OPINION: Around 2006 or 07 (if my memory serves me right) I went to Parliament where President Museveni was set to present the State of the Nation Address (SONA). Habitually, the SONA is usually followed by some sort of partying in the Parliamentary gardens.
And you can obviously be sure that I was one of the journalists who convened in the gardens, not only to feast on the numerous delicacies and drinks but to also interact with some of the top government shots in the country that gathered after SONA.
On several occasions I came very close to President Museveni himself while he interacted with the members of Parliament. On a given instant, he (President Museveni) met me with Hon Jimmy Akena (fallen President Milton Obote’s son), on the steps of Parliament.
I couldn’t believe that he could sustain a conversation in Luo but he somehow managed to speak to Akena for a few minutes as we looked on. On most occasions when he presents the SONA, he is usually in absolute jovial mood. It was on such an occasion that I met several NRM top dogs including Gen Edward Kale Kayihura.
Dressed in a ceremonial blue Police attire, KK, as he is fondly known amongst his peers, looked younger than his real age. Of course now days he looks much older than his real age, probably on account of his 13 year tenure at the top of the Ugandan Police Force coupled with the scandalous troubles that befell him.
Others claim that he is suffering from a strange disease… But that is diversionary. During my encounter with him, I introduced myself to him as “Kamwada the man who writes a column in one of the celebrated tabloids around town.”
I was relieved that he already knew me because he quickly retorted; “Oh you’re the one who claims that there is no God? I replied in the affirmative and we began to have back and forth arguments pertaining to spiritual issues. He seemed to agree that religion may not necessarily be integral but one needs to believe in God.
But I also surprised him when I revealed that it’s safe if one doesn’t believe in God because by doing so, you also acknowledge the existence and prowess of Satan. ‘Yes, its people of God who glorify Satan, not so?’ He seemed to be caught by that. Then he asked me if I believed in the bible or I was like Col. Muammar Gadhafi who rubbished the bible as a fake book. I told him that even the Koran was as fake as the bible.
At that moment we had spoken for a few minutes when Prof Mondo Kagonyera joined us and promptly asked who I was. KK revealed to him thus; “this man here doesn’t believe in God’’. “Oh, man how do you live in this world without God?” retorted the Professor. The Professor then stopped to ask whether it’s me who wrote he had a small whooper. Ah… that sent KK into unbelievable laughter.
He was soon asking how someone can come up with such a story. When Prof Kagonyera left, I asked KK about the UPDF adventures in Congo. At that time I had written so many stories about the Congo conflict where Uganda and Rwanda armies fought three times for Kisangani. “Oh Man, Gen [James] Kazini says he saved you from being killed in Congo,” I quizzed.
“That’s not true. There is no iota of truth in that. I saved myself… I handled the situation in my own way,” he replied. At that time Gen Kazini had been paraded in the Court Martial for among other crimes, embezzling some cash meant for operations. He was also accused of making unauthorized deployments, something that was interpreted as an attempt at staging a coup!
He (Kazini) had however reasoned that he had used the cash to deploy troops that saved Gen Kayihura from being killed. KK simply insisted that Kazini never saved him. He even occasioned some advice that Kazini should simply defend himself from the charges that had been leveled against him.
At that time the UPDF took a risk by going to Congo because there was simmering genocide between some Congolese ethnicities like the Hema and Lendu. I asked KK how he in particular and UPDF in general survived being indicted for war crimes! But he simply shrugged his shoulders as he licked his lips.
I even mentioned some Congolese fellows like Pierre Bemba who were considered associates of the UPDF who had been indicted by the ICC. Thomas Lubanga is another of the Congo war protagonists that were indicted as well as Gen. Bosco Ntaganda. Our conversation was however interrupted by some other MPs who came to interact with him.
I however managed to meet him again, this time at State House in Entebbe. He was in the company of Hon. Fred Ruhindi but I managed to snatch, quickly took him aside and we had a small conversation. I was telling him that most of the Ugandan villages and town streets needed to be labeled, to make it easy for police emergency operations.
“No, that is Jennifer Musisi (the former KCCA ED)’s work. “But for the sake of security, you can compel KCCA to expedite the process.” Unlike the first encounter at Parliament, this time it was a brief happenstance. But I was made to know that KCCA was soon labeling the streets and villages around Kampala.
My observation of KK was the unbelievable willingness to listen (at least to my views). Each time, he would bend (he is somewhere around six feet) to listen to whatever crap I had to tell him. His micro management style endeared him to so many. He had a penchant for appearing at crime scenes within a very short time. I don’t think he put his foot wrong in his first spell as IGP.
What then, went wrong?
But matters soon changed for the worst when he was promoted to full General before eventually renewing his contract as Inspector General of Police into his thirteenth year at the UPF topmost. You will recall that when the appointing authority renewed his contract, he was soon entangled from one scandal to another.
The first one was when he was summoned to appear in Makindye court but instead thugs, mostly by Boda-Boda 2010 led by their ruthless icon Abdul Kitatta invaded the Makindye Court and intimidated the judicial officers including Magistrates. The hitherto humble man was soon enjoying the gravitas that came with power.
Some of us were shocked to see him marching on the streets to celebrate his promotion to full Military General. The Kayihura everyone knew was not known to be excitable by grandeur. It could have marked the turning point in his career but it seems that power started sneaking up his mind. Soon many of the people who had worked closely with him started accusing him of being arrogant, vindictive and a poor listener.
I once had a heated argument with a close colleague who was extremely convinced that KK was a very dangerous man! I couldn’t believe it myself. My personal conviction was that Power changes people. Maybe it did the same to KK.
You might not have also realized that he was soon being mentioned as the de-facto number two in the realistic hierarchy of power. He also had the additional advantage of enjoying the tremendous trust from the appointing authority.
When news of his indictment, which has been highly regarded as a travel ban, spread around, I wasn’t entirely surprised. I was also not shocked when President Museveni himself put up a spirited defense for KK in regard to the travel ban to the United States. No… Some of us have always known that the person President Museveni has loved and adored most among his cadres, is Gen. Kale Kayihura.
During Brigadier Noble Mayombo’s funeral, President Museveni said that the deceased was a ‘Kayihura-like.’ Although most people believed Mayombo to be President Museveni’s blue eyed boy, the Ugandan leader regarded him as a ‘simply close’ and not above Kayihura.
Even during this time of hardship, Museveni regards Kayihura in high regard to the extent that what others regard as crimes, he respects them as ‘mistakes.’ In fact when KK was “presumably’’ arrested, imprisoned and tried in the Court Martial, he was later ‘rehabilitated’ with a four wheel monster donated by the appointing authority! As a matter of fact, it remains to be seen how the so-called Kayihura travel ban will transpire. But it’s clear that it could be a signal for more indictments to follow.
- Fred Daka Kamwada is a seasoned journalist, blogger and political analyst for over a decade in Uganda
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