In Summary
  • Test. I suspect in a little while Opposition maestro Kizza Besigye will be out on the streets attempting to rally Ugandans to change the government. How will the Force that Ochola commands, deputised by the soldier in Brig Sabiiti Muzeyi, respond?
  • The job may not be easy, but IGP Ochola and Brig Muzeyi are the men entrusted to do it. How well they go about execution will either revive the flagging public image of the police or rev it up. I suspect the public would love a competent and clean Force that truly protects and serves all people in Uganda. Mindless partisanship is a losing proposition.

As head of the Uganda Police Force for more than 12 years, Gen Kale Kayihura did the job the best way he knew how. It is up to the rest of us to judge his performance. And boy, have there been many takers.

For all the good things he did — among others increasing Force numbers and therefore reducing the burden on individual officers, improved training, acquiring better equipment — the terrible ones stand out. He can be forgiven for failing to tackle petty corruption like traffic police demanding bribes from errant motorists.

What is most glaring was the very cruel way he dealt with the political Opposition, an approach that left no other conclusion than that he was a rabid partisan working for President Yoweri Museveni’s continued stay in power and not for the comfort of all Ugandans.

The kiboko, the teargas, the roughing up, the incarceration. The Force he commanded was so relentless in its brutalisation of a section of Ugandans that it made outrage meaningless.
Gen Kayihura may have genuinely thought he was doing the right thing, but I hope now that he is out of the Force he finds time to reflect and some day say sorry. It may not be enough, but it will be something.

Which brings us to the new men at the top of the Uganda Police Force. The new chief is not all that new. IGP Okoth-Ochola has deputised Gen Kayihura for several years. I would like to know what role he played in the blatant abuse of the rights of politically dissenting Ugandans. According to media reports, he told MPs during his vetting on Wednesday that it was all down to his former boss. Let’s say he is truthful. What did he do about it? Did he protest and, if so, is there evidence?

Of course, we will know soon enough whether the new police chief is a thoroughgoing professional or someone who will lean over backwards and continue with business as usual.
I suspect in a little while Opposition maestro Kizza Besigye will be out on the streets attempting to rally Ugandans to change the government. How will the Force that Ochola commands, deputised by the soldier in Brig Sabiiti Muzeyi, respond? Will they provide security to ensure whatever rallies or processions the Opposition hold proceed peacefully or bend to the temptation to swing kiboko and unleash teargas and fire off rubber and live bullets?

If they go against the orders of the commander-in-chief to break up some rally or prevent Dr Besigye to travel to some place, will they be the professionals they are supposed to be and resign knowing well what befell Gen David Sejusa (Tinyefuza) once upon a time?

For now, these gentlemen deserve good-luck wishes. They have a short grace period to demonstrate their professional chops. Apart from treating the Opposition fairly, they should move hard toward checking corruption both small and big within the Force. They should not allow policemen and women to be used by shady characters to grab land or desecrate wetlands and forests. They should smash all criminal gangs as they figure out how to penetrate the underworld without allowing that world to consume them.

Solving some outstanding murder cases such as of the Entebbe women, Felix Kaweesi, Joan Kagezi and lately Susan Magara would do them a lot of good.
The job may not be easy, but IGP Ochola and Brig Muzeyi are the men entrusted to do it. How well they go about execution will either revive the flagging public image of the police or rev it up. I suspect the public would love a competent and clean Force that truly protects and serves all people in Uganda. Mindless partisanship is a losing proposition.

Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.
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Twitter:@btabaire