Will Museveni back or sack police chief?
On July 12, dozens of police officers assisted by militia goons pounced on jubilating supporters of de facto opposition leader Kizza Besigye in downtown Kampala city and clobbered them with sticks and metallic cables, and even run over one man with a police truck. The images of the police brutality sparked public outrage immediately they were shown on social media and TV. Two days later, on July 14, top officers in the police leadership held two key meetings at their Naguru Police Headquarters. The meetings were intended to inform a briefing to the top leadership of the police and President Yoweri Museveni, writes Haggai Matsiko and Flavia Nasaka.
Since the scandal broke, it sparked claims that irked by his actions, certain top government officials are lobbying the president to have the police chief, Gen. Kale Kayihura replaced. A source close to Kayihura told The Independent that they had heard that the president was not happy even though, at that point, he had not summoned the police chief over the incidents.
The first meeting was intended to work out plans on how to prevent a repeat of the events of July 12. The second meeting was more specific. It was held to find out what exactly happened and how the operation to block Besigye, who had just been granted bail over a treason case some believe is tramped up, from celebrating with the crowds of supporters who thronged the High Court in Kampala and lined the streets to cheers him as he headed to his home in Kasangati, a city suburb.
The Independent understands that Police Chief, Gen. Kale Kayihura was slated to attend one of the meetings but could not because he got an emergency trip to western Uganda to deal with another police crisis.
Sources knowledgeable about the second meeting say it was attended by some commissioners, senior police officers, and the commanders of the operation.
With Kayihura away, one man, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ASP) James Ruhweza, was put on the spot. He commanded the brutal police operation.
Ruhweza’s role is being scrutinised because he is among a tight-knit group of blue-eyed boys in the force. Others are former Kampala Central Police Station commander, Aaron Baguma. They are said to be untouchables because although the top government prosecutor (the Director of Public Prosecution) has ordered for Baguma to appear in court on murder charges, Kayihura has not handed him over in what is seen as a sign of impunity.
Kayihura himself has been summoned in relation to private criminal proceedings inMakindye Chief Magistrate’s Court over the police’s brutal beating of Besigye supporters.
Kayihura was summoned together with Andrew Kaggwa, the former regional police commander for Kampala East, Samuel Bamuzibire, the former field force commander for Kampala Metropolitan, Moses Nanoka, the former divisional police commander for Wandegeya, Patrick Muhumuza, the former field force commander at Katwe police station, James Ruhweza who is head of operations, Kampala Metropolitan, Wesley Nganizi, Regional police commander, Kampala North, and Geoffrey Kaheebwa, deputy regional police commander, Kampala South.
They are expected in court on Aug. 10. Police has also been conducting an internal police trial in which Nanoka, and Kaggwa are the only senior officers charged with the rank and file like Patrick Muhumuza, former Field Operations commander at Katwe Police Station, and four constables and a crime preventer.
The force Spokesperson, Fred Enanga, told journalists that that Kayihura has not received the summons.
Kayihura under siege
Now all eyes are on whether Kayihura will appear before as parliament’s Human Rights Affairs Committee as summoned.
“Kayihura must answer,” says Jovia Kamateeka, the chairperson of the committee, “What the committee is concerned about is the IGP going ahead to say that he endorsed these violations of human rights.”
Kamateeka told The Independent that they want Kayihura to appear before the committee next week and explain himself.
“He said it publicly that he authorised the police to beat up people yet he, as a lawyer, knows that the use of canes has been outlawed.”
She said when the police chief appears, he is expected to give an update on the officers that were charged in court.
As we went to press, however, weeks after the beating incident, another police brutality video emerged and became the rage.
In it, a police officer driving a police truck is seen swerving to drive head-on into a man, knocking him down and driving on. The knocked man is pounced on by another plain clothed police operative who kicks him on the head.
These events have stirred a storm in which police boss Kayihura finds himself the subject of a civil suit by the victims and some opposition politicians, a parliament investigation and criticism from several sections of the public.
Kayihura supporters say he is being targeted by the opposition, which aims to oust him and as such have a chilling effect on the entire police leadership and command chain in order to discourage them from protecting Museveni’s government.
Many of Kayihura’s critics say he has sacrificed the professionalism of the police force at the altar of defending Museveni’s regime.
There are also claims that the outrage against the police is being fueled by camps opposed to Kayihura from other security agencies. They claim the bosses of these agencies feel suffocated by Kayihura because of his character, influence, and even the way he has been running the police.