The 'teargas king' plans 2016 comeback
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kale Kayihura’s recent announcement that he is recruiting 3500 more men and women to the force is being praised as equally as it is being criticised. Critics say the recruitment is another bad sign ahead of the scheduled 2016 national general elections. Just last year, in April, another 5000 were recruited.
Heavy deployment of security forces around election time has tended to favour President Museveni because, critics say, as fear spreads among voters because of the intimidation, most stay away from the polls.
That was the case in the last election in February 2011 when in July 2010 Kayihura recruited 5,500 Special Police Constables (SPCs) to the force.
This time, when he announced the recruitment drive on Jan.2, Kampala Metropolitan Commander Andrew Felix Kaweesi said the force needs to be ready “to provide security and safety” for the 2016 election.
He said the force was also fixing its “equipment”. That means police has also steadily been stocking up anti-riot gear, pepper sprayers, equipment trucks; teargas and troop carriers, among others, sources say.
On the face of it, police recruitment is good. Uganda has a small police force of about 45,000. In ratio terms that gives about one police man or woman for every 780 Ugandans (Officially it is 1:1200) and the recommended world policing ratio is 1:500. In fact, Kayihura has approval for 2500 recruits every year for the next five.
But political pundits, like Prof. Ogenga Latigo, a former Leader of Opposition (LoP) in parliament say, in this case, the recruits are meant to harass opponents of President Yoweri Museveni in the 2016 elections.
“The Special Police Constables deployed in 2011, had a big impact on the elections,” Latigo told The Independent, “These SPCs threatened and intimidated people.”
Semujju Ibrahim Nganda, the opposition Kyadondo East legislator, who sits on the Defence and Internal Affairs committee that oversees the police, is equally unimpressed.
He told The Independent: “What you have is not a professional police, this is a political police. That is why you have police officers aggressively pursuing politicians.”
Ssemujju argues that it is not hard to understand what drives the police to behave brutally.
“All the time President Museveni has praised them, it has not been about dealing with crime; he is not interested in that, he has praised them for spraying opposition politicians with tear gas.”
Ssemujju and company have a point.
The latest incident of President Yoweri Museveni showering praise on Kayihura was on Jan. 13 at the East African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation meeting at the luxurious Paraa Safari Lodge in Uganda’s Murchison National Game Park.
Museveni was speaking about “the recent wave of violence and instability in North Africa and its implications to our region and the rest of Africa” when he praised Kayihura.
He said his police boss had found a formula for such protests.
“This man,” he said pointing at Kayihura, “has enough tear gas”.
“Once the demonstrators take enough smoke, they go home,” he added.
To show the extent to which Uganda has built capacity to deal with protests, Museveni told the meeting that he had lent out equipment and trained officers to help a country in the region deal with “election trouble causers”.
“Someone who knew our experience in dealing with trouble makers approached us and we rented them equipment,” Museveni said as Kayihura beamed with satisfaction.
Museveni started praising Kayihura almost as soon as he shifted him from the army to police in 2005.
Before that Museveni had endured a frosty relationship with the force which, unlike the army, was largely a carryover from previous regimes. One time Museveni even famously said that police officers loathed him so much that if he contested with a dog in an election, the officers would vote the dog.
But in eight years at the helm, Gen. Kayihura appears to have turned that bad-blood around to the extent that Museveni today relies more on the police for his political survival than the army.
“What you see today has been systematically planned to protect Museveni’s image,” Latigo told The Independent, “If you have the police cracking down on politicians, it may appear legitimate than if it was the army doing it as was the case in the past.”
But the turnaround has come at a price and depending on who you talk to, Gen. Kale Kayihura’s appointment is either a blessing or a curse.
For taking care of Museveni’s interests, Kayihura has been able to get resources and tweak a few things about the force.
When he came into office, only the luckiest officer had a neat uniform; the sky-blue introduced by his predecessor, then-Lt. Gen. Katumba Wamala.
The rest of the force wore threadbare grey outfits whose patches had become the butt of jokes.
The majority still live in dilapidated police quarters build in the 1950s. But they now at least have four pairs of uniform, walkie-talkies, and have so many bikes and motor vehicles.
Kayihura has also diversified and transformed the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) into the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department (CIID) and recently completed building a Shs9 billion state-of-the-art headquarters for it. Its Forensics division headquarters and laboratories were chosen to become the referral laboratory for the East African Community police forces.
Kayihura is hailed for slashing police expenses by moving his headquarters from rented buildings and is now set to erect the Police headquarters next to the CIID building.
Located in Naguru, adjacent to the dingy living quarters of his force, the CIID headquarters shows clearly what Kayihura has achieved and what more he has to do.
In the Financial Year 2003/4 before Kayihura came in, the approved police budget was Shs 75 billion and the outturn was Shs 64 billion or about 40% of the whole Justice, Law, and Order Sector (JLOS).
At the time, the police budget was on a constant downward spiral and even the little money availed was for capital development. As a result, the police were among the least paid and lived almost as destitute in derelict barracks.
