A move by police chief Kale Kayihura to dissuade youths from opposition protests has left a group in Masaka fighting, and on the verge of collapse.
In recent years, Gen Kayihura reached out to different youth groups with donations in cash and kind, all aimed at neutralizing their support for opposition politicians. Kayihura has concentrated his energies in Masaka municipality, the constituency of MP Mathias Mpuuga, a key architect of the opposition-led walk-to-work protests that almost paralyzed Kampala in 2011.
In the municipality, Kayihura has supported a boda boda cyclist association with 1,000 chicks, three motorcycles, and Shs 5m. But instead of uniting around their good fortune, the youths are bitterly divided.
The Masaka municipality youth boda boda Sacco, which Kayihura helped form, is on the verge of collapse, as youths fight over the general’s donations. According to one of the Sacco leaders who has since quit, disagreements in this group started last November, when the chicken started laying eggs.
“That’s when the rest of the members were chased from the project and as of now, it is in the hands of three people,” the leader who declined to be named for fear of reprisals said.
The rifts in the group further widened last month, when the police chief’s Shs 5m donation arrived. Chairperson Akram Musajja reportedly used part of the money to buy a motorcycle and clear their office rent arrears, something his colleagues did not agree to. On paper, the Sacco has 120 members, but some sources claim most cannot be traced.
“There are about eight known members, the rest of the names were forged, they only used the boda boda tag because they felt it was the easiest way of getting money,” Joseph Gabula, the chairman of boda boda cyclists in the municipality, said in an interview at the weekend.
“We were in the beginning told that the Sacco is about developing us [boda boda cyclists] but we later on realized that there were different intentions [in its formation], far from developing the cyclists,” he added.
Some cyclists now believe Musajja is a security operative, an allegation he declined to respond to, when we contacted him on Saturday. “What I can tell you is that the money that the IGP gave us was not for boda boda cyclists but for the Sacco,” he said before he hung up.
Last week, opposition leaders accused the police chief of infiltrating their ranks with donations to their youthful supporters, (see: Kayihura cash gifts to youths worry MPs). Kayihura, in a leaked conversation with some Buganda NRM youth leaders, boasts of luring some of Mpuuga’s youthful supporters into the NRM.
Kayihura is believed to have quietly started infiltrating opposition ranks at the height of the 2011 walk-to-work protests. To deal with Mpuuga’s influence in Masaka Municipality, the police chief adopted a two-pronged approach deploying police officers and some officers from UPDF’s Masaka-based Armoured Brigade.
Last July Kayihura flew to the Armoured brigade and drew a plan of suppressing a planned youth demonstration against President Museveni’s visit in the district. Museveni was the chief guest at the launch of a decade of activities to mark St Henry’s College Kitovu’s centenary anniversary. The demonstration was called off after Kayihura met the youths at Golf Lane hotel.
Three youth leaders, all councillors in Masaka Municipal council, have since acquired cars, allegedly to help them mobilize youths against anti-Museveni activities.
“Kayihura should be charged with abuse of office, diversion and misuse of public funds because, the police vote that Parliament passed has no allocations for police’s political activities,” Mpuuga argues.
In February, security chiefs in Masaka questioned a number of youth leaders in Masaka over their links with Maj Gen Benon Biraaro who had started selling his 2016 presidential bid. (See: Security questions youths over Gen Biraaro meeting.)
Biraaro’s coordinator in Masaka region, Francis Kasumba Zziwa, has reportedly abandoned the campaign at the urging of the Armoured Brigade’s commanding officer, Brig Joseph Ssemwanga, and the brigade’s head of logistics Capt Badru Kiggwe.
The UPDF officers are also reported to have infiltrated the Buddu Bumu Savings Credit and Cooperative Society (Sacco), formed recently by Buganda officials in Buddu county (Masaka region). They suspected the Sacco was being used as a launch pad for Biraaro’s activities in Masaka. Its manager, John Mark Tamale, was part of the youths who were interrogated by the security, and has since changed allegiance.
Our investigation reveals that both Zziwa and Tamale were each given Shs 500,000 to ditch Biraaro, and are now working closely with security to have Museveni relaunch the Sacco.
“It is true we want the president to officially open the Sacco and our engagement with Brig Ssemwanga and Capt Kiggwe is in that direction because they have a direct line to the president,” Tamale said in a phone interview on Thursday.
To abandon Biraaro, Tamale said, the two army officers offered to buy shares in the Sacco.
“They didn’t give any money directly to us as individuals, we told them that our involvement with Biraaro was about getting support for the Sacco, and they told us that they would first buy shares and then connect us to the president,” Tamale said.
Interviewed separately for this story, Zziwa contradicted Tamale’s version. He said they had no plans to invite Museveni to launch the Sacco. “Whoever told you that is simply trading in [lies]. Those soldiers [Ssemwanga and Kiggwe] only came by to see the Sacco’s office,” Zziwa said.
“I am still in touch with him [Gen Biraaro], we had only taken a break because he had to move to other parts of the country but our mobilization will resume in May,” he said. Biraaro on Saturday said Zziwa and his colleagues had remained steadfast.
“They [security] tried to question them but later gave up because they were being asked why they were leaving NRM yet some of them have never belonged to NRM,” Biraaro said. Capt Kiggwe didn’t say much, when The Observer reached him last week.
“Because of our stringent standing orders, I can’t comment because I’m not authorized to speak to the press,” Kiggwe said.
Last Wednesday, the deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, had granted Mpuuga permission to prepare a motion seeking to compel Kayihura to resign as police boss.
Although the permission was later cancelled, Mpuuga argues: “His [Kayihura’s] character and conduct are inconsistent with the Police Act and the Constitution. His position as IGP is no longer tenable in a democratic system, he lacks the capacity to command a non-partisan police,” Mpuuga said.
Source : The Observer