By Norbert Mao
Finally the flames of public indignation has scorched Kayihura. But it has to be admitted, even by the keenest observers of the Museveni State House, that the double kick that landed on Kale Kayihura and his nemesis Henry Tumukunde came as a surprise. The duo must have been preparing for the week ahead little knowing that their weekend would be longer than expected.
Kayihura’s sacking is attributed to hubris – exaggerated confidence or pride. Hubris has brought down empires. It has also brought down many of history’s greats. Whether it is Troy or Vietnam, hubris is fueled by folly.
Kayihura will be remembered as the moon that forgot that its source of light is the sun. There are two ways of providing light. You can be the source of light or the mirror that reflects it. Taking his power for granted, Kayihura may have forgotten that he was just a mirror and not the source of the light in which he and his minions basked.
But the man Ugandans loved to hate is now seen with some sympathy as another victim of Museveni’s familiar “use, abuse and dump” script. On Women’s Day, Museveni reportedly referred to Kayihura figuratively as a “bean weevil”!
Museveni is a good bookkeeper. He knows who is an asset and who is a liability to his despotic ambitions. For twelve years Kayihura grew fat (not literally) on the praises heaped on him by Museveni. That translated into a form of hero worship by his cronies ranging from the likes of Boda Boda 2010, crime preventers to subordinates whose very livelihood depended on him.
What he lacked in character and leadership skills he made up for in fierce loyalty to the appointing authority and passion for the job. With the full backing of the president, the police budget swelled enabling Kayihura to undertake big infrastructure projects and the procurement of vehicles, armaments and a huge cache of anti-riot gear. The police became more visible and aggressive. It also became more partisan as a group of officers rose in rank not because of merit but due to their ethnic affiliations and political leaning towards the regime. As the police became more and more like an appendage to the NRM, so did it open its doors to informal hoi polloi thuggish Crime Preventers and criminal gangs.
Kayihura positive efforts now lie buried in the debris of police misdeeds under his watch. These misdeeds include ineffectiveness in dealing with real crimes, refusal to be accountable, aiming the bulk of police vigilance at opposition leaders, soaring corruption as some officers carved fiefdoms (thiefdoms) for themselves in order to amass wealth.
Enter Henry Tumukunde. His appointment as Security Minister was perceived as a measure to clip Kayihura’s wings. Tumukunde’s abrasive style did not help matters. Soon the goring started. When Kayihura was reappointed to another term as IGP, Tumukunde cynically remarked that he has no comment because the appointing authority is the one who knows why he renewed Kayihura’s term.
Tumukunde must have known that being a member of the Praetorian Guard (protectors of the emperor in Ancient Rome) comes with many privileges but it also exacts a high price. Tumukunde is an unapologetic loose cannon. And loose cannons tend to misfire!
In 2005 Tumukunde, then an MP representing the army, publicly criticized the government on radio. Ordered to vacate his seat, he refused. He was arrested and courtmartialed for insubordination. When the Electoral Commission announced that his seat was vacant and he would be replaced, Tumukunde ran to court. He challenged the constitutionality of removing an army MP for publicly criticizing the government. He lost.
In the week before his sacking, Tumukunde loudly and apologized for the government’s failure to save Susan Magara who had been kidnapped and brutally murdered. It was a scandal!Shortly thereafter he heaped praises on Col. Kizza Besigye for, among other things, saving his leg. “Besigye is a hero”, Tumukunde declared.
Others have hinted that both Kayihura and Tumukunde were proxies in a heated succession battle between rival factions hovering around the Kaguta Court. If that is the case then the score in this round is nil, nil.