When the walk-to-walk protests started, President Museveni was a very disturbed person. He was unsure of which direction the protests would take. Then his intelligence briefed him that the Opposition had actually planned to converge at City Square [ Constitutional Square] with thousands of supporters to demand that he leaves power or a re-election be conducted.
According to the brief, if the Opposition gathered at the city, the donors would then dissuade the government from dispersing them because they were peaceful and more so, it was their right to protest. Several civil society organisations would then ferry in food and other necessities to the protestors in form of humanitarian aid. This, according to intelligence, would make the Opposition pitch camp for as long as they could. If that happened, there was no way Museveni would continue ruling the country when thousands were protesting.
It pained him so much that such a move had been mooted against him. He was shaken or terrified by the possibility of losing power to civilian protests yet he had earlier boasted the he was holding grip on the military and that no one would take over power from him.
His immediate response was not to allow the demonstrators to access the city center. The President was always on phone with the IGP Gen. Kale Kayihura, Gen. David Tinyefunza, the Coordinator of Intelligence Services, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the Chief of Defence Forces, Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the Commander of Special Forces Group and his Brother Gen. Salim Saleh.
Commanders fight each other
At first, the job of quelling the demos was left under Gen. Kayihura who consulted the President constantly and literally took instructions from him. You could see at the start that Kayihura’s boys were dominant in the operations. However, the situation lasted longer than they security chiefs had anticipated. Col. Kizza Besigye injected momentum and courage into the demonstrations. Intelligence started feeding the President with the information that Rwanda’s Paul Kagame was morale boosting Besigye. They also said the US and Britain backed the FDC man. This information created more panic in the President.
While he was panicking, his lieutenants also degenerated into their old personal wars of supremacy. A section told the President that Gen. Kayihura was not handling the demos properly especially when he started ferrying the Opposition politicians arrested in new police vans. They had wanted them carried in pick-ups and humiliated so that others get discouraged.
Sensing the infighting among his dogs like Napoleon’s dogs in Animal Farm, the President elevated his son Col. Muhoozi to take charge.
The subsequent operations were actually commanded by Muhoozi. The police only remained to give the job, a face. Museveni fell short of announcing that the army had taken control. His fear was to announce army control yet his swearing in is due on May 12. It would appear that he was taking over government under military rule.
So, the regular police officers were left in charge but mainly as mere spectators as Special Forces; CMI and JATT operatives took control of quelling the demos. These groups were not uniformed but heavily armed with sophisticated weapons.
They had been instructed to use maximum force; in fact they were licensed to kill. Remember that in the first two days of the demonstrations, there were no reported incidents of death but when the military elements took charge, scores of people were murdered.
While Gen. Kayihura bellowed instructions to his field officers and also updated the President, the President was giving different instructions to other commanders. That is why during the protests; the regular police are usually the first to arrive at the scene. They usually negotiate with the demonstrators. But the military guys also deployed in civilian attire, relay information to their command posts from where they get instructions.
It’s usually the guys in civilian attire who have the final say on what to be done. Gilbert Arinaitwe is one such a fellow. Although deployed in police, he is attached to JATT.
When he arrived at the scene in Mulago round- about where Grace Turyagumanawe had stopped Besigye, Arinaitwe straightaway kicked Besigye’s car before he used his pistol. Another man in the hood arrived with a hammer and also hit Besigye’s car.
Sources say that these guys were dispatched specifically to inflict pain on Besigye. They were not part of Turyagumanawe’s team. Their instructions were to get Besigye by all means. Museveni's worry with Besigye is that the retired Colonel is gaining cultic poltical support and proving difficult to be dealt with. The radicals want to eliminate the Colonel but moderates worry of the repercussions.
The purpose of the hammer was to try to hit Besigye’s car locks to force them to open. And the spray was to force them out of the car. Intelligence sources say that police had no idea that Besigye would lock himself in the car, therefore; they could not have carried a hammer. It’s the bosses in the background, who ordered the Special Forces to drag the man out forcefully.
Apparently, the army has literally taken charge of management of demonstrations. In this case, the army means the SFG commanded by Col. Muhoozi. In every police patrol car, there is an SFG person, JATT, CMI, military police and two police officers. But all of them wear police uniform to disguise as regular police officers.
Experts argue that in essence, Special Forces are in control of the police. Recently, Museveni announced that he would be guarded by police as stipulated by the Constitution but sources say his guards will be police officers only in uniform but Special Forces in content.
After being beaten by the Opposition move, President Museveni ordered a reshuffle of intelligence operatives in Kampala; the reason being that some of them had become known to the public; therefore, unable to detect the Opposition strategies. Secondly, some of them reportedly had girlfriends all over the city. These operatives have been deployed in far flung districts and new ones deployed in the city. The idea here is to try to intensify clandestine operations so as to get to know the Opposition plans in advance and nip them in the bud.
Police on Opium
Most police officers in mobile pick-up have resorted to taking drugs especially Opium in order to gather the courage to confronts civilians whom most of them reportedly see as innocent but because of orders from above, they have to do the job. In Nakulabye, not far from the city center, several police pick-up vehicles usually pull up at Shell fuel station near the round-about. They park their cars in the station and walk down to the nearby market. They usually appear at around 9 am. According to sources, these security officials have a joint in the market where they buy the Njaga [opium] to sniff before they embark on a day’s work. This information is known to several people who have witnessed the police visit the area to buy the drugs. Apparently, they have got addicted to it because it enables them unleash terror on the civilians without remorse. Some of them reportedly confess that they can’t do what they do when they are normal. So next time you are stopped by these officers, don’t think you are talking to ordinary police officers. After taking the Njaga, their eyes turn red and their appetite to torture grows. That is why you witness the brutality that sometimes their bosses also wonder why their officers go overboard. They are boosted by Opium.
As they intensify intelligence gathering, the army is also conducting massive arrests in the suburbs of the city. They are picking young men they suspect to be ringleaders during the demonstrations. The arrests are targeted at Opposition supporters. As you read this, several young man are languishing in military detention centers especially Makindye military barracks and RRU headquarters in Kireka. Sadly, most of these young men are innocent but the state is arresting them in order to deny the walk to-to work protestors the necessary input of these vibrant boys. Apparently they are to be detained until the state feels the walk-to-walk campaign is no longer a threat. The illegal detention is to also wear down the young men such that they abandon the Opposition. Some of earmarked ringleaders undergo torture. Those who surrender will be released and turned spies against the Opposition.
The same kind of arrests targeted at Opposition youth are taking place in other earmarked towns like Mbale, Gulu, Jinja, Mukono and Masaka.
During the riots that followed the rumour that Dr Besigye had died of torture by the military, several young men were mercilessly killed by the military men. Some of them were reportedly immediately picked up and their bodies confiscated to avoid the public getting to know. Some of the nosy relatives are under threat and are reportedly being paid compensation. This is a matter that requires urgent investigation by independent organs and the state. Internal Affairs minister Kirunda Kivejinja announced that only two people had been killed yet journalists counted at least five. It’s said that the numbers are higher than the journalists and the state are saying.
But from a man who was in panic at the beginning, Museveni is said to affording a smile now because the military mainly under his son, has taken charge of the situation. For now he is settled that at least no one even within the military can use the excuse of the demonstrations to turn the gun against him. Such a soldier would be dealt with by Col. Muhoozi.