Although he is a receptive man, Kampala Metropolitan Police (KMP) spokesperson, Emilian Kayima, is also a man with secrets.
The 43-year-old man is confident enough to respond to neutral questions. However, when he feels it is not safe to give an answer, he openly tells me to leave the topic and move on. He is a smart man too, and you get the feeling that he is the kind who does not want to see a piece of thread carelessly littered on the floor of his office.
One thing you will notice about the ex-seminarian is his humility in a job that many would consider to be difficult terrain. However, there was a time, in his childhood when he was openly assertive.
When Kayima enrolled for Primary One at Kyamaganda Primary School in Masaka District, his only dream was to become a priest.
“I admired their smartness, calmness, and power to intercede with God. During that time, my father’s consistent, forceful and tough teaching, especially when it came to multiplication, shaped my life. It made me understand that education is not a joke but a struggle.”
His father, Alphonse Ngoboka, 85, is still alive, although his mother died in 1990, when he was in Senior Two.
To prove his determination towards priesthood, Kayima joined Holy Family Minor Seminary, Bukalasa for his O-Levels.
The calling to teach
With time, his dream changed and by the time he sat for his Senior Four final examinations, he wanted to become a teacher.
“I got a calling to become a teacher because I wanted to be called ‘Master’ just like I used to call my teachers. I admired their ability to control excited or angry students. I saw the need to offer myself as a teacher so that I could pass the same knowledge I had acquired to others.”
For his A-Levels, Kayima joined St Henry’s College Kitovu. In 1996, during his Senior Six vacation, he started working on his passion by joining Kasubi Secondary School as a teacher. For the next eight years, teaching was his only source of income.
In 1997, he joined Makerere University to study an undergraduate degree in Education. Some of his course mates included the late Andrew Felix Kaweesi, Hon Simeo Nsubuga (Kasanda), and Commissioner of Police, Moses Kafeero, who is the commandant of the Police Senior Command and Staff College Bwebajja.
“When we graduated in 2001, my friends joined Uganda Police Force. I cannot tell what attracted them because they are better placed to answer.
Nevertheless, I think they wanted to serve the country. I was not interested in joining the force. My passion was to teach and I loved the teaching experience. In addition to teaching, I wrote education articles for the Daily Monitor.”
Kayima also taught in Lutete Secondary School, Sakri Secondary School, and Buloba Secondary School, where he taught Luganda and Christian Religious Education (CRE) at O-Level, and Divinity at A-Level.
“Teaching was beautiful. It is good to watch children growing up under my care. Some joined with poor grades but they improved because as teachers, we believed in them and assured them that they would be the best. And indeed, they were. We mentored students in self-esteem and confidence, and emphasised positive thinking.”
However, life was still a struggle and his earnings were not enough. The only blessing was that he was not yet married. “I was earning Shs170,000 per month. Since I was living in staff quarters and getting free breakfast and lunch, I would save Shs150,000. For supper, I always had kikomando (chapatti and beans) to be able to save.”
Joining the police force
While enjoying the chalk, he often met his friends who had completed the police course and were serving in the force. They enticed him to join. “I was very interested in teaching but when my friends convinced me that I would offer my education through serving in the force, I decided to grab the opportunity.”
Kayima joined the Police Force in 2004 and was passed out in 2005. Initially, he was posted at Katwe Police Station as the officer-in-charge of the Child and Family Protection Unit (CFPU). “I was handling dozens of cases in a day, but mostly, it was about couples, both illiterate and elite, fighting. I believe most of these fights were due to mistrust among couples and their willingness to listen to rumours. We also had cases of troublesome teenagers. I challenge parents of such children never to give up on them. They have a lot of energy and they need parental guidance.”
He believes teenagers need to be helped to think positively and remain in school because that is the only way to avoid reckless behaviour. “It takes a willing heart to make a teenager change behaviour. Do not spend too much time telling them stories about your history but guide them with examples that are relevant to them.”
In 2006, Kayima was confirmed as an assistant superintendent of police and appointed to head the Crime Prevention Desk at police headquarters in Kibuli. He also acted as head of CFPU when his boss went for a mission.
In 2011, he was appointed Kampala Metropolitan Political Commissar. His biggest challenge was the Walk-to-Work protests. Every day, he would work from 6am to 4am.
“The Walk-to-Work protests and Buganda riots were a terrible situation. I saw exaggerated anger, I saw hypocrisy, and the political actors exploited the situation for their own benefits. I believe we can disagree but we should never have bitter discourse. We worked day and night to ensure peace and tranquility. We were called all sorts of names but whatever we did was in the interest of the country. I would leave office at 4am, go home to take only a bath, and then, return to office.”
A political commissar is an equivalent of a community liaison officer, and in the course of his work, Kayima and his colleagues visited communities to discourage the public from taking part in the protests. “From that experience, I developed a personal dislike for politics and political actors. As a political commissar, I also had to ensure that junior officers’ issues were heard and deliberated on without the seniors feeling offended. These junior officers have a lot of issues they want to raise to seniors and my role was to make sure their suggestions, complaints and grievances are known by seniors.”
In July 2011, he was appointed a liaison officer at the Land Protection Unit where he found that land grabbing has accelerated due to the rise in real estate developers. “They opened people’s eyes and they no longer see land as the cheap commodity they used to see. There is much greed for wealth, money, and corruption. There is corruption in the police, courts, district councils, and local councils. Whoever handles matters related to land sees wealth.”
He advises new buyers of land to always perform background checks on the land they are going to buy, know the owner of the land, and if there is a duo ownership, the buyer must know how the original transaction was done.
Skipping a rank, in 2012, Kayima was promoted to senior superintendent of police. His six years investigating land matters inspired him to write a book, Taasa Etaka Lyo, which educates people on land.
As KMP spokesperson
In 2016, he was appointed KMP spokesperson, replacing Patrick Onyango. He says on the appointment, several questions ran through his mind. He declines to discuss those particular questions.
“I wondered if I would measure up. However, I had been trained to believe in myself and think positively. So far, I think I have done well. I prepare myself to face all sorts of questions from the media and public about different crime and political scenarios in Kampala. Sometimes, I am abruptly called for television or radio interviews.”
His worst time was when he was hosted on a television talk show and a viewer ridiculed him.
“I was being hosted with a lawyer turned politician and after the interaction; someone from Austria sent me a message saying I had scored below average. That criticism encouraged me to read and do more research. In most cases, the public demands quick solutions, especially with a crime that has caused panic, for instance, the recent murders of women. I really feel for them. I would be feeling the same way if I was just a civilian. However, security challenges do not mean police have failed to provide security.”
To him, the challenge is that the public does not know that they are part of community policing. To address this, police has embarked on revamping community policing.
Although politicians, civil society, and the public accuse the police of being partisan, Kayima equates this allegation to football, where a winning team praises the referee while the losing team curses him. “Police officers are human beings and can be affiliated to different political parties but that should not be slapped on the whole institution. We should not draw conclusions.”
He cautions the public to understand that criminals plan and execute missions. “When we promise to be on top of a particular crime, another one comes up.
This makes us feel bad. We get puzzled. However, our intelligence system has not failed.”
He blames the public which wants quick solutions, not knowing investigations are complex. “In some cases, the public have lynched suspects who could have led us to the whole racket. When police focuses on quick fixes, it will never have any solution to criminal activity.”