Today, the police force is looking up. Its budget has grown over 300% in the last ten years. In the 2013/14 Financial year, it has an approved budget of Shs303 billion or 50% of the JLOS budget of Shs612 billion.
Growth in police budget ( Shs Bns)
The same cannot be said of say, the Prisons Service.
The Prison’s budget was Shs17 billion when the police budget was Shs64 billion. At the time, the Prison’s budget was 12% of the JLOS budget. In the FY2013/14, Prisons was allocated Shs85 billion only or 13% of the JLOS budget i.e. no change in fortunes.
Yet for the financial year 2013/2014, the police wanted a budget of 596.9 billion, up from last year’s Shs 282.5 billion. Parliament approved only Shs303 billion. But as has happened in the past three years, the police has its eyes on supplementary budgets.
It must raise, among others, Shs 40 billion it had budgeted for its classified expenditure. The biggest chunk of this vote goes into purchase of items like ammunitions and anti-riot gear.
Cost of chasing Besigye
That the police now want Shs 40 billion, up from about Shs. 5 billion last year, for those items is yet another sign that the force intends to do a little more stocking up on the anti-riot paraphernalia.
The police vote on motor vehicles, specialised equipment, fuel, lubricants and oil has also been growing rapidly.
In the 2012/13 Financial Year, police spent Shs 48 billion on specialised machinery, motor vehicles, and other equipment. Shs30.8 billion went into the mobile police patrols and Shs9.3 billion into fuel and lubricants.
Chasing Kizza Besigye and other opposition politicians takes a huge percentage of these bills especially the fuel bill. For instance, just after the 2011 elections when demonstrations were at their most intense, the fuel bill hit Shs 20 billion mark. Over all, Shs 150 billion was spent on efforts and machinery related to quelling riots.
In the annual budget performance report, it is indicated the money financed, among others, the handling of 57 cases of public order, 49 cases of incitement to violence, six election related cases, and one case was of promoting sectarianism, among others.
Most of these demonstrations, police noted, were carried out by the Activist for Change (A4C), the report noted.
These riots, at their height, saw police kill over 10 people; injure scores and nearly blind Besigye with teargas. This attracted international criticism for massive violations of human rights.
Critics have for long expressed concern about this kind of expenditure on anti-riot paraphernalia, saying it is what is fuelling police brutality. As a result, in its analysis of the current police budget, legislators on the parliamentary committee on Defence and Internal Affairs, asked police to “work within limited resources” and adapt more cost effective and yet efficient methods of policing such as “community policing and soft power that are less coercive and yet cost effective”. Huge expenditure into anti-riot material and use of brutal force against opposition politicians, has also led to conclusions, the police is more interested in hunting down Museveni’s opponents than criminals.
But Jude Kagoro, a security scholar and author of The Urban (In)Security Paradox in Uganda: The Case of Kampala City, who is doing research on policing in Uganda, says it is a mistake to focus on quelling as the main function of police.
“You need to subtract politics and look at what other things the police are doing because you will find that over 90% of what police do is outside politics,” Kagoro says, “The demonstrations are quelled by the Field Force Unit (FFU). This is a very small unit of the police force.”
He says a critical look shows that 90% of what police does is outside politics, a lot more is outside Kampala, and very few people live in Kampala.
“Are we analysing from what is happening in Kampala, during the times of demonstrations?” he asks, “How many demonstrations happen in a year, let us say 50 a year? Do we ask ourselves what the police is doing on these other days?”
He says focus should also go on the other police units including; traffic, oil and gas, counter terrorism, Interpol, and the child and family protection unit.
But another observer, who declined to be named, says while there are all these other things the police does, Kayihura’s lifeline is taking care of Museveni’s interests.
An old hand in intelligence agencies, Gen. Kayihura, uses his networks to keep supplying critical intelligence to Museveni that the other agencies are in the dark about. As a result, he has a huge intelligence budget under his docket.
Our source says Kayihura has been able to build the police because he was able to take advantage of President Museveni’s fears, assure him that he has his interests at heart.
“Look if I am Museveni, I want to be sure the police I have takes care of my threats, because my biggest priority is keeping power, I can’t do anything without this power,” the source said.
Ssemujju says that this is dangerous and costly for Ugandans.
“I do not think that any one serious,” Semujju says, “will want anything to do with Kayihura once all this is done, that means that the whole force has to be dismantled and rebuilt again.”
Ssemujju and Latigo disagree on this.
Latigo says Kayihura has been careful to ensure that some of his actions are empowered by laws like the recently pass Public Order Management Bill.
“Some of the things police is doing might even be defensible in the law,” Latigo says.
A former commander of a unit of over ten officers that had been brought in from north eastern Uganda also told The Independent, that the operations against demonstrations, while seen as brutal and therefore partisan, are not.
“If you have to quell a raging crowd,” he says, “reasonable force must be used.” He said reasonable force must be about five times more than the force of the raging crowd because you are about 10 officers against a charging crowd of 50, sometimes more. “Read the Police Act,” he added, “It is clear; police is out there to detect and prevent crime and must execute this role at all costs”.