Officially, Gen Kale Kayihura only 'transferred' Haruna Isabirye from policing opposition politicians to protecting cattle; but The Observer has learnt that the police chief was so unhappy with Isabirye's performance the reshuffle amounted to a sacking.
The exact reason for Kayihura's displeasure was not immediately clear, but insiders have told us that Isabirye was expected to fix so many things that, in the end, he was bound to 'fail'.
For 11 months, Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Haruna Isabirye was the director of operations in the country. But on Wednesday, he was moved to head the Anti-Stock and Cattle Theft Unit (ASTU) which was carved from Field Force unit. He was replaced by AIGP Asuman Mugyenyi, formerly chief political commissar in the force. Mugyenyi himself was replaced by Fred Yiga.
According to well-placed police insiders, who requested anonymity, when Isabirye took over operations in July 2015, he was seen as the blue-eyed boy of Gen Kayihura. In Kayihura's view, Isabirye had done well as Kampala Metropolitan commander. He had taken over office from Andrew Felix Kaweesi, who, according to our sources, had fallen out with Kayihura because he was seen as overly-ambitious.
With the election season then hotting up after Amama Mbabazi entered the race for president, Isabirye was expected to keep a tough eye - and hand - on the opposition not just in Kampala, but anywhere in the country.
It is said, however, that it did not take long for Kayihura to get underwhelmed. He felt the police was not biting enough yet he had - in his view at least - given Isabirye all the necessary facilitation.
Barely a month and a half after Isabirye took over, police in Jinja clashed with Amama Mbabazi supporters as the then presidential aspirant tried to carry out consultations. Sources said Kayihura was 'saddened' to see a police officer being manhandled by Christopher Aine, then head of Mbabazi's security.
Although it was not clear how Isabirye was responsible for the sizeable police officer's inability to bring his weight to bear on the Aine confrontation, our sources said Kayihura felt let down.
As the election fever rose and the opposition stretched the police, Kayihura is reported to have become more frustrated. For instance, one senior officer told us how Kayihura once loudly wondered why Isabirye failed to block big crowds of FDC supporters from entering Mbarara town when Dr Besigye visited the area.
Isabirye is understood to have told colleagues that the force was caught off guard, something that, when it reached Kayihura, annoyed the police chief even more. He reportedly felt the operations team, whose main task then was to police the campaigns, was not gathering enough intelligence about 'violations' the opposition were planning.
One of the lowest moments for Kayihura was the clashes between NRM supporters and those of Amama Mbabazi in Ntungamo last December. Media reports at the time said that although it was the NRM supporters that provoked Mbabazi's, the latter gave the 'yellow' NRM youths a bloody nose.
This result drew an angry reaction from President Museveni, who vowed that action would be taken on anyone who had the audacity to beat up NRM supporters. To repair the image, Kayihura flew some of the victims by helicopter for treatment and paid them money for further medical attention.
He and the president were reportedly disturbed by the idea that the opposition could clobber supporters of the ruling party. Senior officers said Kayihura's own diagnosis of the Ntungamo clashes blamed poor intelligence and poor deployment.
Efforts to speak to Isabirye last evening were futile as his phone number could not be reached. But the picture that emerged from conversations with senior officers is that Isabirye ended up being blamed for almost every security situation that went wrong for the ruling party or right for the opposition. For her part, deputy police spokeswoman Polly Namaye confirmed the transfers of directors but denied that Kayihura was angry or had sacked anyone.
"What I can tell you is that the Inspector General of Police General Kale Kayihura transferred some directors and those transfers are normal in the force," she said.
However, senior officers we spoke to insisted that Isabirye's movement from commanding the city police, to directing national operations, to now heading a cattle security unit was anything but normal.
Source: The Observer