In 2005, Kayihura was appointed IGP. Either deliberately or intuitively, Kayihura realised that the police could be the main centre of dealing with resistance to Museveni’s rule if its power structure were changed. So he fired the old guard who were nonpartisan (or even anti-NRM), or transferred them to nonstrategic positions. He hired new and young officers and placed only those who exhibited a partisan bias in favour of Museveni in charge of sensitive positions.
Hence, Kayihura’s most critical role has been to transform the police into an arm of the NRM. He secured for Museveni the loyalty of a major security institution that had been independent of NRM politics, hence reducing the role of the army in quelling protests. Kayihura did for Museveni what Central Bank governor, Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile did for IMF. Mutebile converted Museveni into a free market ideologue, thereby turning a Marxist revolutionary into an agent of imperialism.
Finally and most importantly, Kayihura brought both the hard (the capacity to crash protests) and soft (the agility to infiltrate and co-opt leaders of protests) under one roof. He has performed soft roles by converting police into the centre of political intelligence gathering (remember the Amama Mbabazi tapes?). This intelligence role is not the professional variety even though that plays some role. It is what can be called “popular vigilance” i.e. individuals and groups with information about political schemes by the opposition and/or NRM insiders volunteer it to the police out of political loyalty as opposed to professional effort. This is typical of revolutionary movements of the NRA/M type.
This masterstroke significantly shrunk the role of ISO and CMI in the soft game of consolidating Museveni’s power. Kayihura’s success here has come at the price of reduced emphasis on criminal investigations, hence negatively impacting the rate of its professional development in the force.
However, overall Kayihura’s strategy has bolstered the position of the Uganda police politically, making it a powerful centre of power. This has led to a rapidly growing budget that has made it possible for police to perform other functions such as traffic policing, fire fighting, and even criminal investigations. It has opened the doors for police to become professional like UPDF. Pundits have ignored all this achievement because they obsess too much with the emphasis he has placed on regime maintenance.
Yet in the wider scheme of things, it is possible that without making it a political arm of the NRM, Kayihura would not have succeeded in building the police to its current logistical, manpower, and financial capacity. It is, therefore, possible that the politicisation and partisanisation of the police may have been the necessary short term price for its professionalisation and capacity development in the long term.