BY CHRIS KIWAWULO
WHEN Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura took the reins of power of the Uganda Police Force prior to the 2006 presidential elections, he pledged to establish â€˜a new Police forceâ€™.
His efforts to have a new professional Police Force has been characterised by among other things, reshuffles. This year alone, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) has done four reshuffles, the latest being in the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). The CID reshuffle came shortly after Kayihura named new Kampala Police chiefs in a mini-reshuffle last weekend.
According to him, the reshuffle in the CID was to ensure efficiency in the force.
However, opposition parties have accused Kayihura of militarising the Police through reshuffles. Forum for Democratic Change and Democratic Party claim Kayihura is trying to establish a militaristic Police capable of using extreme force in quelling riots.
The parties also argue that it was wrong to appoint an army man as the Police chief.
IS IT WRONG FOR AN ARMY MAN TO BE POLICE CHIEF?
Samuel Kyomukama, the acting commissioner for legal affairs in the Police, argues that having a Police force headed by a soldier is neither wrong nor new.
â€œThe first Police chief under the colonial rule in 1906 was Captain Edward, a British soldier,â€ Kyomukama told Makerere University law students who asked him whether it was legally acceptable to have a military officer for a Police chief.
Kyomukama points out Article 213(2) of the Uganda Constitution, which provides for appointment of the IGP by the President with approval of Parliament.
The NRM regime has had five IGPs since it came to power in 1986. Two of these, Katumba Wamala (Lt. Gen.) and Kayihura are generals. The rest; Luke Ofungi, Cossy Odomel and John Kisembo were not soldiers.
WHY THE RESHUFFLES?
Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba says the reshuffles are not meant to militarise the Police, rather they are meant to improve efficiency in the Police.
Announcing the CID reshuffle on Monday where 48 officers were affected, Nabakooba said: â€œWe want to see that cases are handled in time unlike before where the system has been so slow in investigating.â€
Upon becoming the IGP in late 2005, prior to the 2006 presidential elections, Kayihura defended his appointment saying it was not politically motivated. He emphasised that he was not given that position to entrench Museveni in power.
â€œAmong the challenges we face are misconceptions about security services like the UPDF and Police, especially after I was appointed the IGP. Many people said I was brought to transform the Police into a weapon for one political side,â€ Maj. Gen. Kayihura said at that time. He added: â€œEven when there has been a lot of progress, some people have remained suspicious. For me, I did my best in the concluded elections to remain non-partisan.â€
Before Kayihuraâ€™s appointment, critics observe, President Museveni criticised some sections of the Police for supporting the opposition. This was evidenced in the pattern of voting in the 2001 presidential elections where President Museveni lost to the opposition at several polling stations in Police barracks in Kampala.
After winning the race, the President said there was â€˜olumbuguâ€™ (a dangerous weed) Â in the Police - literally meaning (anti-government officers) that needed to be weeded out.
Although the Police is supposed to be non-partisan, officers have the right to vote for a presidential candidate of their choice.
OLD GUARDS PANIC
Kayihura insists that professionals should join the force to improve its services. He has thus continuously encouraged graduates to join the Police to take over the top managerial positions.
Of recent, 465 cadets were recruited into Police and they have for sometime been understudying the senior officers at various Police stations countrywide.
In the recent reshuffle of Kampala Police officers, Kayihura said cadets would take over the management of all Police posts in Kampala. Some other cadets have taken up other offices within the force.
And more cadets are still needed. For instance, of the 36 lawyers wanted in the recent recruitment, only 16 were recruited and of the 16 doctors wanted, only three showed up.
The old guards are living in fear of losing their jobs to younger and more educated officers.
In his tenure, Kayihura has also set up the Professional Standards Unit where the public reports misbehaving officers. Several people have responded to this unit.
Scores of cases of misconduct have been reported against Police personnel, majority of which involve corruption and land wrangles, sources said.
It is such cases that have severally forced Kayihura to move the implicated officers, some of whom have been replaced by cadets. But whenever the Police chief acts, the affected officers complain that they are being â€˜wrongfully accused and witch-huntedâ€™.
In November 2008, the Ssembabule Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Sserwano Kabogorwa asked Kayihura to change the Police staff in the district over their alleged involvement in theft of Government motorcycles.
Kabogorwa said Police officers were conniving with thugs and had stolen five motorcycles at the District Central Police station. Two of them were arrested. Similar cases were reported in Rakai, Masaka and Lyantonde districts.
A senior officer who did not want to be named said Kayihura personally investigates officers accused of wrongdoing and does not hesitate to punish those found guilty.
Kayihura hopes injecting new blood into the Police force will reduce corruption. While reluctant to talk about it, the Police chief gets sleepless nights over the corruption rate in the institution. The third National Integrity Survey Report sanctioned by the Inspector General of Government showed that the Police was the most corrupt institution for 10 years running. The report said eight out of 10 respondents (80%) said Police was the most corrupt institution.
The IGP is working tirelessly to change this image about the Police and one of the ways to arrive at this is through enforcing checks and balances that include punishing implicated officers.
His other challenge is to improve the earnings of policemen. In 2003, low salary was cited as the cause of corruption. Kayihura recently announced that the officersâ€™ salary had been raised. The salary of a Police constable was raised from sh100,000 to sh150,000, while that of assistant superintendents and rapid response unit officers rose to sh200,000 from sh164,000.
Through this combination of recruiting new blood; deploying dynamic, more educated and efficient officers; improving the pay and acting tough on errant officers, Kayihura hopes to fulfil his promise of a new Police force.