Maj. Gen. Lokech meanwhile is an almost unknown quantity in civilian circles. Tall, lean, and intellectual looking, Lokech has made his mark mainly on the battlefield and in military diplomacy. He was among the first officers to head Uganda’s military adventure in Somalia under AMISOM between 2011 and 2012 where he earned the moniker of ‘Lion of Mogadishu’. He was involved in Operation Safe Haven in the DR Congo against the Allied Democratic Front (ADF) rebels in the DR Congo.
Lokech can be recklessly tough as when in May he got engaged in a confrontation with the Kira Division Traffic Commander, Ruth Kyobutungi who stopped him for driving on the road shoulder of the road. He has done diplomatic work in Russia and was until recently involved with the peace process in South Sudan. It is not clear what side of Lokech he will offer to the public. What is clear is that he risks being blacklisted by human rights advocate like America and sanctioned.
Just recently, the Chairman of the U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs, Eliot Engel, sent a list to the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, of seven top to middle commanders of security forces in Uganda that he wants to on the Specially Delegated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) list.
The seven commanders include Lt. Gen. Peter Elwelu, the Commander of Land Forces, Maj. Gen. James Birungi, the outgoing Commander of the SFC, Maj. Gen. Don William Nabasa, a former Commander of SFC, Maj. Gen. Abel Kandiho, the Chief of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Steven Sabiiti Muzeyi, the former Deputy Inspector of General of Police, Frank Mwesigwa, a Commissioner of Police, and Col. Chris Serunjogi Ddamulira, the Director of Crime Intelligence.
Despite being placed in the crosshairs of American sanctions, handling the opposition with kid-gloves appears not to be part of Museveni’s assignment for Muhoozi and Lokech.
Taming Bobi Wine supporters
Many observers say the former DIGP, Sabiiti Muzeyi was removed mainly because, under him, police has proved ineffective in taming the runaway campaign of Bobi Wine.
The changes in police leadership followed just five-days after President Museveni said they had failed to enforce the scientific campaign guidelines agreed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“I’m not happy with the Electoral Commission and police,” Museveni said during Thanks Giving Prayers head at State House on Dec.11. The televised prayers turned into an appeal by speaker after speak for peace during the election period. In response, Museveni said he would ensure that the elections would be peaceful.
“Nobody is going to disturb our elections. Anybody who will try will fail. Let everyone follow the law, then there will be peace,” he said, “We are also not going to tolerate criminals attacking people, destroying property and derobing women.”
Museveni’s comments appear to have been in response to violent events that followed the arrest of Bobi Wine by police on Nov.18 allegedly for engaging in activities likely to spread COVID-19 when he held big rallies of more than 200 people.
Angry Bobi Wine supporters took to the streets accusing the police of double standards and persecuting opposition politicians and letting those of Museveni’s party NRM campaign freely. They set up burning barricades on many roads across the country, attacked people in especially government vehicles and wearing yellow which is the NRM colour, and fought running battles with a joint force of the military and police who fired teargas and live bullets. Official police figures say security forces killed up to 54 people but others put the figure at over 100.
In an address to the nation regarding the events of Nov.18 and 19, Museveni said the police failed to anticipate the protest reaction to Bobi Wine’s arrest and stop them before they escalated. He said at the height of the protest some panicky people wanted him to intervene by making telephone calls but he refused.
He said the police responses were “weak” and listed a series of what he says should happen if what he calls “highly trained security personnel” are in operation. He said it is wrong for some groups to only condemn the Security Forces, but never condemn law-breakers that attack innocent people, kill them, and rob them.
“It is criminal to attack Security Forces by throwing stones or attempting to disarm them. In that scenario, the Police will legitimately fire directly at the attackers if they fail to respond to the firing in the air,” he said.
Muhoozi and Lokech’s appointment following these events and Museveni’s criticism of the previous security leaders shows that the new appointees are likely to be tougher, which is bad news for opposition candidates, especially Bobi Wine and their supporters.
Muhoozi’s reappointment to head SFC has also met criticism mainly because it appears to entrench the “family rule” view of Museveni, his wife Janet, his brother Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho aka Salim Saleh and Muhoozi as the quartet ruling the country.