FRED ENANGA is a commissioner of police and the current spokesman of the Uganda Police Force. He shared his story with Simon Kasyate on Capital FM’s Desert Island Discs.
Good evening and welcome to Dessert Island Discs.
Yes, good evening my brother Kasyate; how are you doing?
It is always a pleasure to meet you. You are a very pleasant man [laughs]. Fred, what does Enanga mean?
[Laughs] You see we take these names from our great, great predecessors. And of course it is a Luo name.
Why do you say of course? It doesn’t start with letter O!
It carries different meanings in different languages. The Bantu have a different meaning for it but it is a well grown up strong type of tree in my language and I think it was taken from that.
Meaning that you are a robust being?
Where I come from, it is a big music instrument from wood, with strings attached to it. Probably there is a connection!
I heard that in my early days at Mugwanya Preparatory School. Guys used to make fun of the name; they used to call me ennanga, others ekinanga. Sometimes I would get offended but I got used to that.
We now know you for making statements for the Uganda Police Force. Sometimes we stop and ask ourselves: but who is this guy beyond what we know? So, on Dessert Island Discs, our mission is to break you down. Fred, when and where were you born and who are your parents?
We did grow up in Kampala but I learnt of my birth in Apac district. There is a village called Ayago; it is one of those villages in the prominent sub-county of Akokoro.
It is a gifted area; we have water, there is fish around, and we are also cattle keepers. I started learning about my parents when we were in Kampala, but we began from Entebbe. My dad was also a police officer.
He retired as a superintendent. He is Mr George Echonga. My mom is Christine Echonga. I am happy that they are both still alive and I really look up to them as role models.
When your father sees you doing the police work, does he pat you at the back and say: son, you have made me proud?
Yeah, of course he tells you this dad-son talk and appreciates that the level at which you are is a level I [he] didn’t reach.
Does he salute you?
[Laughs] We joke about it. He is simply happy within his heart. He feels that at least in life he has partly achieved some of his dreams because he invested a lot in taking us to school, with minimum resources.
We were quite a large family where you would go [to school] in bits. But I was privileged that during those early days, I was in boarding school and you had to report on the first day. But my sisters sometimes had to go ten days later because in day school, you could pay in parts.
Back to you childhood, paint a picture of your home. Was your mother a police officer as well?
No. The guys during those times were not going for learned and corporate ladies as it is today. My dad picked my mom from deep in the village in Apac.
When they share stories about their love affair… they used to pick on young girls. I think my dad chased my mom when she was about 14 years and you know…
In fact these days he would be in prison!
Yes, I would be the one to carry my dad there. But he really made a good choice. My mother being innocent at 14, she had to first run away into the bush and she was chased around and brought back and had to face my dad.
You know the go-between was there with some good words: “you know this is a police officer and a sportsman (he used to be a sportsman with the Akii-buas because he was a splinter). They grew up in that village life where there was a lot of hunting.
There was a lot of game in Akokolo. So, they used to hunt a lot and they never threw spears but would run after the rabbits until they caught them. So, that is how they started their affair.
My mom is this dark-skinned and very beautiful woman. Dad was more of light-skinned. So, when I came to Entebbe, it was a short stint and my dad was transferred to CID headquarters. In Entebbe, we didn’t sleep in a unipot but there are these two-room houses. I remember you would find police furniture there. Those metallic chairs and tables.
So, we moved out of Entebbe and the rest of our childhood was on plot 6, Kanjokya street in Kamwokya. My dad was not a senior officer as such but he benefitted from an office car.
But there were also pool vehicles that could come and park. If by 6am or 7am you are not in the bus, then you had to foot to where the current president’s offices are. It was a walkable distance.
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Fred, how did you go about your education? Never mind that you didn’t tell us how many siblings you have and what position you are in your family.
You don’t get those families these days; it is a family of ten.
Same father, same mother?
Yes. It was about the amount of dowry; so you have really to pay back.
So, every child was a cow?
[Laughter] Every child was like a cow. There was that tradition. Of course like I told you my mom wasn’t learned and when she came to Kampala, she had to make samosas.
Where we were, on plot 6, it was a kind of a middle level setting and we weren’t so, so well-off. We were among the poorest families on that street. So, we used to carry the samosas down to Kamwokya. She then got a stall in Kamwokya market and thereafter started dealing in produce. So, we were ten children. As we talk now, we are remaining five.
Two boys and three girls. But of course that is life. So, I am happy that I benefitted from nursery education. There was a nursery school behind Lohanna Academy. It used to be called Peter Piper.
I had a woven basket in a pot-shaped form, with a top and cover and a string! I don’t see it anywhere these days. I wish I had it for my kids to look at it. So, my mom used to put one banana finger (bogoya), and some juice.
After here, I did interviews at Mugwanya Preparatory School. That was P1 to P4. Then I would go for P5 to P7 at St Savio. I went to Lango College, that was still boarding, from S1 to S4, then Kololo SS and then Kitante Hill.
