By Haggai Matsiko
Police boss Kayihura’s tactics under spotlight
On Sept.11, the offices of the Director of Operations of the Uganda Police Force (UPF) at the swanky new force headquarters in Naguru, a Kampala city suburb, was a no-go area. Assistant Inspector of Police, Grace Turyagumanawe, the former Director of Operations, was busy packing his bags to make way for his successor, Andrew Felix Kaweesi.
When Kaweesi who has just completed an eventful tenure as the director Kampala Metropolitan Police (KMP) arrived the next day, Sept.12, Turyagumanawe took him on a tour of the Operations office.
According to someone familiar with the inner workings of the force, their boss, Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura appears to see in these two top lieutenants his favourite traits -loyalty and delivery of results; the reason they have kept rising in rank.
Yet even as the two men revelled in being the centre of attention, seeing them together must have led many to wonder what the change would bring not least because the two are so different in personality and working style.
Turyagumanawe is a short and stout taciturn whose favourite face is a fierce frown. Kaweesi, meanwhile, is a lanky officer who likes to smile and revel in the limelight although, insiders say, he is in fact a clandestine operator.
As they walked around, Kaweesi was beaming with excitement, like a man in a hurry to get on with his new job and at some point was overheard telling some friends; “that is the office” as he pointed excitedly to the operations directorate office.
A relatively young Turk in police, Kaweesi, who joined the force in 2001, is already at the height of his career—although the force’s hierarchy is flat and mutates, Kaweesi’s current office of Director Operations is seen as the third highest in the institution.
The operations office is responsible for planning, implementing and coordinating all police activities in the country. It also coordinates the Uganda Police Force’s engagement with other specialised units.
Operational duties range from big national functions, football matches, national and international VIP functions, riots, demonstrations, elections, and emergencies.
On the same day that he took office, for example, Kaweesi was handed his first task by Deputy Inspector of Police (DIGP), Martin Okoth Ochola. He was to oversee the coronation of Prince William Gabula Nadiope as the Kyabazinga of Busoga Kingdom. President Yoweri Museveni and other dignitaries attended the function in Bugembe, Jinja district amid tight security as rival factions threatened violence.
Kaweesi, who headed to Jinja soon after the official handover ceremony, is familiar with dealing with situation like this.
At the handover ceremony, DIGP Ochola sought to quell speculation surrounding Kaweesi’s arrive at the Directorate of Operations.
“For us, transfers and appointments are normal administrative actions,” he said, “There is no single super directorate in the police, we now have 20 directorates, the police is like a human body and these directorates are like body parts, each one relies on the other.”
But Kayihura observers have rejected Ochola’s claim. Many note that Kayihura likes to plan ahead. That is how he successfully stocked enough anti-riot gear to beat the post-2011 election protesters.
Part of Kayihura’s planning also involves constantly switching his men (rarely any women) to new roles; possibly to assess their fitness for critical upcoming assignments. Currently, the major assignment is the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections. Already, the police and army are beefing up their personnel with major recruitments.
In the latest transfers, Turyagumanawe was to be deputised by SCP Farouk Muyirima, the former Deputy Commandant Kampala Metropolitan Police and CP Moses Irungu will head to the new office with the East African Standby Force to be based in a joint UPDF/UPF office in Jinja.
The other transferred officers included; SCP Haruna Isabirye, who is now the Acting Commander KMP, ACP Tanui Stephen from KMP North to acting Acting Deputy Commander KMP, SP Wesley Nganizi from Jinja Road to Acting Regional Police Commander, KMP North and SP Charles Mugisa from KMP South to District Police Commander (DPC) Jinja Road.
But Ochola also obliquely hinted at what the police bosses consider when dishing out the carrots and sticks in the force. He remarked on how Kaweesi had battled and defeated some of the biggest protests seen in the country in recent times; the Walk-to-Work protests organised by groups allied to former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party president, Kizza Besigye.
“He really helped us to contain a number of those things (protests),” Ochola said.
Turyagumanawe too played a part in quelling those riots. When they broke out, he was the director KMP. His strong-arm tactics soon drew criticism as police used brute force and torture methods on opposition leaders like Kizza Besigye.
A tough officer, Turyagumanawe belongs to the old-guard which, the conventional wisdom claims, Kayihura is keen to get rid of. Many are, therefore, unsure why since Kayihura became police chief, Turyagumanawe’s star has been on the rise and shows no signs of burning out. But insiders say, it is Kayihura’s bad cop- good cop strategy.
Turyagumanawe’s tough tactics can be traced to the changing face of the UPF. He joined police in 1981, during the post-Amin chaos when only the toughest survived. The social capital he has built over the years ensured that he survived being side-lined even after a damning recommendation by the 1999 Sebutinde Commission on police.
The commission recommended that Turyagumanawe, together with others, be prosecuted for corruption and abuse of office.
The commission noted that under his leadership, the traffic department had experienced unmatched corruption and extortion cases.
The commission also called on the Inspector General of Government (IGG) to investigate Turyagumanawe over allegations of corruption and called for his replacement saying he was unfit to be an Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Traffic and Road Safety.
Indeed, when Gen. Katumba Wamala—the current Chief of Defence Forces (CDF)—was appointed IGP in 2001, he demoted Turyagumanawe and a few others claiming this was one of the steps he was taking to implement the Sebutinde recommendations.
But when Kayihura became police chief in 2005, Turyagumanawe’s star began to rise again.
A few years later, Turyagumanawe was again being criticised for his brute force style against opponents of President Yoweri Museveni, especially against Besigye.
