Why the firing of the IGP has more to do with Kampala-Kigali relations than crime in Uganda
Finally President Yoweri Museveni has fired the Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura. It was a sad ending for a man who more than anyone else has fought the hardest to defend Museveni’s job.
It must be painful for Kayihura because he was not even given an alternative appointment as minister or ambassador or even the token one of “senior presidential advisor” that the president gives to many people he fires. In leaving him jobless, Museveni has not disguised his extreme displeasure with Kayihura.
Kayihura has been the most hated person by Uganda’s opposition because he was extremely effective at blocking and disrupting their political mobilisation. While effectiveness made him very powerful, it also attracted considerable envy among some in government, especially in sister security agencies. These became determined to bring him down.
There thus emerged a convergence of different but compatible interests between certain powerful forces in government and opposition leaders and activists. Both wanted him to be fired from his job. Museveni kept Kayihura for long because he was extremely loyal to him and devoted his tenure fundamentally to protect Museveni’s power. So why did Museveni drop a man who sacrificed everything for him?
This is where we need to begin. In recent months, there have been complaints that crime has run out of control and that the country was on the verge of falling apart. These alarmist reports and analyses were not driven by crime but politics. Many Ugandan journalists became prey to a campaign against Kayihura by his rivals inside government and his enemies in the opposition who had a vested interest in exaggerating the problem.
Indeed Kayihura’s enemies could have been the ones behind recent crimes around the country including the kidnapping and murder of Suzan Magara. They could have designed this strategy in order to taint Kayihura and police and therefore create a justification for his removal.However, Uganda, like any other country, is going through a short spell of crime (if this, itself, can be proved statistically) that given time police would bring under control.
However, the opposition, journalists and social media activists who joined the “increasing crime” and “partisan police” bandwagon were mistaken. Kayihura’s departure will not change the fundamentals on crime but rather buy government a new lease of legitimacy by creating an appearance that something is being done. And if his removal stops police from being the political mobilisation arm of the NRM (and this is possible) another security agency will take over this role.
Museveni did not fire Kayihura because of “increasing crime.” Indeed, there is no scientific evidence of this. It is true perception and fear of crime has gone up. But this does not necessarily mean crime itself has increased. Studies from the USA show that as crime fell in the 1990s, the perception of increasing crime grew as a result of media exaggerations. The same may be the case for Uganda. For example, compared to the crime situation in the 1990s and early to mid-2000s in this country, the recent spate of crime in Kampala is a mere pinprick.
Therefore it is unlikely that Museveni could have fired Kayihura because of crime. Rather the allegations of increasing crime, backed by public perception and anger provided the president the excuse to remove him. The primary reason for firing Kayihura seems to be the shifting geopolitical position of Uganda in her relationship with Rwanda.
When the feud between Kampala and Kigali began, Kayihura confided in friends that when Uganda and Rwanda fight, he pays the price. Being an ethnic Munyarwanda, the Ugandan side accuse him of being a mole while the Rwandan side see him as a traitor. A reliable source told me that Museveni was “convinced” by other intelligence organisations that Kayihura allowed Rwanda to use Uganda Police to conduct their operations inside this country. In exchange, it was alleged that Rwanda was helping him use police to build a political base for his presidential ambitions.