass through a particular route. When we close some roads and we make all vehicles pass through the same route, it reduces jam. We do this in peak hours,” Mr Ssebambulidde says.
He says Traffic police sometimes turn Entebbe Road into a one-way route and block oncoming traffic from Entebbe to join Kampala Road or Jinja Road, only allowing traffic flowing towards Entebbe.
“It works for us whenever we stop vehicles coming from Entebbe that usually causes congestion at Clock Tower and Shoprite. We turn the roads into one-way routes so that vehicles can move freely. Those coming from Entebbe are diverted to Katwe-Nsambya or made to go through Mukwano Road,” he explains.
The other noticeable change in Traffic police is the absence of senior officers, especially those at the rank of Superintendent at the main junctions. Such officers had almost become a permanent fixture at junctions during the last years of Gen Kayihura’s reign.
Mr Ssebambulidde says the senior traffic officers now work in segments that have been created within Kampala Metropolitan area as overseers of particular subdivisions.
“There are some segments that have been created within Kampala Metropolitan Police and these officers are commanders of such sections. They are not visible but they are performing their duties,” Mr Ssebambulidde explains