After the 2010 Kampala bombings, a number security and intelligence chiefs enjoyed a phenomenal rise or suffered a dramatic fall in their careers during and after the July attacks in Kampala.
Some were elevated for doing a great job, including directing rescue, investigations, counter-operations and safeguarding the country against a repeat attack. Those found wanting in their jobs, either because they failed to glean prior intelligence on the attack or could not prevent it, were moved away from higher-responsibility positions and given lower or different assignments altogether.
The post-attack re-configuration of security and intelligence apparatus took the outline of the trust of President Museveni, as the Commander-in-Chief, in the individuals he handpicked to take on the tasking positions.
Here is our examination, based on interviews with multiple sources of how the July 2010 bombings changed the career trajectory of Uganda’s notable security chiefs and top spies.
Gen Kale Kayihura
When the first bomb went off in Kabalagala at Ethiopian Village restaurant, the then Inspector General of Police (IGP), Gen Kale Kayihura, whose home is in Muyenga, near the lively city outskirt, dashed to the scene. He had been the police chief for five years and was just about mid-way his second three-year term.
That attack was the beginning of a new challenge in his career as the police boss; the safety of Ugandans was a load on his shoulders.
This is because police are constitutionally mandated to safeguard the lives and property of citizens, and terrorist attack exposed a crack and bothersome failing.
The IGP broke down when he heard news about the second bomb blast, this time at the busy Kyadondo Rugby Club hang-out.
It was an enormous, emotional challenge. His resolve and that of sister security agencies was to ensure terrorists do not attack Uganda again yet the police had limited capacity to deal with sophisticated crimes of this kind and one directed by al-Qaeda, a global terrorist group.
In 2010, when the attack happened, police’s directorate of counter terrorism was barely two-years-old and had few officers with specialised counter-terrorism training. It only had only two departments; technical services and tactical response and neutralisation.
After the bombings, Gen Kayihura went on capacity building programmes in police that saw anti-terrorism police numbers swell from 600 to more than 5,000 within eight years. He established a school specifically to train such officers at Olilim in Katakwi District.
His marked progress and clout turned police into the lead security agency, and with that designation, a hefty budget and envy of other security organisations. That also was a start of the former IGP’s rivalry with other compatriots and this competition, coupled with his own failings, would bring him down rather disgracefully eight years later.
Police’s effectiveness had rendered Internal Security Organisation (ISO) and Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), which previously played lead roles in ending bomb blasts in Kampala in mid and late 1990s, virtually ineffective.
Terror alerts issued by Gen Kayihura became a common police practice to the extent that his critics said he was using it as a tool to trample on freedoms of the Opposition politicians whenever they wanted to hold rallies. And he earned the appointing authority’s trust, making him the longest-serving police chief in independent Uganda.
Maj Gen James Mugira
He is the managing director of National Enterprise Corporation, an economic arm of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces. He was the overall commander of the operation to arrest the suspects. After CMI arresting and parading the suspects, Gen Kayihura, threatened to “fix” Maj Gen Mugira, in what was seen as a move by the police to take the credit yet the arrests had been carried out by the military.
According to sources, the police chief wanted to be the one to parade the suspects.
After the attack, Mr Abbas Byakagaba, who was the director Counter-Terrorism, was replaced by Mr John Ndungutse. Mr Byakagaba was then sent to head Oil and Gas directorate, meaning his delivery on the job was considered unsatisfactory at the time. He later served under police human resource directorate before the new Inspector General of Police, Mr Martins Okoth-Ochola in March, recalled and gave him back his job as police’s Counter-Terrorism director.
Days after the attack, Mr Andrew Sorowen, who was then the Kampala Metropolitan police commander, was grilled by then police chief Kale Kahiyura for laxity. In a security meeting days after the attack, he was asked to present a plan on how to protect the capital city, but sources familiar with the discussions at the time said the commander did not have a definite plan. Mr Sorowen was dressed down before his juniors, an anti-climax for his career. In 2011, he was dropped from the position.
Brig Abel Kandiho
He is the current Chief of Military Intelligence (CMI). He picked SIM cards from the mobile phone connected to the explosive that failed to detonate at Makindye House.
Brig Kandiho was then the deputy director of operations at CMI. The SIM card he recovered became a game changer in the investigations and helping detectives map out how the terrorists communicated and networked in the run to the attacks.
Brig Kandiho, an astute intelligence officer, has a career that spans more than two decades. The operation he oversaw resulted in the arrest of 13 bombing suspects that CMI handed over to police.
His role in tracking and arresting the suspects became a badge of honour and placed him on a pedestal for promotion as the substantive CMI chief, overseeing all intelligence gathering operations for the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF). And he is a one-star general too, three ranks higher than he was in 2010 when the attacks happened.
