Has Museveni finally returned police to policemen?

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Has Museveni finally returned police to policemen?
New IGP Abbas Byakagaba and his deputy James Ochaya.

President Museveni on Friday, for the first time in 23 years, appointed career police officers as top commanders of the police force.

In the changes, the President named AIGP Abbas Byakagaba, an expert on counter terrorism, as the new Inspector General of Police while AIGP James Ochaya was appointed his deputy.

AIGP Ochaya replaces Maj Gen Geoffrey Tumusiime Katsigazi, who returns to the UPDF for redeployment.

In the same changes, the President appointed Senior Commissioner of Police Moses Kafeero as the new director human resource development and training to replace Brigadier Godfrey Golooba, who has returned to the Ministry of Defence headquarters for redeployment in the UPDF.

In the same message, President Museveni recalled Maj Gen Abel Kandiho and redeployed him to the President’s Office as a Senior Presidential Advisor.

Gen Kandiho has been serving as the Chief of Joint Staff in the police, a position that made him the ‘head boy’ of all police directors.

Analysis

In April 2001, President Museveni appointed then Major General Edward Katumba Wamala, a UPDF officer, as the Inspector General of Police to open the doors for military officers to lead the police. Gen Katumba replaced John Kisembo, whose police force was perceived to have failed to do enough to contain Dr Kizza Besigye's stomping emergence and run in the February 2001 presidential election.

Serving in that capacity until 2005, Gen Katumba Wamala was replaced by Gen Kale Kayihura, another military officer as the police chief who served in the position for 13 years until 2018.

For all these years, since 2001, President Museveni has ensured that either the police chief or his deputy were military officers.

For example, during Gen Katumba Wamala’s reign, it was Julius Odwe as the deputy Inspector General of Police.

During the formative years of Gen Kayihura’s reign as IGP, Odwe continued serving as his deputy until 2011 when John Martins Okoth Ochola was appointed to the position.

Katumba was the start of the militarisation of the police force. While he did not last long enough to oversee an election, he was accused of superintending over widespread human rights abuses.

At the time he was dropping, he was facing several threats of legal action over the conduct of his men in khaki.

Nevertheless, Gen Katumba is hailed by many for making the police loved by the public but also his tenure saw police deal with armed robbers who had got field day, especially in Kampala.

Issuing an order to kill in 2002 helped to arrest the situation which was going out of hand, especially in Kampala.

But it was Gen Kahihura who had the biggest impact, with the haunting lasting image of his force exemplified by the brutality of Bwana Gilbert Arinaitwe's attack on Besigye in 2011 and the rampant assassinations of top clerics and public figures including top police officers AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi and Buyende DPC Muhammed Kirumira.

He was also renowned for parading suspects within hours of major crimes even as he would later not solve the case.

Despite the negatives, Gen Kayihurs is credited for helping rebuild the police force but also seeing its budget increase 10 times from shs50billion in 20025 to shs500 billion when he left.

The number of vehicles increased from 572 to more than 5,000 while manpower also increased from 14,000 to 43,668.

The quality of officers also increased as the number of educated officers went up, more  than it had ever been.

"During my tenure as IGP, I may have fallen short in my assignment and that I deeply regret. But that is human and it is not due to lack of trying,” Gen Kayihura said as he handed over office in 2018.

Ochola’s tenure

During the tenure of Ochola as police chief, several military officers served as his deputies.

Major General Steven Sabiiti Muzeyi served as deputy IGP for two years between 2018 and 2020 before he was replaced by Maj Gen Paul Lokech who served for eight months until his death in August 2021.

He was later replaced by Maj Gen Geoffrey Tumusiime Katsigazi who served until this year.

In all this trend, it is clearly seen that Museveni ensured that either the police chief or his deputy was a military officer.

During this time, the military officers were practically in charge of the police and on many occasions, took orders from the president in regards the force’s operations.

For example, in the aftermath of the attempted assassination of Gen Katumba Wamala in which his daughter, Brenda Nantongo and driver Sgt Haruna Kayondo were killed, Gen Lokech blamed his own police officer for sleeping on the job.

He said the attackers could have been cornered since they spent over 50 minutes at the scene trying to find an escape route.

“Our teams on foot, motorcycle squads and 999 patrols were not alert. This affected our response in countering the assailants, making cut-off points to confine them within the locality for arrest and adequately securing the scene of the crime and its surrounding,” Lokech said.

He blamed CCTV camera operators for also sleeping on the job and to this, he personally reshuffled CCTV commanders, including the ICT director, Felix Baryamwisaki.

The military officers

Most if not all of these military officers had excelled in the UPDF but the work they were supposed to do in the Police was quite different from the military.

In police, everything done follows the book but many of the military officer in the top most positions of the law and enforcement force thought they could do what they thought could be done.

Many of them always ended up making mistakes.

For example, in 2021, Gen Lokech (RIP) announced the dismissal of over 100 officers at different ranks from the police force after being accused of corruption, indiscipline and failure to perform their duties.

Lokech said these had to be dismissed from police at whatever cost.

“The only person they can appeal to is God. If you are corrupt, even if you appeal and I don’t want your services, you go,” Gen Lokech was quoted by the Daily Monitor.

However, by the time of his death, the said police officers had not been dismissed from the force as Gen Lokech had wanted.

This was because for police, everything has to be done by the book yet this was not the case when the then Deputy IGP announced the dismissal.

Military expertise in police

In 2022, the then Inspector General of Police, John Martins Okoth Ochola hailed the deployment of military officers in the police.

He said the UPDF officers bring a great wealth of knowledge to the law enforcement body that will help build capacity.

“Some of the areas where police has drawn best practices from the UPDF include intelligence gathering, supervision, and discipline, handling highly risky and confrontational situations,” Ochola said.

After appointment as State Minister for Internal Affairs in 2021, Gen David Muhoozi defended the move to appoint serving army officers in police and any other institutions in government.

“The UPDF can serve anywhere. If they assign duties, do you perform them according to the expectations?  That should be the question and not who does what,” Gen Muhoozi said.

A few years ago, President Museveni defended the move to deploy UPDF officers in police, arguing that the law enforcement body had been infested with weevils that he was weeding out.

It remains to be seen whether the significant reduction in the number of military officers in the top leadership positions in the police force means the “weevils” the president talked about have been dealt with.

 

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