Last weekend President Yoweri Museveni relieved long serving Inspector General of Police General Kale Kayihura of his position and replaced him with deputy Inspector General of Police Okot Ochola.
In the same announcement Museveni also replaced security minister Lieutenant General Henry Tumukunde with another bush veteran General Elly Tumwine.
Since the announcement few people have given Kayihura the benefit of doubt. They blame him for the worsening security situation, the side-lining of competent police officers to be replaced by his favourites and all that is wrong with the police today.
By the time some sympathy came through it was late in the week and brushed off as public relations for the fallen General.
Kayihura came to the helm of the police force replacing another military man General Katumba Wamala. Kayihura had previously distinguished himself as the head of the anti-smuggling unit, with his pivotal role in pulling out the UPDF out of Congo at the beginning of the century among other achievements.
All reports point to the fact that he is an intelligent man, a diligent worker.
But clearly something went horribly wrong during his tenure as police chief.
"To begin with Kayihura was at a disadvantage being appointed police chief given his military background...
The mentality of the police and the military are different, if only because they are trained to handle different threats to security. The army is expected to be fighting external enemies while the police are charged with promoting and maintaining law and order among a civilian population. To make the psychological shift will always be difficult for even the best minds.
The argument can be made though, that our police force, a relic of a bygone era, was not designed to collaborate with the people, but as an instrument of repression on behalf of the colonial state. So even the policemen who have come through the ranks cannot be expected to make the mental shift to a more civil force. Which is a good point.
However a police officer who has undergone training specific to the force and risen through the ranks would be at a decided advantage over Kayihura, who was parachuted into the top slot.
Of course the Commission of Inquiry into the police force headed by Justice Julia Sebutinde in the late nineties unmasked the police force as having lost its way and only short of being a criminal organisation. The commission found that policemen were not only collaborating with thugs against the population but in many instances actually initiating and leading criminal activity.
It was a desperate time that called for desperate measures.
In tripling the size of the police force, winning it a bigger budget over the years and better equipping it, Kayihura may have broken the back of the original organisation but the widespread feeling is that a new one slid in to take its place.
"Kayihura did not inherit an ideal situation. It is conceivable that his elevation was not welcomed by those he found in the force. There may even have been cause for him to be suspicious of everyone around him, not to mention the tea served to him. And the urgency to show quick results may have forced him into initial errors which only snowballed out of control as time went by...
In hindsight Kayihura was really meant to be a change agent, who goes in for a short time, shakes up the old networks, sets the stage for a realignment of the police back to its original mandate and leaves. Something like what happened to his predecessor Wamala, whose famous order to put violent criminals “out of action” caused a stir in polite society.
His attempt to break up the old police force and recreate it, could have been done more delicately. He could have focused on building the institution and taken a back seat, rather than hogging the limelight. In the same vein he might have looked to salvage and leverage the positives form the old police rather than tear it all up.
Kayihura did a lot for the police. They now have a purpose built home in Naguru. They are a much larger, better equipped force, with specialised units ready to respond to any number of situations. Facilitated community policing.
Kayihura is just as fallible as the next man. On the one hand it might be that the challenges of the police were too great to address in the time he was given, that his was a work in progress. On the other hand it might just be that he was a man out of his depth and that he was bound to end his tenure reviled and scorned anyway
It’s easy to criticise when looking from the inside in.
Hopefully history will be kinder to him and give him more credit than the public is willing to currently.