Retirement of Gen. Kale Kayihura: A Legacy Examined
In 2015, a dramatic episode unfolded at the residence of former Inspector General of Government (IGG), Justice Faith Mwondha, in Iganga district. An armed attack prompted then Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura, to swiftly arrive at the scene with his characteristic grandeur. Kayihura’s approach favored showmanship over strategic acumen, sidelining consultation with available local police commanders. This incident mirrored his broader policing modus operandi marked by conspicuous public displays while strategy took a backseat. This aspect defined his 12-year leadership at the helm of the Police Force. As Gen. Kale Kayihura prepares to retire from the army on Aug. 30, his performance as the Police chief remains a subject of intense scrutiny.
In the final week leading to his retirement, Kayihura found himself entangled in the lingering consequences of his tenure as the Inspector General of Police. On August 22, the Constitutional Court, in a unanimous decision, upheld charges of torture against Kayihura and other senior officers. These allegations date back to 2016, during his tenure as IGP. The past five years saw Kayihura’s decline, as he faced dismissal as IGP, subsequent arrest, and a series of charges before the General Court Martial. This retirement marks a continuation of his journey after falling out of favor with President Yoweri Museveni due to allegations of advancing Rwanda’s interests at Uganda’s expense, a strained bilateral relationship that characterized his later years in office.
Kayihura’s military career spanned over 40 years, beginning with his participation in the guerrilla war led by the National Resistance Army (NRA) during the 1980s. His rise through the ranks caught the attention of President Museveni, eventually cementing his position as a trusted confidant. Jude Kagoro, a Bremen University lecturer who collaborated with Kayihura in establishing a police university, highlights that Kayihura’s success was partially attributed to his retention of the anti-colonial and anti-sectarian ideals ingrained during the bush war era.
Despite his political inclinations, Kayihura fostered police presence through the implementation of crime preventers, a community policing initiative. By enhancing police visibility, he attracted recruits from various backgrounds, including affluent families. Kayihura’s tenure notably witnessed the emergence of young police commanders who gained prominence, an outcome that was influenced by his leadership style.
The creation of a Police university and Kayihura’s emphasis on intellectual refinement aimed to bolster the force’s command responsibility. However, his tenure also became synonymous with allegations of human rights abuses perpetrated by senior officers under his command, especially in their approach towards political opposition. The crackdown on opposition groups and alleged political interests undermined the Police’s core mission of crime prevention.
This period also coincided with a surge in murder rates in Uganda. High-profile figures fell victim to these crimes, raising concerns about public safety. Notably, Kayihura’s leadership came under fire for its perceived focus on political agendas at the expense of addressing crime.
Kayihura’s legacy was intertwined with the controversial establishment of crime preventers, a group initially intended to promote community policing. However, it evolved into a politically charged entity that played a role in the 2016 elections. This maneuver, along with other strategic decisions, fueled speculation about Kayihura’s presidential ambitions.
Gen. Kale Kayihura’s reputation suffered internationally as well, leading to his 2019 sanctions by the U.S. government for alleged involvement in human rights abuses during his tenure as IGP. The sanctions underscored allegations of police brutality and torture that occurred under his leadership.
As Gen. Kale Kayihura approaches retirement, his record as a leader within the Police Force remains a topic of debate and scrutiny. Despite certain achievements, his tenure was marked by controversies, allegations of rights abuses, and perceptions of serving political interests over the core duties of law enforcement. His legacy, ultimately, is a complex interplay of accomplishments and challenges that shaped the trajectory of law enforcement during his time.