In the armed and civil forces including the military, police and prisons service, a transfer is routine procedure. Just today, the police boss General Edward Kale Kayihura has transferred several senior officers, most from the Kampala Metropolitan Police (KMP), the scene of several nasty encounters between police and opposition supporters keen on following the activities of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC’s) Dr Kizza Besigye.
Such encounters have put the police in the spotlight, with the Parliament and civil society organisations demanding better accountability from those who are supposed ‘to protect and serve’ Ugandans and their property.
The ugly incidents involving errant policemen wantonly beating citizens on July 13 and 14, prompted the police to convene a press conference at which the Inspector General of Police (IGP) told his audience that the police top command had adopted the use of batons as the principal crowd control measure, as opposed to using tear gas and rubber bullets or worse still, live bullets.
The media quickly picked Gen Kayihura’s line up, but this was not before the pressure started welling up, with those accusing the police of brutalizing Ugandans insisting that the officers had instead used ‘kiboko’, a local cane akin to those normally used by herdsmen, to ‘control the crowds’. There was video footage, showing junior police officers atop police pick-up trucks behaving like herdsmen, beating the lights out of the bystanders who were watching Besigye’s police-led procession to his home in Kasangati.
The junior officers, constables Willy Kalyango, Denis Muhangi, Sula Kato, Moses Agaba and crime preventer Dan Tandeka, were all arraigned before the PSU, but there were reverberating cries from their colleagues, who argued that the bosses overseeing the operation also needed to be brought in to give account of what actually transpired.
With the cries, by both the public and the juniors, police condemnation went into overdrive, prompting some damage control measures, with the first being made by Deputy Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Polly Bagambaki Namaye, who said her boss the IGP had pronounced himself on the beatings before watching the video footage. With her words the turbulent waters seemed to calm but the demand for action did not recede, and in the ensuing days the IGP swung into action, ordering the Police Standards Unit to begin investigations into the operational activities of his KMP senior commanders, notably Andrew Kaggwa, Samuel Bamuzibire, Moses Nanoka and Patrick Muhumuza.
Then, as part of the process to bring the officers to account, on July 25 Fortunate Habyara, the PSU Commandant presented evidence from video clips of a news bulletin carried on NBS TV and noted that it was gathered from different sources including investigations, plain statements of the suspects and submissions from the officers in charge.
At about the same time the IGP announced the transfer of several other officers including that of KMP Commander Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Abbas Byakagaba, to the Police Senior Command and Staff College (PSCSC) in Bwebajja, and that of Aaron Baguma, the District Police Commander at the Central Police Station in Kampala.
For now all the officers who were directly linked to the beatings have appeared before the police administrative court. And, as for Byakagaba, the KMP boss, his transfer seems to result from the actions of his juniors.
A highly rated officer, Mr Byakagaba is one of the 16 AIGPs, the third topmost officers in the police, just a rung down after the Deputy Inspector General John Martins Okoth Ochola.
And, with the latest transfers, today, for the first time in as many years, Dr Besigye was able to move ‘freely’ in Kampala, perhaps lending credence to Gen Kayihura’s efforts to enhance efficacy by carrying out frequent transfers of different officers during his tenure in office.