Joan Kagezi was gunned down on March 30, 2015, at about 7.30 pm in Kampala’s Kiwatule suburb. She was a senior state attorney and prosecuting the highly sensitive case against the terrorism suspects. Kagezi had made a name, often widely being quoted in the media and respected by peers, for her enduring work in a grand trial that presented all sides in the case an unrivalled legal challenge.
Police connected her death to her work as the lead prosecutor in the case that resulted in the conviction of some of the suspects. The legal fraternity has also honoured her post-humously for stellar works.
Much as Kagezi did not live to see the trial of the terrorism suspects come to an end, she is credited for having started the process, as well as handling other high profile cases in the country to their conclusion during her 21-year career as a state prosecutor.
Justice Susan Okalany
Susan Okalany is now a High Court judge. She took over as lead prosecutor for the July 11, 2010 twin bombing months after Kagezi’s brutal killing.
With her team comprising principal state attorneys Lino Anguzu, John Baptist Asiimwe, Thomas Jatiko, and Racheal Bikhole, they secured a conviction of eight out of the 13 accused.
The trial was presided over by Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, the current Deputy Chief Justice, who delivered his judgment on May 26, 2016. Before the bombings, Ms Okalany was at the rank of Assistant Director of Public Prosecution.
Because of her lead role in the generally successful prosecution of the suspects, she in April 2017 won a global prosecutor award at the annual International Association of Prosecutors event in the Chinese capital, Beijing.
After the attack, Mr John Ndungutse was promoted from Commissioner of Police to Senior Commissioner and appointed deputy director of Counter-Terrorism to establish an intelligence unit to collect and collate information on terrorists.
After his appointment, he started procuring equipment including bomb detection and disposal robots. The United States, the United Kingdom, India, Israel and Turkey started funding the Anti-Terror directorate.
Mr Ndungutse, Mr Herman Owomugisha and several other officers were taken to the Federal Bureau of Investigations academy in the US for specialised training. His skills to fend off attacks earned him the police chief Gen Kale Kayihura’s trust and kept him in the job until Gen Kayihura was fired.
He has since been assigned as an attaché at Uganda’s High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya, a country with which he built close links for cross-border counter-terrorism offensive.
Col Charles Asiimwe, aka CK
He is the current director of Joint Anti-Terrorism Taskforce (JATT). At the time of the attack, he was in charge of operations under JATT. CK, as he is known in the military, was among the first intelligence operatives to reach the Ethiopian Village in Kabalagala where the first bomb was detonated.
He worked with Brig Kandiho in tracking the suspects. He also led the interrogation of the suspects while in military intelligence detention.
Little known, but a well-trained spy, CK has been involved in other big operations after 2010 terror attack. He captained operations to arrest the suspects in the spate of killing of women in Wakiso District, the kidnap and killing of Susan Magara, as well as the killing of Case Hospital accountant, Francis Ekalungar.
He is the one who put together the torn National ID of the suicide bomber at Ethiopian Village restaurant, who was later identified as Kaka Sule. He was also among the operatives who went to Kyadondo and picked the head of a suspected suicide bomber, a Somali national later identified as Musa.
Brig Herbert Mbonye
He is currently the Military attaché in Nigeria. At the time of the attack, he was CMI director of operations. Before his deployment in Nigeria, he had worked as an intelligence officer at the African Union Mission in Somalia.
He is currently under detention and on trial for various charges, including illegal extradition of refugees. He was on the team that went to Kenya to arrest the suspects, who planned the attack and fled from Uganda.
How SIM Card exposed attackers
The targets. The attackers planned to detonate bombs in three places – Kyadondo, Kabalaga and Makindye, all suburbs of Kampala. But Hassan Luyima, one of the attackers, reportedly abandoned the plan to detonate the explosive he had planted in a flower at Makindye House.
Attached to the bomb was a phone with a SIM card which Luyima was to call to enable the bomb blast away.
SIM card recovered. When the security operatives picked the bomb and the phone, the SIM card was scanned and they realised that it had been inserted into a phone which was tracked and the owner was arrested. He gave them leads after it was discovered that Kenyan registered phone numbers had called that mobile phone handset.
Suspects fetched from Kenya. A team of Ugandan security operatives went to Kenya and picked the first suspect, Hussein Agade. Back home, the three brothers; Hassan Luyima, Isa Ahmed Luyima and Hussein Luyima, were arrested.
After their interrogation, they revealed more information and more arrests were carried out in Kenya, Tanzania and Kampala, helping security and spy agencies tie the loose ends in a complex case involving sophisticated criminal with cross-border networks.
In yesterday’s issue, we had promised to publish how the victims are struggling to deal with trauma. However, we will publish this tomorrow.