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2018, the year Gen Kayihura fell with a thud, humbled to the dock

REVIEW | At least a month after the sacking of Gen Kale Kayihura on Sunday, March 4, 2018, a news tip from some a source indicated that the former Inspector General of Police would be arrested. I ran this with a senior colleague in journalism and his response was curt: “that won’t happen.”

The senior colleague explained that it was enough just dropping the man who had become the head of security in the country with overall powers over the heads of spy networks, the military and other agencies. He said suggestions of arrest were far-fetched and wild.

It was easy to appreciate this. For the decade-plus that Gen Kayihura was IGP, he had forged himself as a strong shadow that the First Family used as a fly whisky to execute their political authority. In his early days in the military, he had been Gen Salim Saleh’s aide and remained unquestionably loyal to him.

Sendo Cleaners

This test of loyalty would prove crucial in 2013 when President Museveni tinkered with the idea of handing over power to Amama Mbabazi, then his right hand man and super minister. Museveni’s family opposed this and instructed Kayihura to crush the last political dregs left Mbabazi.

After being treated to the ruthlessness of Gen Kayihura’s police apparatus, Mbabazi retreated to his shell like a snail. His presidential aspiration was so brief like precipitation from a passing cloud. Kayihura’s work was done here and he probably should have asked to be retired into managing Museveni’s farm in Kisozi that moment between June  and July 2017.

At the time, Gen Kayihura left the contrary for an usually long period. Turned out he was on medical leave, presumably in Turkey. In his absence, Museveni vowed to put the Police Force into order and gave instructions to Kayihura’s deputy — who would later become successor — Martins Okoth-Ochola.

Upon his return, the visibly ill General could probably have opted to retire into less demanding assignments like managing the Kisozi farm. But a soldier soldiers on until they are felled. He took to reclaiming his powers from Ochola, releasing statements while keeping away from the public.

But statements and a feeble general looking too effete to be real wasn’t going to end the spate of kidnappings and women murders that had taken the metropolitan by storm.

There was only one end for Kayihura: the sack. But the second plot that thickened around his neck after that was not what many who knew his relationship with the First Family had seen coming.

Arrest

Gen Kayihura was not arrested like you would expect of one who has been so loyal to the First Family. The noose tightened on his neck on June 12 when, like in a case of a deserter or some dangerous dissident, a combined force of soldiers from Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), Internal Security Organisation (ISO) and Special Forces Command (SFC) stormed Lyantonde town and combed it to minute detail.

Courtyard International and Sky Blue hotels were turned into the haystacks. Soldiers sealed off the two facilities and checked every nook and cranny for Gen Kayihura. He wasn’t to be found at these his regular bases. The staff were questioned for leads on Gen Kayihura’s whereabouts.

The former IGP had retreated to Kashagama in Lyantonde in March when he was sacked. Given his decades in leading security of the country, he was no doubt aware that his time had come. The fact that the general was being searched with all such manpower suggested that the military and Gen Museveni had lost contact with him.

And they were not going to rest until they had him caged lest he became a dangerous headache in exile. Sources say the military deployed at border posts leading to Rwanda and they were not to let a single rat sneak past without ascertaining it wasn’t the target.

Defence and Military spokesman Richard Karemire would later explain that the first chopper that was sent to pick Gen Kayihura in Lyantonde had bounced and returned with him.

“Yesterday he [Kayihura] was asked to report to the UPDF Chief of Defence Forces Gen David Muhoozi at General Headquarters Mbuya. A helicopter was subsequently dispatched to transport him [from his home] but on arrival Gen Kale had travelled to Mbarara… Today the helicopter was sent back to Kashagama and has returned safely to Kampala with him on board,” Brig Karemire said in a statement.

Amid all this, several loyalists to Gen Kayihura maintained that he was a free man enjoying his ‘retirement’ at his farm. But he was picked up and the efforts by apologists to downplay the arrest as a summons to report to the CDF were disproved when the military confirmed he was being held.

Gen Kayihura during his appearance before the GCM last week | FACEBOOK

‘Public wish’

Appointed as IGP in 2005 to replace Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, Kayihura became that one man many — both within and outside the system — wanted to see bite the dust. The idea that he could one day be in cuffs or in the dock was only imaginable in the sense of the Museveni regime ending acrimoniously with all his stooges arrested or fleeing to exile.

Yet here he was, on August 24, in the dock at the General Court Martial in Makindye. It was 72 days from the time of his arrest to producing him in court. The Constitution requires that one is charged within 48 hours of arrest, and Kayihura had noticeably grumbled acerbically about being detained in a two-bedroom house in Makindye beyond the constitutional limit.

The detention had awakened him to the reality that the Constitution was supreme to the Police Act. During his leadership, Kayihura had worn his impressive Law degrees under his soles and declared the Police Act supreme to the Constitution whenever challenged to follow the law against his many victims.

Gen Kayihura was charged with aiding and abetting the kidnapping of Rwandan dissents and refugees by commission, repatriating Rwandan exile and refugees and Ugandan citizens to Rwanda between 2012 and 2016.

He was also accused of failing to protect war material by issuing arms to unauthorised persons including Boda Boda 2010 members led by jailed Abdallah Kitatta between 2010 and 2018.

In court, he appears in full military camouflage, his four stars and the red gorget on his collar unmistakable of the full military general he is. Only that he is as powerless as any of the thousands he has arrested and forced into the dock over the last 12 years.

Out in bail, Gen Kayihura remains a prisoner, his conscience furrowed, burrowed and buried. He will be watching as fireworks pop in the skies to usher in 2019 with a sigh of relief. Millions of people cannot wait to exit 2018 for many reasons, and Gen Kale Kayihura is surely with them in that wish.

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