By Obed K. Katureebe & John Njoroge
Museveni grills security chiefs
Just a few hours before President Yoweri Museveni flew out for a two-day state visit to Nigeria on November 20, he called all the security chiefs to an emergency meeting at State House Entebbe.
In attendance were Inspector General of Police Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura; the Director General of the Internal Security Organisation, Dr Amos Mukumbi; Chief of Defence Forces Gen. Aronda Nyakairima; the Chief of Military Intelligence Brig. James Mugira, and Coordinator of Intelligence, Lt. Gen. David Tinyefuza, among others.
While many of the security chiefs were anticipating the discussion to centre on the Temangalo scandal that had polarised security organs, with some of the fighting politicians using the security forces to fight their personal wars, the president took a completely different line.
According to The Independent‘s sources, the president grilled his chiefs about the recent increase in cases of murders and aggravated robbery across the country.
‘You must stop this nuisance of murders and robberies engulfing the country,’ the president is reported to have reprimanded his security chiefs, wondering how insecurity could have increased to such levels.
Museveni has built his presidency on the promise of his ability to guarantee security of life and property which he claims his predecessors Idi Amin Dada and Milton Obote failed to ensure. That promise seems to be failing most in Buganda and western Uganda €“ the areas that had bought Museveni’s line of ‘master of security’ and had experienced good levels of security for the last over 20 years.
According to recent police statistics, murder cases have increased by over 30% this year. In Kampala Extra Region alone, during the months of August, September and October 2008, police registered 103 cases of murder and 135 cases of aggravated robbery. That is an average of one murder and one violent robbery every day in Kampala alone.
Politics or crime behind iron-bar hit-men?
In the recent months, there has also the emergence of the iron-bar hit-men (katayimbwa) who are terrorising not just the city suburbs but also the villages mostly in Buganda and western Uganda.
In July 12 people were killed by these metal bar hit-men in Kampala, according to police spokeperson Judith Nabakooba.
‘Especially in areas outside the city centre like Kisenyi, Nateete, Bwaise, Kalerwe and Mukono, criminals are using iron bars and knives when attacking civilians. The most common getaway methods they resort to are the use of motorcycles. Most of these motorcycles do not have license plates. This is why we as police have decided to crack down on bodaboda cyclist to rid the industry of criminals,’ she told The Independent.
In Mukono, four people €“Simon Nvule, an employee of Christian University Mukono; Roger Ojaka, a student at the same university and two businessmen: Ronald Ssekitoleko and Oliver Nakamya €“ were left for dead in one night in four different incidences in early August after they were hit by iron bars.
Iron-bar hit-men ruled the night Jinja in the early to mid €˜80s, killing several people who stayed out after 7p.m in a methodpopularly know as Moja Kwisha (One hit is enough to finish you) . Only those with cars eluded the hit-men. After Obote was overthrown, the phenomenon died out. It had been claimed the hit-men were guerrillas whose mission was to discredit the Obote regime and expose the government’s incapacity to provide security to its people.
While no political undertones can be definitely discerned in the current wave of iron-bar hit-men, the increase in murders and robbery in the countryside has been linked to land disputes and the worst hit districts are Sembabule in the south-west and Bushenyi in western Uganda.
For President Museveni, the worry is not just about the wave of insecurity but the alleged involvement of the very organs that should help him solve the problem.
Our sources say the president was very angry at the suspected complicity of security organs in crime, saying he had received reports implicating some senior security officers in cases of aggravated robberies.
According to police reports, some of the security officers facilitate criminal gangs with guns and other crucial protection devices to go and rob and then remit the swag for sharing with their bosses. The organs implicated most are the police and the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.
Mid this year, police clashed with CMI sharply after they intercepted illegal drugs being shipped out of the country through DHL. As the police raided the DHL warehouse for the illegal drugs, CMI operatives led by one Lt. Drani came in and took away the suspicious parcel, throwing off the whole operation. Police later arrested Drani but he was released when senior officers at the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence intervened.
It also emerged in the meeting that many of those orchestrating these criminal acts are officers and men who are officially un-deployed or what is commonly known as katebe in the Uganda military lingo. These soldiers who at some time occupied key positions in the security are reportedly now using their networks to get blood money.
Ironically, katebe is meant to serve as a disciplining phase before any officer is redeployed again. However, most of these soldiers have spent as many as 15 years without deployment and are now resorting to criminal activities to survive, our sources said.
The UPDF, unlike other armies, does not have a defined system of exit for officers. In other forces like the Kenyan army, it is clearly stated how many years one should hold a particular rank and if one cannot be promoted to the next rank then they take early retirement.
In the UPDF some officers have held one rank for 15 to 20 years but cannot be retired, often because the regime fears that they could get politically active and mobile against it. Serving officers are constitutionally barred from engaging in partisan politics.
The commandant of Rapid Response Unit of the Police, David Magara however feigned ignorance of such cases. ‘The only cases I have handled are those of army deserters and therefore those can’t be classified as people in the army since they have deserted anyway,’ he told The Independent.
When reminded about the case of a former Mityana police officer, one Wilson Isabirye, who was arrested in a foiled highway robbery, he was quick to concede and said that such incidences do happen but added that as police they will continue apprehending them like they did Isabirye.
Maritime Unit disbanded
As part of the attempts to rein in errant security officers, the president, who is also the commander-in-chief, last month ordered the disbandment of the Maritime Unit formed to police Lake Victoria. The unit that was tasked with stumping out illegal fishing and piracy was, over time, being accused of turning into a terrorising unit only focusing on self-aggrandisement. Several complaints were forwarded to the president prompting him to order its disbandment. The former head of the unit, Sammy Sekiziyuvu has been posted to eastern Uganda as an ISO operative.
The unit was formed in 2005 by Col. Elly Kayanja, then head of ISO. Kayanja is credited for having ended the spate of insecurity that characterised Kampala though his Operation Wembley. But his take-no-prisoners approach left a lot of blood on the streets with hundreds of suspected criminals gunned down in broad daylight in the city and its suburbs.
Col. Kayanja told The Independent: ‘I am not aware whether or not the unit has been disbanded and why. It is true I formed the unit when I was heading [Operation] Wembley and I left it fully operational. I don’t know the current situation. It would be best to ask the current director of ISO.’ On how he succeeded in reducing crime in the city, he said, ‘My success in fighting crime in the past was because of the terms of reference given to me when I took up the job. These terms were handed to me by the commander-in-chief and I followed them to the letter thus my success. For the last four year I have not been informed on the insecurity trends. I just read them in the papers. I cannot interfere in the work of other security organs. Those in charge would be in a better position to analyse the current trends.’
Kayanja was last month transferred from the job of assistant coordinator of intelligence where he was deputising Gen. Tinyefuza to Bombo General Army Headquarters. It is not yet clear what his new deployment is. Kayanja’s position has been given to Brig. Wasswa Balikalege, another Luwero bush war veteran.
When reached for comment, the Coordinator for Intelligence Services Gen. Tinyefuza said Kayanja’s transfer was normal routine. Asked if his transfer had anything to do with the disbandment of the infamous Maritime Unit, Tinyefuza said that Kayanja is just unlucky like the legendry child with a big head who never misses being hit by a flying stone.
‘Owomutwe omunene tagwa mbbale,’ he said quoting a Luganda saying.