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Nabakooba’s seven lives

By Independent Reporter

Police PRO reappointed again as major changes rock force

Judith Nabakooba has bounced back as Uganda Police spokesperson, making her one of the longest serving public relations officers in the force.

Nabakooba had earlier lost her post to Asuman Mugenyi in a reshuffle that elevated him to the post of Director Police Commissariat and also appointed him spokesperson.


At the time, Nabakooba was appointed a Deputy Director, and therefore the Deputy Police spokesperson and given the rank of Commissioner of Police.

But Nabakooba and Mugenyi were both moved out of the public relations office in July when the Inspector General of Police appointed Commissioner Simon Kuteesa to head a newly formed Uganda Police Press Unit. His Deputy was Senior Superintendent Emilian Kayima.

Nabakooba is one of two police officers who were recruited in 2004 on recommendation by then police spokesperson Asuman Mugenyi. Mugenyi sold the idea of the need to have a professional police public relations office with someone with a background in mass communication to run it.

Then-Inspector General of Police, Gen. Katumba Wamala bought the idea and recruited Judith Nabakooba together with Patrick Onyango, who was later moved to work as Officer in-charge Lugazi police station and later Division Police Commander, Lugazi.

Although Onyango had proved his ability to manage a district and, using his skills as a Journalist, had worn the hearts of the people of Lugazi, he was later moved away to Jinja as officer in-charge of training ahead of the 2011 Presidential elections.

Onyango still at the same rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police has since been moved back to police headquarters in Kampala in the PRO’s office.

Gen. Katumba’s successor, Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura later appointed Gabriel Tibayungwa as PRO. When Tibayungwa travelled to East Timor, he was replaced by Edward Ochom who occupied the position for a short while before he was appointed Director of Criminal Investigations.

After Ochom, Kayihura appointed Nabakooba as substantive Police spokesperson. She was later removed and replaced with AIGP Asan Kasingye.

Nabakooba has proved to be a darling of the media; answering Journalists questions and finding it easy to mix and mingle with editors. Together with her boss, Lt. Gen. Kayihura, she has managed to bring the Police agenda to the fore front.

Her star appeared to have dipped when Simon Kuteesa was appointed on recommendation by Glenevin Operational Risk and Security Consultancy a team of Irish men usually seen following riots who were single sourced to clean police image at a whooping Shs 1.3 billion a month.

But Kuteesa’s appointment left journalists wondering how the head of the notorious Media Crime Desk that often summons, interrogates, and arrests journalists could perform as the force’s spokesperson.

Kuteesa is reported to have a background in crime investigations and journalists resorted to avoiding taking comments from him and instead called his deputy Emirian Kayima who was more articulate.

Kuteesa’s luck reportedly ran out when he was Master of Ceremony during the requiem mass for the Late Assistant Inspector General of Police, Richard Bisherurwa at Christ the King Church in Kampala. He bungled protocol when he invited people to lay wreathes on the casket before the representative of the Minister of Internal Affairs did. Even though Kuteesa he apologized profusely, the goof appears not to have been forgiven. The Minister’s representative, who was the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Internal Affairs, Dr. Stephen Kagoda laid the wreath after all the others.

When Kayihura spoke, he apologised for the mishap caused by Kuteesa, who he called a “junior officer”. Kuteesa is a Commissioner of Police and holds a Masters in Land Law but he showed he knew nothing about protocol.  Earlier Kuteesa had called on Kayihura to lay his wreath leaving out the children; it was Kayihura who reminded him to let the children lay their wreath.

While the Media was just trying to get used to Kuteesa at the helm of the police publicity office, a message signed by Deputy Inspector General of Police, Okoth Ochola, popped into their mail boxes announcing that Nabakooba had been re-appointed police spokesperson for the third time.

Nabakooba has been the envy of some for her fast rise in rank. Earlier, she showed little practical knowledge in police work, but picked up quickly. Nabakooba learnt what her office required her to do and often surpasses it. It is not uncommon to find her kneeling in a police uniform greeting members of the public almost in total disregard of her rank. And when she took over as Deputy Director Chief Political Commissar, Nabakooba was approachable to many groups of people that she managed to break into and have people within the opposition who would ably feed the police with information on whatever developments were happening in Walk to Work protests.

Today Nabakooba will be seen anywhere with the members of the public either attending to a security issue like crime in a village or sensitising a community about terrorism and she is common at schools giving tips on school fires.

Reports from within the force say that Nabakooba’s bouncing back is no surprise because, since Kayihura decided to leave the administrative work to his deputy, his past mistakes are being rectified.  It’s not only Nabakooba who has been returned to her former position but even at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, a number of senior detectives have been returned to the directorate. Even detectives formerly attached to RRU which had been disbanded have been returned to fight armed robberies and murders.

But other reports indicate that the height of Walk to Work protests that were brutally suppressed by the police, the government thought of repairing its dented image.  Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi reportedly outsourced a Kenya-based Public Relations firm, Glenevin Operational Risk and Security Consultancy, which is owned by Irish managers, to train the police and workers at Uganda Media Centre to manage the crisis and portray a better image of Uganda abroad.

The Irish PR firm was reporting directly to Amama and began pushing for changes that were resisted within the police force. After realising the resistance the firm would usually reported any delays or disagreements in execution of its suggestions to Amama and wanted the PROs changed. It established the Police Press Unit which it wanted to control but top police officers accused the firm of not following the right bureaucratic police channels/command structure and entrenched their resistance to cooperate with it.

Reportedly, Kayihura gave in to the Irish firm’s desire to have a new PRO and a Press Unit to please Mbabazi. But the IGP did not want a new PRO. So when the Irish firm’s contract expired, he brought back the people he wanted.

Sources in police say IGP Kayihura was not convinced that Irish PR firm was doing anything extraordinary apart from introducing the press unit, and use of social media applications like twitter and facebook. The firm had wanted the police not to frequently use the Uganda Media Centre and wanted the police bosses to appear and address to the press in ceremonial uniform not field uniforms; something that Kayihura  reportedly did not agree with. There were also questions about money involved in the PR project.

Though, the PRO position puts Nabakooba in the limelight, the Deputy Director position has more authority and clout. It is not known whether she is keeping it too.

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