Kale Kayihura’s Options After Police Exit

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Former IGP Kale Kayihura

Former IGP Kale Kayihura

Tabu Butagira
After Inspector General Edward Kale Kayihura’s unsurprising exit, the purge in police will intensify. The star of hundreds of junior officers fast-tracked to senior ranks and command positions will start to dim. Senior and better trained officers sidelined under Gen. Kayihura will bounce to the table of honour in massive reshuffles. New IGP Ochola, who has served Uganda Police Force for 30 years, will aim to professionalise the police and find allies as well as resistance. He’ll get some political support and public good will. But he won’t do anything radical that turns police unresponsive to President Museveni’s bidding. Real power will, however, reside in the hands of Brig. Sabiiti Muzei, the brilliant current commander of the Military Police and former deputy commander of the Special Forces when First Son Muhoozi Kainerugaba was in-charge. That means the First Son’s unannounced reach and indirect control over the security forces goes a notch higher.

Ochola is on the edge of retirement and depending on what he does in the IGP chair for the three years of the renewable contract, he could serve out just one term, a period within which Brig. Muzei would have matured and learned his way around to take full charge of Uganda Police Force. It would be late to argue that you can’t have a military general again to lead the Force. That sorts the next presidential election for President Museveni unless forced out before then. That’s Museveni’s familiar tact to play long political ball, not short passes.

So what are Kayihura’s options? A military general of his mobilisation ability and networks who is at large is a security and political risk. And President Museveni is well schooled in this. That’s why rather that fire him when he should have, the President left Gen Kayihura orbiting like a colossus over Uganda’s security apparatus and got the domestic spy agency and the army’s investigative arm to chop his branches (allies). The axe would eventually land on the trunk when it had no prop roots was a low-hanging fruit for any analyst to pick. A week ago, I told a British friend over dinner that Gen. Kayihura had been fattened enough for the chop and she said “no, impossible!” When the inevitable happened last evening, my friend offered me two litres of wine.

Gen Kayihura’s options are not many. And none is nice. One is being placed under house arrest, depending on what his allies in incarceration have told military investigators and how he behaves, or who he talks to or with, as from last evening. From questionable closeness with neighbouring countries, arrest and irregular deportation of refugees and dissidents under his watch to perceived building of a personal auxilliary force through crime preventers and political mobilisation through Boda Bodas, a motley of charges hang in the air for him. That leaves open the possibility of his arrest, prosecution or even imprisonment. Yesterday’s appointment of Elly Tumwine, a four-star general like Kayihura, as the new Security Minister reinforces that option since only an officer of the same or higher rank can in military doctrine command the arrest of another.

Another option is for Kayihura to become a renegade officer, and it’s an alternative fraught with flashing danger. He won’t be allowed to leave the army or be appointed to head it, which would be another befitting deployment, considering how high he’d risen. Another alternative is being President, a position Museveni has ring-fenced for himself. That’s a no-go or suicide mission.

Because Gen. Kayihura in appeasing the President and building his own profile did so much damage to so many Ugandans, particularly political leaders, he’s widely loathed and not a good bride even for political suitors. The power that was the nectar for his hangers-on has petered out, and his allies have scattered or double-crossed him to win their own favours. Gen. Kayihura is now enfeebled to go it alone in a forlorn world, even if he wanted to.

With his wings clipped, he can swallow his ego, plead for pardon from the Appointing Authority and get a soft landing as an under-tighter watch lame-duck minister in a Cabinet reshuffle expected soon.

When alone, the voice of reason must be reverberating in Gen. Kayihura’s mind: How did I not listen to the choruses by citizens that, like many before me, I’d be just an expendable in the broader games of the throne?

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