Uganda’s Inspector General of Police (IGP), Gen Kale Kayihura, is an omnipresent man, ever in the news and always at the scene of major incidents.
Now, to be fair to Kale, he is a most enthusiastic and remarkably committed army officer, save that for the most part, he has served his master – and not the public – with distinction. Listening to him talk, he sounds so well-meaning and determined to give his all in serving the country.
Yet, to be sure, in his dedicated service to his master, Kale has, relatively speaking, also done a commendable service to the general public. But Kale would have performed spectacularly as a public servant if he was an IGP, and not a political and security activist.
If you consider that the al-Shabaab terror outfit has attacked Kenya several times, but not Uganda, and killed hundreds over the last few years, then one appreciates the work done by Uganda’s security agencies, of which Kale has been a key player over the last ten years.
His knack for dramatizing terrorist-related incidents and his populist public posturing notwithstanding, Kale and the institution he heads deserve credit for stopping the kind of dastardly attacks that the Somali-based terror organization has regularly visited on our neighbors, Kenya.
Also, if you take a global picture of security in cities worldwide, you realize that Kampala is not a terribly unsecure city. In an increasingly clogged and chaotic Kampala, with unregulated and quite dangerous passenger motorcycles and a huge army of unemployed youth, the Uganda Police under Kale has done commendably well in maintaining minimum order and security of person and property.
That said, as I have written in this column before, the methods of work of Gen Kale, especially his activist approach and populist way of handling issues of law and order, his partisanship and unwavering loyalty to General Museveni, and not the people of Uganda, have greatly obstructed the urgent transformation of the police into a professional and modern force.
For an IGP to be among the very first people to arrive at the scene of crime, to be the one parading suspects before the media, to be the one addressing press conferences, then appear on one radioTV talk-show after another, engage in arresting errant officers, attend funerals of victims of crime, meet warring parties and mediate between conflicting communities, etc, you have to wonder when he does the actual work of an IGP – offering much-needed strategic leadership for the institution.
The police force as a whole has a spokesman and a deputy, so does Kampala Metropolitan police. There are also regional spokespersons. These are the people who should speak for the force and provide information to the public in a professional and systematic manner. Instead, it’s the IGP who hastily issues public statements, often suggesting that he wants to control the flow of information.
Ordinarily, it should be the official spokespersons speaking first and the IGP or one of his immediate assistants coming in to clarify or provide more information. Instead, a rather overzealous IGP speaks first, and thus the spokespersons can’t say anything. Strange, but this is Uganda.
Detecting and fighting crime requires systematic and careful investigation without cheaply playing to the gallery, something Kayihura is taking to ridiculous extremes. If he is not denigrating his own officers in a manner that would even incite the public against the police, he is parading suspects before cameras in total disregard of the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”.
It is fine to be seen to be working, to appease the public by making haste pronouncements, including giving premature information about crime suspects, and to demonstrate to your appointing authority that you are working tirelessly but to do that in a manner that undermines organizational coherence and institutional growth is senseless and counterproductive. And this is precisely what Kale has done, quite unabashedly.
Yet in so doing, Kale is only picking a leaf from his boss whose modus operandi is one of micromanaging and getting entangled in small and sometimes-petty activities that are best left to junior government officials.
In his political-activist way of managing the police, the IGP is also often on a spending spree, giving huge sums in condolence money and paying those who supply him with often-cooked-up political intelligence information. We got to know a bit of the latter during his chase after the activities of former premier Amama Mbabazi.
Why would the IGP dish out money so effortlessly when officers of his institution are so poorly paid, lack such basics as stationery, and continue to live in the most appalling conditions?
The leaked tape-recordings over Mbabazi’s political activities firmly confirmed Kale’s openly-displayed partisanship and his overarching focus on securing General Museveni’s grip on power. His partisanship has meant that the entire force is set up in a partisan manner with enormous resources and precious time spent on defeating legitimate opposition instead of focusing on detecting and defeating crime.
The author is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Northwestern University EvanstonChicago-USA.
Source : The Observer