10 April 2017

Uganda: Kaweesi - a National or Personal Hero?

Photo: Daily Monitor
Slain police spokesperson Kaweesi (file photo).
opinion

For whatever reasons, murder can never be justified as a method of settling conflicts in a civilised society.

In the same breath, regardless of the nature of the murder, we should not be tempted to distort the truth for some economic or political expediency.

Yes, like any sudden death, there will always be spontaneous outrage, positive or negative. But the reactions after Andrew Felix Kaweesi's death are shocking and surprising.

For the sake of history, it is important that we separate facts from the opportunistic and irresponsible trash which has dominated the space, giving a skewed national response to his death.

In the outpouring of sadness, many respected politicians eulogised Kaweesi as a good and exemplary officer. Many exalted him as a unique and indispensible officer whose service historians should record with reverence. I find this narrative parochial, sectarian and opportunistic.

To begin with, it is a fact that Kaweesi came to prominence not because he was an extraordinary police officer as regards crime prevention, investigation or general law enforcement.

He became prominent because he was an overzealous principal in a team which had to implement a specific political agenda, which even turned the police into the monster it is today.

Having failed to force the Movement/One-Party system onto Ugandans, Museveni's team championed the removal of term limits in 2005 to allow him continue as president as long as he wished.

Given the history of this country; given the amount of blood and suffering endured by Ugandans in the struggle for political pluralism; given the fact that many politicians had agreed to join/support his government on condition that it was to be a transitional government, Museveni knew that post-2005 was going to be a difficult time for him.

Under the guise of 'professionalising' the army, all the strategic changes had been implemented, including a 'back-door' entrance of his son and friends in the army. Now he needed to transform the police to be similar in order to meet the post-2005 challenges.

Gen Kale Kayihura, an NRA/NRM cadre, had already been deployed to foresee the overhaul. Kaweesi, indeed as evidenced by the way he was recruited into the police, became one of his handymen. He was fast-tracked through many ranks depending on the assignment needed. Among others, he had to head the police training school for obvious reasons.

Broadly, the police was capacitated and sharpened in all aspects: manpower, training, equipment and funding. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of policemen increased from 14,000 to 44,000, the vehicle fleet from 200 to 850 including 30 armoured personnel carriers and 3,500 motorcycles.

The police budget grew tremendously too. There were also structural changes. For example, the Special Branch was disbanded and replaced by Internal Security Organization.

Even new policing methods were introduced - this was seen through the sourcing of intelligence and recruitment of groups such as boda boda riders, market vendors, street urchins such as Kibooko squad, Kifeesi, black mamba, etc. Mildly put, 2005-2016 was 'operation hakuna mchezo' for the police.

As noted, the mission was political and was simple: regardless of the pretence of multi-party politics, the position of Mr Museveni and his supremacy were not to be challenged.

Anybody trying to do so had to be met with the utmost wrath of the 'new' police. Accordingly, Dr Kizza Besigye and all the opposition leaders who have attempted to challenge Museveni have harrowing and unforgettable stories to tell.

Unfortunately, many of our countrymen have lost their lives, others are paralyzed, while countless souls have life-long physical and psychological scars.

Gen Kayihura, Kaweesi and the team have been unapologetic, unrestrained and operating above any law in this country. They had/have the power over any individual or group activity such as the right to move out of one's home!

They arrest, torture or imprison as and when they wish; the judiciary interprets the law according to their liking. The paragon was the 2016 elections - Uganda was turned into a 'five-star prison'.

The police, whose mouthpiece was Kaweesi, became the 'law'. They would stop rallies, detain candidates, and did many ghastly things until Museveni was sworn in.

As Museveni has severally pointed out, the likes of Kayihura and Kaweesi are his heroes, but that does not automatically make them everybody's heroes.

The author is a Ugandan living in South Africa.

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