I can imagine the kind of person one would have described you as in your childhood. Can one say you were as humble and soft-spoken as you are today or you were mummy’s big problem?
When it actually comes to character, it is something that develops in someone. I think the environment has a way that it really tames you. I was very playful and stubborn.
Well, you lived in a police barracks. What would you expect?
That whole street had kids. So, we would compete with kids from Bukoto street, the ones from Kira road. Occasionally, we would go and compete with Bukoto brown and white flats and of course definitely beat them because we were very good.
There was a bit of a challenge to our parents. They didn’t have what every kid needed in a home. We had this very old fashion radio while other families had players; and when it came to television, we had a black and white which got spoilt and when they took it to a repairer, it didn’t come back.
And for all those years, like 10 to 15 years, we didn’t acquire another television set. When color TVs had come, our friends would tell us, now you come, I am going to leave the window open.
There are also friends who shared with us videos. Then we would argue that that guy died, you remember he died in the other movie. Then another would say no; maybe he died after he acted this one. We didn’t know the science behind these movies.
You actually thought they were real. Did you try to replicate the moves of the likes of Bruce Lee?
We definitely tried them immediately after. You know there were yams and when you cut off the leaf, the handle looks like a gun.
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At what point do you get the inspiration to join police?
When you are growing up and you appreciate the profession of your parents, then you get attracted. We participated a lot in police activities. There used to be police bands and programmes where we could see our parents participating.
And even when you could go visit your dad, the respect and smartness was there.
My dad always encouraged me to become a pilot. That was his major dream. He also wanted me to do medicine. But of course for my S4, because I was in Lira and there were scores of insurgences, I got a second grade and I didn’t get a science combination. That moved me away from his dreams. I did arts and went on to become an economist.
Which university is this?
So, you go to Makerere, to do…?
So, there was economics?!
Yes, to do Economics means to probably be a policy analyst in government, a lecturer or entering the banking industry. There were many entry levels.
The good thing with Makerere at that time, getting on to government was quite easy. We had the opportunity to join Makerere on government. I think during that time, 1994, the private scheme, which has really evolved, had just started. I was attached to Livingstone hall.
Did you ever reside there?
I lived there for the first two terms and I noticed that my dad had now retired. So, we started struggling a bit and there were benefits for a living-out student.
There was also the needy scheme and some other allowances. I started benefitting from that to support the family and these other siblings until when I graduated.
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Before you tell us when you join police, how was life at campus? What makes it exciting?
What makes it exciting is that you get to meet old friends. Those you were with in primary and secondary school. Even those you grew up with. Remember at that time we had left Kanjokya street and were staying in Kawempe where my dad built a decent two-bedroom house. That was around senior six.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I did not have a girlfriend at university. I don’t know what really affected me because the fact that where we were at Kawempe, I was also appreciated.
I picked a young girl. She was actually very beautiful, dark-skinned with a very nice sitting facility. Whenever we would move, people would appreciate. That is when I started appreciating love.
I realized that there was somebody who really cared about me, who we could share stories. Her mother died immediately after my graduation and I think where she is today, she thinks we are still staying together.
So, that particular girl didn’t end up being Mrs Enanga?
No, she didn’t. She is happily married today… You know we have our weaknesses and they drive people away. For women, they come with high expectations of having a sweet family. So, when there is a dip, those who are not patient enough fall off.
So, this other beautiful lady, Edith [current wife], I was in the neighborhood in Kawempe and I met her. It was a time when I was joining police. She has rolling eyes and is light-skinned. She is a little bit short and well endowed.
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Fred, when do you join police and why?
It was in 2001. After my graduation in 1998, I had a short stint at a school as an economics teacher. There was a school called Union College, as you go to Bahai; it even collapsed.
After Union College, I joined Christian Children’s Fund. At least there I got a Suzuki motorcycle. After two years, my dad used to tell me that these are not permanent jobs, they are contract jobs and you could lose them anytime.
He told me I had to get a government job. I kept doing interviews; with Bank of Uganda, and other financial institutions. Even [Uganda Society of Disabled Children] USDC needed some coordinator in Lira. I did that interview at the same time I did the interview with public service to join the police.
So, you would have spotted the police advert?
Yes, the advert came out and we shared with my father. I learnt that when my mom learnt about my interest to join the police, she started this dark face. She was not so happy with the choice because being a family that wasn’t that prosperous with a father in police, she thought it was a lost cause.
I eventually joined the police in 2001. We did the aptitude in early 2000. We were in Kyambogo with over 3000 applicants and they wanted 45 slots. That is the lot of Afande Kaweesi, Laban Muhabwe, Simeo Nsubuga, and Grace Akullo.
So, you return as a superintendent of police.
Yes, I was a cadet superintendent of police.