Turyagumanawe was particularly singled out for directing an attack on Besigye in 2011 in which a police operative, Gilbert Arinaitwe shattered the opposition leader’s car window with a pistol and sprayed him with teargas and pepper spray that almost blinded him. Besigye had to be treated abroad after the incident which shook the nation, drew international condemnation, and sparked countrywide riots in which people were killed.
When months later Turyagumanawe was transferred, it sparked speculation that the move had to do with the pressure from some institutions like the Inter-Religious Council and some members of the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD). Many demanded that Turyagumanawe resign.
But the critics were missing something. Turyagumanawe had been appointed to the Kampala job after the previous holder, AIGP Andrew Sorowen was removed for allegedly mishandling (read handling with a softie-softie approach), the mayoral elections protests after the ruling NRM party candidate was caught fiddling with the ballots.
Kayihura was well aware of Turyagumanawe’s tough tactics. Before KMP, Turyagumanawe headed police operations. During this time, he cracked on the Buganda riots in 2009; perhaps the reason Kayihura put him in charge of Kampala.
So after the attack on Besigye, Turyagumanawe did not resign. Instead from KMP, he was promoted to head an even bigger Directorate of Operations.
That is how, in September 2011, Kaweesi came to head KMP. Kaweesi, who was fresh from training in policing strategy; especially deployments and riots handling, changed tactics but not intent.
Good cop tactics
As a more public operator than Turyagumanawe, Kaweesi quickly sought to deploy his public relations skills by engaging the public on the street and markets and on radio and TV talk shows.
But sources at police say, behind the scenes and away from public sight, Kaweesi infiltrated the political opposition in Kampala and their informal networks in places like Kiseka market.
The result was that instead of battling riots like Turyagumanawe before him had done, Kaweesi succeeded in bursting them before they happened. Indeed, the subsequent protests led by Kampala Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago and Besigye were usually nipped in the bud and with minimal brute force.
Like Kayihura his boss, Kaweesi likes to personally be where the action is and has severally been seen talking to opposition protestors and convincing students at Makerere University not to riot.
He also quickly jumped on the new police trend of `Community policing’ and has an army of informers that like to call themselves `crime preventers’.
`Abasajja ba Kaweesi’ or Kaweesi’s men is what some in police circles call them.
Police boss Kale Kayihura also often uses infiltrators. In tapes that were deliberately leaked to the public recently, Kayihura can be heard interviewing an informer who is none other than top opposition politician and Kampala Capital City Authority, Sulaiman Kindandala. Before the tapes leaked, opposition politicians were fighting to confirm Kidandala as KCCA Deputy Lord Mayor. After the leak, the opposition was left clueless, unable to trust even their shadow. Such are the new favoured tactics of the force. And to implement them, Kayihura increasing leans on a crop of young officers.
Kaweesi is the most senior of a group of young leaders in police that Kayihura has put in charge.
This group includes other officers like Superintendent of Police, James Ruhweza who, despite joining the force recently in 2007, has been at the forefront of some of the biggest police assignments; especially demonstrations.
Most of these young officers were trained by Kaweesi, who first served as a deputy and later Commandant of the Police Training school in 2007 at Kabalye, Masindi district.
He left here to become the director KMP. It is at this post that he has crystallised his credentials and made his mark in police.
However, it has not been all smooth-going for Kaweesi. In 2012 he hit a low when he was accused of taking billions of shillings from a one Paul Simwogerere.
When Kayihura directed the force’s Professional Standards Unit (PSU) to investigate, Kaweesi was cleared and police identified Simwogerere as a conman.
The Independent could not verify claims that these allegations were down to in-fighting between Kaweesi and some senior police officials.
Apparently, some senior officials expected Kaweesi to take their orders and he felt that since he was at the same rank with them, he could not. As the youngest officer at that level, Kaweesi was caught up in the tensions between the young turks and the old guard, sources in police claimed.
The Independent could also not confirm claims that Kaweesi clashed with Turyagumanawe under similar circumstances.
At the recent handover, the two men hugged, Turyagumanawe pledged support to Kaweesi and the latter said it was good Kayihura had chosen Turyagumanawe, “a tested officer” for a new office that deals with national, regional, and international assignments.
Tensions or no tensions, Kaweesi is now on top and seems to mix well with the leadership; at least as far as the public is concerned.
Apart from chairing the wedding meeting of the deputy IGP last year, Kaweesi also had the IGP fly to his home in Lwengo for his house warming party.
At the event, the police chief had only praises for Kaweesi.
“Kaweesi has never betrayed me or failed me since I started working with him in 2006,” Kayihura said, “that is why he has come this far. He is loyal in everything he does that is why people have called him my in-law, others my brother, yet we are not at all related.”
Little did Kaweesi know that the IGP had big plans for him.
His predecessor, Turyagumanawe’s new assignment in the Peace Support Operations office is less clear.
Turyagumanawe is now tasked with preparing police to meet the country’s regional and international obligations in peace support operations. He will also develop the force’s policy for Peace Support Operations and always ensure that it participates actively in the East African Standby Force.
Turyagumanawe will be working directly with the African Union and the UN’s department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO) on peace support operations.
While a new office cannot be compared to the directorate of operations, looking at Turyagumanawe’s career, one cannot say he has been demoted and he is approaching it with his usual resoluteness. When the The Independent asked him about it, he said he is looking forward to the new challenge the IGP has set before him. That is the right attitude which Kayihura praises.