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Why Kayihura case has changed

Kampala, Uganda | HAGGAI MATSIKO | The Aug.24 trial of former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kale Kayihura at the General Court Martial has brought to an end speculation about how President Yoweri Museveni intends to deal with his former police chief.

The police chief has been a subject of several accusations and investigations by several security agencies ever since he was fired early this year.

The most implicating of these investigations appeared to be the one over the murder of Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Andrew Felix Kaweesi. That is why the collapse of these investigations last month had raised hope amongst Kayihura’s allies he would be released.

The trial has now dashed them and is being seen as a pointer that President Yoweri Museveni is still keen to keep the former police chief on a tight leash.

Arrested on June.13, the former police chief was taken to court on Aug.24, over two months later. Initially investigated over the murder of Kaweesi, Kayihura has been charged with two counts of failing to protect war materials and one count of aiding and abetting kidnapping from Uganda of Rwanda nationals while he was Inspector General of Police (IGP), which insiders see as merely intended to keep him on a leash.

His trial has coincided with the uproar over the brutal arrest, detention and torture of Kyadondo East legislator Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine and several other opposition politicians following the chaotic Arua by-election, which the ruling party lost to Kassiano Wadri, the Independent but Forum for Democratic Change (FDC)—leaning candidate.

These circumstances have sparked speculation that Kayihura’s trial was intended to divert the public and media’s attention from the current political tensions.

Part of the reason is that these charges appear to have come as a last resort after investigations into other charges collapsed. The other reason is that the alleged kidnapping of Rwanda nationals happened five years ago, in broad daylight and was even broadcast by several media houses.

The only difference between then and now is that back then, Uganda enjoyed good relations with Rwanda, which have since deteriorated, insiders say. For instance, amidst Kayihura’s growing troubles, President Museveni is said to have been told that the former police chief was allegedly using crime preventers to train rebels in Mubende with the backing of Rwanda.

That is why before his arrest, on June 11 – two days before he was arrested—Kayihura travelled to Kampala and met the president’s son, Maj. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba.

Kayihura hoped to lobby Muhoozi to intervene and help clear his name before President Museveni.

Part of the reason that did not work, insiders say, is that concerns Museveni had that the Rwandan leadership was using his police chief to attempt to overthrow him, were of a serious nature.

These concerns and now the trial might also explain why despite several pleas, President Museveni has declined to meet his erstwhile “loyal cadre”.

Following his arrest on June 13, Kayihura requested the Commander of Defence Forces (CDF) Gen. David Muhoozi to pass on a his request to meet President Museveni. Muhoozi passed on the information during a meeting of senior army officers with the president at State House Entebbe.

Insiders say Museveni declined to see Kayihura. He told the army officers that he preferred to keep emotional distance.

He said that if he met Kayihura personally, he could be swayed by kindness and emotion towards him. Before firing him in March this year, President Museveni always praised Kayihura as a loyal cadre.

The Independent understands that even before Kayihura was removed as IGP, Muhoozi had led a team of army officers to meet Museveni where they expressed concerns regarding the position of the IGP whose powers had been significantly trimmed.

A source at State House told The Independent that Museveni explained to the officers that he considered Kayihura a good cadre who had transformed the police from an anti-NRM institution into a “progressive force.” However, Museveni added, Kayihura’s problem was that he had allowed criminals to infiltrate the police – and then as an afterthought added: “and foreigners.”

Owing to this, many feel that even before Kayihura was accused of playing a role in Kaweesi’s murder, before President Museveni, he already had a case to answer.

When in June, the Director General of ISO, Kaka Bagyenda, presented a report to the president, which claimed that Kayihura had assassinated Kaweesi in order to forestall a possibility of the latter becoming a successor, he only piled on Kayihura’s already existing troubles.

Following this report and a meeting that discussed its contents, President Museveni directed that Kayihura is arrested.

Indeed, some of the “evidence” in the report was openly put to Kayihura on June 13 after Deputy Chief of Defence Forces, Lt. Gen. Wilson Mbandi, and the head of CMI; Brig. Abel Kandiho, arrested him from his farmhouse in Kashagama, Lyantonde District, and flew him to Entebbe in helicopter and immediately drove him to Makyindye Military Barracks, where he remains detained.

After his arrest, Museveni instructed that a joint investigations team comprising police, ISO and CMI be set up to handle the matter.

At the end of the investigations, the team found that all the evidence against Kayihura and his associates implicating them over the murder of Kaweesi was allegedly fabricated.

As a result, Kayihura has been slapped with other charges almost completely similar to those the military court slapped on another group of his aides on Oct.27, 2017.

These included; Senior Superintendent of Police Nixon Agasirwe, the former commander Special Operations Unit, Senior Commissioner of Police Joel Aguma, the commandant of the police Professional Standards Unit, Assistant Superintendent of Police Magada of crime intelligence, and Benon Atwebembeire, Sgt Abel Tumukunde, the Kampala Metropolitan Police flying squad commander, Faisal Katende of flying squad and Amon Kwarisima.

Apart from these police officers, the other two suspects were; a former Rwandan soldier, Rene Rutanungira, who has been living in Uganda and a Congolese national, Bahati Mugenga.

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