Well, we have seen you today but I don’t know where you were when Simeo Nsubuga was police spokesperson or Kaweesi was a commandant of the training school, or Akullo at CIID.
It all started at Entebbe. This time I had a bigger house, and more decent, two bedrooms with a sitting room.
Did you invite your father there?
Yes. And my mother also came. She showed me where we used to stay.
What were you doing in Entebbe?
It was in 2002. There was the Itongwa insurgency where they were attacking police posts. So, we withdrew and closed some of these posts such that guns don’t end in the wrong hands.
Then there was the fishermen at Nakiwogo, a landing site in Bugonga, there were clashes between the Bantu and West Nilers over spending more time on the waters and so on.
I think that was my fast major success in restoring sanity. I picked on my best team and really had to exhibit police authority and we arrested people. We maintained on charging those people in court. I was happy that after those enforcement measures, there was sanity. They started calling me Kayanja. It was just eight months but full of operations.
So, that earned you your next promotion?
Yes, I was among the 14 who were regarded to CID. I didn’t know what it meant but I think they picked on the economists, statisticians, lawyers (Kataratambi) and Akullo. I had a short stint at Nateete, before it got burnt.
I was still a cadet but I was OC CID, Nateete. I spent six months there and I think we reduced on incidents of mob justice in the likes of Kitebi and towards Busega. What we used to do was to take the body first then come back and pick you when there is no heat of passion.
Then guys would say: what style is this guy using? So, within those six months, I was transferred and given a district. I was Ssembabule district CID officer and I was also confirmed from there as a full assistant superintendent of police and my DPC was Madam Agaba Alison; she is now in South Sudan. We worked for a good three years. There were very complicated cases, land and politics. There were gruesome murders.
From Ssembabule, where did you go?
I was transferred to Lira municipality as district CID officer. I was there for one and a half years. But I had two courses in between. There was a course in Kyankwanzi in leadership and an executive leadership course in Japan that I attended in 2007.
After that, I was transferred to CID headquarters as a staff officer. So, I was now into management, in CID administration department. That is where I kept for almost another two years.
While there, I doubled as a PRO for CID. I remember there was this Kato Kajubi case, then this case of Minister Jim Muhwezi and Mike Mukula. The Godi case came around that time. You guys would put the camera straight in my face… after that, I went to Darfur for 20 months.
When I came back, I was taken back to CID to head the economics crime department which I did also for about six to seven months. I was transferred to Kampala metropolitan as CID commander.
I was there I think for 6 weeks. Then I went for a course, then there were challenges in that course and I stayed home for another six months… and found myself into the land protection. Barely two weeks into the land protection, there was the crisis in Kayunga: Hon Nantaba and related incidents.
I took another four months in Kayunga. I am really happy that it bore fruits. We came up with a very concrete report where we showed the irregularities that were in Kayunga.
You are a little different from other spokespersons. They are supposed to be flamboyant, fast-speaking, like me, yet you come off with that demeanor where every syllable you say comes on its own.
It is kind of natural. The way I approach life…
Does it come off some kind of pressure?
I don’t like working under pressure. You end up messing up. I like taking things slowly but surely.
Is there anything that angers you Fred?
As a perfectionist, you get angered when you don’t get returns. When people do not handle you the same way you do, you feel cheated.
Does it anger you when people start saying you are partisan because you make statements they disagree with?
No, that shouldn’t anger me because I really feel that whatever I am doing, I have the backing of the law. When it comes to politics, we know very well that the police and crime are one of the strategies used in campaigns to win support and creating sympathies.
We interact a lot with the public and people want to use those shortcuts… but what pains is when you have members from the media put questions that appear to be…
You can leave that. But Fred, what happens when you find yourself commanded to do an operation that is partisan in nature; that your inner gut believes you should not do either from a moral or legal perspective. Do you have the balls to say no to your bosses?
In forces, we follow orders. We respect our superiors a lot. They also respect us. So, it is about striking a balance. We do share a lot with my boss and we agree on approaches and sometimes he can get irritated but later on he gets back to appreciate. That is how we have been working.
How many children do you have?
Three good-looking boys and three girls.
When they and your wife Edith read about daddy in the news and watch on TV, what comments are around the Enanga dinner table?
She [wife] is concerned because some of those statements, you know, are hurting to certain sections of the public. But you can’t keep on saying good things.
Does she carry the name Enanga?
Yes. She loves that name. The one thing I like about her is she stands by me and she doesn’t want to expose herself to certain levels; she lives a simple life.
Fred, at Dessert Island Discs, we ask one last question which goes as follows: if you had an opportunity to be marooned on a dessert island and you were given an opportunity to carry with you one thing or one person, who or what would you carry?
Carrying one person would be painful. Of course I have stayed with my mom, and she is my role model. She has played her part and we are also playing our part with our children. So, I would take my wife with me so that our children could get to look up to us as role models too.
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Transcript: Joseph Kimbowa