How Museveni got police chiefs to accept CMI arrests
Highly placed sources in government have revealed that ongoing criminal proceedings brought against several senior police officers, who were charged before the General Court Martial last week, were instigated from State House.According to one source, before the police officers were arrested by military intelligence, President Museveni communicated to the Police leadership, directing the institution to cooperate with the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.“This communication was to the effect that police should as much as possible cooperate with CMI on the ongoing investigations and that this should not be looked at as contradicting [police’s] work or in any way cause panic,” the source said.“You cannot know what his [the president’s] interest could have been in this matter but as a police officer, you have to act as directed,” an insider police source said.Senior Superintendent of Police Nixon Agasirwe, who is a former commander of Police Special Operations being led out of the General Court Martial to Makindye Military Police detention facilityThe Observer was referred to Article 213(4) of the constitution, which provides that in the performance of the functions under clause (3) of this article, the inspector general of police shall be subject to and act in accordance with the laws of Uganda; except that on matters of policy, the president may give directions to the Inspector General.“In the instant case the president can give a direction to anyone in the police on any matter of policy. Matters of policy are not clearly defined in the Act and it can be given a generous meaning, which includes the ongoing investigations,” the source, who declined to be named, said.It is likely then that Deputy Inspector General of Police Okoth Ochola was acting under this constitutional provision when he surrendered the wanted senior police officers to CMI, given Museveni’s reported communication.Julius Odwe, a former deputy inspector general of police, told The Observer this was not the normal practice.“In case this was a matter to do with a disciplinary breach on the part of the officers, they should have done this in a normal way, by having them charged before the Police Tribunal. What happened was unprecedented and it just shows there are internal weaknesses within the police,” he said.Efforts to reach Okoth Ochola for comment over the weekend were futile. He neither answered not returned our repeated calls to his known cellphone number.However, other well-placed sources said that last week’s incidents must be looked at from the viewpoint the president holds of the top leadership of the police.Immediately after the General Court Martial adjourned having charged two top police officers and seven other lowly ranking personnel with kidnap and being in illegal possession of firearms, Caleb Alaka, their lawyer, made a sensational claim before assembled media.Speaking to journalists outside the court martial building near Makindye barracks complex, Alaka claimed army investigators pressured his clients, hoping to get them to incriminate their boss.“While in detention at the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, the investigators did everything within their means to ensure that the arrested officers implicate IGP Kale Kayihura,” Alaka said.Alaka, however, refused to respond to journalists’ persistent demands for him to shed more light on his claim. He instead chose to describe how the charge of being in illegal possession of firearm leveled against his clients is “ludicrous.”“How can a police officer be charged with being in illegal possession of a firearm?” Alaka said.Charged in the General Court Martial on Friday were: Commandant of Police Professional Standards Unit, Senior Commissioner of Police Joel Aguma; Senior Superintendent of Police Nixon Agasirwe, who is a former commander of Police Special Operations and Assistant Superintendent of Police James Magada (Crime Intelligence).Aguma and Agasirwe were remanded to Makindye Military Police detention facility till November 20. Others are Sgt Abel Tumukunde (Flying Squad), Faisal Katende (Flying Squad) and Amon Kwarisima. Rene Rutagungira, a Rwandese national, and Bahati Mugenga Irunga, a Congolese national, were charged alongside the police officers. They were remanded to Luzira prison.It is alleged that on September 25, 2013, the accused persons kidnapped Lieutenant Joel Mutabazi, a former bodyguard of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, in Kamengo on Kampala –Masaka road and forcefully conveyed him to Rwanda. Mutabazi had fled for his life from Kigali to seek political asylum in Uganda with the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR looking out for him.The group was also charged with the kidnap of Jackson Kalemera, Mutabazi’s brother, on the same day. Similarly, Kalemera was also dispatched to Rwandan authorities against his wishes.Under the penal code, kidnapping or detaining someone with the intent to murder or knowledge that murder is probable or in order to obtain a ransom is punishable by death.But as the General Court Martial waits for the suspects to reappear, the defence lawyers intend to raise a raft of objections. Alaka told The Observer in a Friday interview that they are considering a number of “technical issues”, including challenging the jurisdiction of the Court Martial.His clients were charged under section 118 (h) (1) of the UPDF Act, which stipulates that persons subject to military law include, “Every person in unlawful possession of arms, ammunition or equipment ordinarily being the monopoly of defence forces or other classified stores as prescribed.” Interviewed on Saturday, Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, a human rights lawyer, took exception to the accused being charged in a military court.“Police officers are not military men,” Rwakafuuzi said, “They are civilians; they should have charged them in the High court.”On the charge of kidnap, Alaka said their first line of defence will be the fact that there is a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Uganda’s police and Rwanda police to hand over suspects.In fact, according to Alaka, there is an MoU between the IGP of Uganda and that of Rwanda which he said could have compelled his clients to hand over Mutabazi and Kalemera to Kigali.But a private lawyer who preferred anonymity, pointed out that the MoU cannot be a line of defence because Uganda’s 1964 Extradition Act doesn’t empower any police officer to hand over a fugitive or any asylum seeker to a foreign government.“The process is very clear; if you want to extradite anybody, you must apply before a magistrates court,” the lawyer said, adding: “Even if there is an MoU, it must conform to the Extradition Act and international statues Uganda has signed.” According to Uganda’s 1964 Extradition Act, “a fugitive criminal shall not be surrendered if the offence in respect of which his or her surrender is sought is one of a political character or if it appears to the court or the minister that the requisition for his or her surrender has in fact been made with a view to try or punish him or her for an offence of a political character.”Four years ago, Aguma who was head of the newly created docket of CIID director in-charge of Crime Intelligence, was suspended after he irregularly arrested and unilaterally extradited Mutabazi, a fugitive who had been long sought by Kigali.At the time, Aguma had just returned from a one-year senior command and staff course at Rwanda’s National Police College.He took the UN refugee and Office of the Prime Minister, which is in charge of refugee issues, by surprise when he coordinated Mutabazi’s extradition. The Rwandan government wanted Mutabazi on grounds that he was escaping justice, having allegedly participated in a 2011 bank robbery in Kigali.Mutabazi, an Israeli-trained commando, according to sources, had already been offered asylum and was awaiting the outcome of his eligibility for refugee agency status application, a process which was being supervised by Refugees minister Musa Ecweru.His life in Uganda had been constantly threatened. In 2010, sources say that gunmen sprayed Mutabazi’s house in Kasangati, Wakiso district with bullets, but he managed to escape.In August 2013, Mutabazi was kidnapped, forced into an unmarked car, but rescued en-route to Rwanda following intervention by high-level Ugandan authorities and strong UN condemnation.However, in October that year, Aguma extradited him — and this time nobody came to his rescue.