The meetings, highly placed sources say, happened after the President returned from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) that ended January 29.
In the first week of February, sources say Mr Museveni called two meetings at State House Entebbe to discuss, among other sticky issues, the country’s deteriorating security situation. The failings of the police were brought into sharp focus.
Interestingly, only days before the President flew out to Addis Ababa, he had reportedly held a meeting with the heads of intelligence services and police in which he is said to have extolled the good deeds of Gen Kayihura in sorting out the Opposition demonstrations that had threatened to undermine stability. He is reported to have said that unfortunately, the IGP had then been surrounded by criminals and he sent the military (CMI and ISO) to rescue him by arresting them and helping clean the police. This, it appears, was in reference to the rounding up of the Boda Boda 2010 gang and senior police associates of the IGP. The president reportedly called for harmony between the agencies going forward.
Gen Kayihura, who had been in the woods for weeks since the arrest of his confidantes, came out shortly afterwards and started holding press conferences and reshuffling his officers, thinking the storm was over.
But things seem to have changed drastically following the kidnapping of Susan Magara and the public spirit it generated.
Multiple sources have told Saturday Monitor that Mr Museveni on his return summoned the heads of the External Security Organisation (ESO), Internal Security Organisation (ISO), Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), Prisons, Police, Joint Anti-Terrorism Taskforce (JATT) and Special Forces Command for meetings.
In the first and second meetings, the President, sources say, furiously discussed the crisis of confidence the police faced and the dented image of the state’s ability to fight crime. In January, the United States Mission in Kampala issued a travel advisory on its website cautioning visitors to Uganda to watch their backs as, they said, the police had no capacity to respond to emergencies.
In both meetings, the President is reported to have poured out his heart over the failure of the police under Gen Kayihura and faulted him personally for botched investigations, and other issues.
So stinging was the President’s attack on Gen Kayihura, his erstwhile blue-eyed boy in security, that according a source close to the meetings, by the time the three meetings were done, they were convinced that it was a matter of perhaps days for Gen Kayhura to be fired.
During the second meeting, the sources say, Mr Museveni said he would summon the security chiefs for another meeting after he had obtained more information.
The much-anticipated third meeting happened a few days later, this time at State House Nakasero on a Sunday. It is the meeting which, sources say, would seal the fate of Gen Kayihura before his own colleagues.
Unlike the first two meetings where Mr Museveni dwelled on domestic security, in the third meeting, the President, according to sources, comprehensively explored the question of alleged infiltration by foreign agents of Uganda’s security services with the police at the frontline. He was armed with a document from which he read during the meeting.
“What are they [foreign agents] doing in our security? What is their interest? What do they want here?” he is said to have asked in quick succession before breaking down word-by-word, sentence-by sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph and page-by-page, evidence he had gathered over time of the extent of alleged infiltration.
The President then reportedly told the meeting that a senior police officer, who has since been removed from his position, had been leaking information to foreign agents. The officer has not been publicly named.
The President is also reported to have revealed that an aide in the office of the IGP and some other officers close to the IGP had been leaking sensitive information to foreigners.
At this point, the President listed officers suspected to be leaking classified information. Some of them had received training abroad and on return had reportedly been co-opted into intelligence gathering for countries in the region. However, the names of specific officers involved in espionage have not been made public.
At this point, the source said, Gen Kayihura, who kept shifting in his chair, with the left hand stuck to the cheek and a fist below the chin, cleared his voice and said: “But Mr President, I cannot be the one to undermine you; I cannot undermine you, sir.” The President waved him down and ordered him to shut up.
Gen Tumukunde: Inside but still outside
Gen Tumukunde had spent over a decade in the cold since he fell out with Mr Museveni over the removal of term limits in 2005, which he opposed vehemently. He underwent a lengthy trial in the military court on charges related to “spreading harmful propaganda” and was convicted on some of the charges but let off with a caution.
Interestingly, Gen Tumukunde’s trial in the military court was presided over by Gen Elly Tumwine, who has now been appointed to replace him [Tumukunde] as minister of Security.
During and after the trial, it was a poorly kept secret that there were attempts to “rehabilitate” then Brig Tumukunde and bring him back into the fold, and the light sentence of a caution and “serious reprimand” which he received on being convicted on some of the charges he faced indicated that progress had been made in “rehabilitating” him.
