His contract was renewed because his enemies inside the government underestimate him while the opposition demonise him
By Andrew M. Mwenda
Parliament last week approved President Yoweri Museveni’s reappointment of Gen. Kale Kayihura as Inspector General of Police (IGP). With 12 years at the helm, Kayihura is now the longest serving IGP in Uganda’s history and equally the most controversial. This is unprecedented. No one has held such a sensitive job while exercising the amount of power Kayihura does for a long period under Museveni. He has achieved this is in spite of (and also because of) having many enemies in the system and criticism from the opposition and media.
To explain Kayihura’s success, we need to understand the historical context. When Museveni captured power, he inherited an established, even though enfeebled, state. All he brought with him was a new army, the National Resistance Army (NRA) now Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and intelligence services i.e. Internal Security Organisation (ISO) and External Security Organisation (ESO).
Thus, when it came to the internal organisation of the state, Museveni inherited a civil service, a diplomatic corps, a police force, a prisons service and a parastatals sector from previous governments. These institutions had suffered atrophy but they were functional. The personnel in them had been appointed by previous governments and many were not favourable to NRM.
Uganda had not suffered the kind of deep social shredding that was, for example, seen in Rwanda where state institutions, church, and traditional collectives had been either destroyed or grossly discredited when RPF took power after the 1994 genocide.
Regarding relations between state and society, the forces that exercised social control in Uganda; including religious and traditional institutions, had retained their legitimacy. The churches had substituted the state in the provision of many basic public services like education and health, not to mention their role in providing spiritual and moral leadership; factors that bolstered their prestige.
These factors were both an asset and a liability for Museveni: an asset because he had a base from which to rebuild Uganda; a liability because he had to work through public institutions largely staffed by personnel who may not have shared his vision. He also had to compromise more with existing social and political forces like Mengo and the Roman Catholic Church that enjoyed high levels of legitimacy.
Museveni had captured power by military might. However, his National Resistance Movement (NRM) was young, with a weak and shaky political base. His genius was to recognise that he could not use NRA’s military strength to compensate for NRM’s political weaknesses. He recognised that overt military rule was likely to be counterproductive. Rather than rule militarily, he decided to govern politically.
So he invited leaders of other political parties and forces into a broad-based (which later became a bread-based) government. However, the military remained a fall back force: if threatened politically, he could call upon it to buttress his political fortunes. At the time, each time Museveni faced a severe political protest, the police proved ineffective to handle it. So he would call on the army to “crash” it.
But remember that Museveni seeks to rule politically, not militarily. He, therefore, always uses hard methods (“crashing” a protest) as tactical measures to achieve a short term objective of ensuring stability. His medium to long term strategy has always been to politically counter-mobilise against his opponents by infiltrating centres of resistance, co-opting and buying off leaders of such protests, and/or meeting some of their demands.
Between 1986 and 1996, this latter job fell to ISO then under Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi. From 1997 to 2005, the centre of gravity shifted to the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) then under Brig. Noble Mayombo who was a tool for Museveni’s politics. Throughout this period, the police remained on the side-lines – under resourced, ineffectual, disloyal, and ignored in the power calculus.