In his heydays as the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Gen Kale Kayihura was a darling of President Museveni and he in turned adored him as the best Ugandan leader ever.
He was a political and security juggernaut of sorts, pacing the country like a colossus.
Under his command, the President’s political opponents were in-and-out of jail, their public activities choked and the aggressive crowd control tactics that police adopted earned the IGP the moniker “Mr Teargas”.
His dedication to keep Mr Museveni in power was absolute. The President delightfully baptised him a “very good cadre”.
A professional policeman would be uneasy if extolled for being partisan and turning a civilian force responsible for safeguarding the lives and properties of all citizens, into a crack unit against political opponents.
But Gen Kayihura was not that purebred, having been parachuted to police stewardship from the army where he served as the Military Assistant to the President and, before that, a Chief Political Commissar.
“People are attacking Kale (Kayihura); Kale has done a good job,” the President said while speaking to local government leaders last year. “He stopped fujo (chaos) because people wanted to bring fujo to disrupt business. If you have fujo, you will not have wealth.”
The then IGP imbibed the political label and praise with glee. It was followed with more executive perks. The police budget was increased from approximately Shs80b in 2005 to Shs540b by the time he was dropped in March.
Police was also designated as the lead agency for counter-terrorism and national security, taking up related budget and visibility to the chagrin of other sister security and intelligence agencies.
And Gen Kayihura was firmly in charge, with unlimited access to the Commander-in-Chief and all associated trappings.
In 1887, historian and moralist John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, noted that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
The Ugandan police chief was in this trap.
He was emboldened enough to recruit, by his accounts, some 11 million crime preventers, who turned out an auxiliary force to mobilise for President Museveni during the 2016 elections and beat back his opponents.
Before that, he arranged officers and men in police to stage a band-led procession from Naguru police barracks to the then police headquarters on Parliamentary Avenue in Kampala for a red carpet parade in honour of Kayihura’s elevation to a full general.
That is when critics began suspecting Gen Kale nursed political ambitions and building crime preventers as his own force and doing mobilisation through a nationwide network of boda boda taxi riders headed by now jailed Abdallah Kitatta.
The IGP deflected the rumours and sought to reassure the appointing authority that he was not up to any mischief.
“It is us who are in the government, including me, who have failed you (Museveni),” Gen Kayihura told the President during a memorial service held in Kisoro for his father John Kalekezi.
He added: “I thank you for the opportunity you gave me to serve and I promise that I will for the remaining time of my life work even more not to disappoint you.”
The President gave him an expressional look, even when he took the shield and spear gifts the IGP offered.
Their body language was stiff. Still, the President held onto Kayihura, re-appointing him for an unprecedented fifth term.
The move surprised the nation because when the then police spokesman Andrew Felix Kaweesi was gunned down in broad daylight in March 2016, the President publicly admonished Gen Kayihura over infiltration of the Force by criminals and ordered him to weed out the outlaws.
And Gen Kayihura travelled east to Mbale, a perceived Opposition hotbed, to celebrate this new tenure. State spies read it as a political message rather than a ceremonial fête.
Surge in crime wave
In Kampala, the self-baptised Kifeesi criminal gang terrorised residents, with one member saying on camera during a press conference organised by Gen Kayihura that they work with police! And Kitatta’s Boda Boda 2010 group caned demonstrators on the streets at will.
Impunity was at its peak and accountability at its lowest. Detained suspects were brutalised and fractured at the then police’s Rapid Response Unit Kireka headquarters and at Nalufenya in Kampala and Jinja, respectively.
Then followed a spate of unexplained gun violence manifested in the killings of more than half-a-dozen sheikhs, senior state prosecutor Joan Kagezi and Kaweesi. Burglary worsened, cases of women being raped and killed shocked the country and would later be followed by kidnaps for murder and ransom.
This was years after police stopped issuing annual crime reports in 2013.
Restoration of human security has been an enduring feat of President Museveni’s government and the turn of events boxed security leaders into a corner of bother.
Allegations that law enforcers had become breakers prompted the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence and the Internal Security Organisation to arrest key Kayihura allies in police.
The IGP was no longer an attractive political bride. In March, the man President Museveni credited for being a “good cadre” for converting police into a ruling party appendage and muzzling the Opposition, was fired.
Days later, Gen Museveni said he had removed the “bean weevil” in police. With yesterday’s arrest, Gen Kayihura made the full cycle of comrade-in-arms, loyalist, good cadre, bean weevil to a jailbird.
MUSEVENI ON KAYIHURA
On criminals. “The police has been infiltrated by criminals, especially the CID group.”
Mobilisation. “I want to salute Kale Kayihura because as a loyal cadre, he actively implemented this programme (of political mobilisation). He was doing it with the army when he was Chief Political Commissar.”
On demonstrations. “People are attacking Kale (Kayihura); Kale has done a good job. He stopped fujo (chaos) because people wanted to bring fujo to disrupt business. If you have fujo, you will not have wealth.”
NRM support. “I want to thank IGP Kale Kayihura for being a good NRM cadre for a long time.”
KAYIHURA ON MUSEVENI
On appointment as IGP. “…I thank you for the opportunity you gave me to serve and I promise that for the remaining time of my life, I will work even more not to disappoint you.”
“I will forever be indebted to the Commander-in-Chief and the President for his trust and giving me the opportunity to serve my country in this capacity.”
NRM support. “If anybody in this government thinks they are not working for the NRM, then they don’t know where they are…so, what was wrong with the President saying I am a good NRM cadre?”
On their relationship. “The President likes me. He likes my projects and he supports them because they are good initiatives.”