Gen Tumukunde would later be promoted and assigned what was understood to be a key role in the 2016 election to coordinate President Museveni’s campaign. When Mr Museveni eventually appointed Gen Tumukunde to the Security docket mid-2016, the “rehabilitation” of the former Bush War fighter appeared complete.
Sources say, however, that Mr Museveni remained unconvinced that Gen Tumukunde would change and do his bidding, and that the idea of bringing back Gen Tumukunde was, especially pushed by Gen Salim Saleh, the influential younger brother of the President, who is a senior advisor on Defence.
As the days went by, however, sources say it became increasingly clear to Mr Museveni and even Gen Saleh that Gen Tumukunde was not properly back into the fold. He, for instance, is accused of carrying out political mobilisation by meeting people from different parts of the country without the knowledge or approval of the President.
As a result of his perceived failure or refusal to change as required, sources say that Gen Tumukunde became increasingly isolated, with the President preferring to work directly with ISO and other agencies. On a number of occasions, sources say, Gen Tumukunde was unaware of what was happening even within the institutions he was supposed to supervise.
Sources close to the President indicate the decision to sack both Gen Kayihura and Gen Tumukunde had little, if anything, to do with their public display of frosty work relations as some analysts have claimed. Gen Kayihura was replaced by his former deputy, Martins Okoth-Ochola, who will be deputised by Brig Sabiti Muzeyi, formerly the commander of Military Police.
Both Gen Kayihura and Gen Tumukunde were not available for a comment for this story as their known telephone numbers were unavailable.
Our State House sources’ account of what transpired in the three meetings is corroborated by the President’s response to a question from a journalist at Kawumu Presidential Demonstration Farm in Luweero when asked on February 15 about the infighting by security agencies. He alluded to infiltration of police by criminals and foreign interests.
Below is a verbatim account of what the president said:
“Whoever is involved will pay because the duties of security officers are well known, they secure the people of Uganda and according to the law. I think you have already seen people in prison who misbehaved. Haven’t you seen them being tried by the court martial? So anyone who misbehaves will be answerable, it is a big issue because it involves infiltration of security services, they are not supposed to be hijacked and start working for criminals. This is a type of [HIV] Aids. Aids hijacks your cells and takes over them and even the cells supposed to defend you are captured and we cannot have political Aids where security services work for foreigners or criminals or anybody else other than the people of Uganda. That won’t happen.”
Senior Police officers arrested
It also emerged from the meeting, sources say, that the arrest of several police officers by CMI and ISO were on the express orders of the President, as well as their appearance in the court martial. Several police officers have recently been charged with various offences.
In October last year, five police officers: Commandant of Police Professional Standard Unit, Senior Commissioner of Police Joel Aguma; Senior Superintendent of Police Nixon Agasirwe; former commander of Police Special Operations, Sgt Abel Tumukunde under the Flying Squad; Assistant Superintendent of Police James Magada under Crime Intelligence; and Faisal Katende under the Flying Squad were charged before the Military Court Martial.
The particulars of the case are that on October 25 2013, at Kamengo in Mpigi District on Masaka Road, Aguma, Agasirwe Karuhanga, Magada, Atwebembeire, Tumukunde, Katende, Kwarisima, Rutangungira and Mugenga, while in unlawful possession of firearms and grenades ordinarily a monopoly of the defence forces, conveyed a one Joel Mutabaazi without his consent to the Republic of Rwanda. Prosecution further alleges that on the same day, the group also conveyed one Jackson Kalemera, also known as Ndinga.
Lt Mutabazi, a former Lieutenant in president Paul Kagame’s Republican Guard, was allegedly kidnapped in Kampala in 2013 and handed over to his home government, which sentenced him to life imprisonment.
Lt Mutabazi had fled to Uganda.
Security sources say the police officers are accused of working with governments of neighbouring states to kidnap refugees who flee political persecution.
The President informed the meeting that a leader of a regional country had complained to him that elements in Uganda’s security were in contact with dissidents and he sternly warned them to stop. And, a source said, a visibly angry Museveni said: “And I am going to deal with Tumukunde.” He didn’t explain what his quarrel with Gen Tumukunde, who wasn’t in the meeting, was.
The issue of dissidents crisscrossing the region is an old problem arising from political conflicts. During Amin and Obote II regimes, Ugandan dissidents crossed into Kenya. Rwandan, Congolese, Sudanese and Kenyan dissidents have also passed through Uganda and vice versa over the years.