Inside ex-Uganda police chief Kale Kayihura’s detention ‘cell’

Monday August 13 2018

Former Ugandan Inspector-General of Police Kale Kayihura. Since June 13, he has been confined to a two-bedroom apartment that sources say is supposed to be the commandant’s house in the Military Police Barracks at Makindye. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Uganda’s former Inspector-General of Police Kale Kayihura is the most high-profile jailbird in the country.

Less than a year ago, he was easily the second most influential government official after President Yoweri Museveni, having nearly everything at his beck and call.

For two months now, since June 13, he has been confined to a two-bedroom apartment that sources say is supposed to be the commandant’s house in the Military Police Barracks at Makindye.

Talking to people who have visited and interacted with him during his detention, we have pieced together how Gen Kayihura whiles away the hours, what he eats and what he says about his continued detention without being presented in a court of law more than 1,400 hours later.

Ugandan law requires a suspect to be presented in court within 48 hours of being arrested.



Even though life has slowed down for him, we have been told Mr Kayihura still leads a semblance of the life he was used to.

According to sources, his typical day does not necessarily start as early as 5am as it used to be during his 12-year stint as the police chief, when he would take an early morning jog with guards running behind him.

To keep physically fit nowadays, our sources say, he has a stationary bike for workouts installed in one of the rooms.

Apart from providing security and ensuring that he does not escape, military police spend a lot of time taking care of his wellbeing.

When it is time for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the guards get to work.

Our sources say the guards accompany Mr Kayihura’s relative, most of the time his daughter who was working with a UN agency in Rwanda until recently, to deliver his meals.

The food is collected from Mr Kayihura’s home in Muyenga, a Kampala suburb, and is served to the general in the presence of guards.

The person delivering the food, despite being a family member, is required to first taste it to ensure it is safe.

But another source told us that the former IGP is allowed to move out of the house.

He sits at the veranda but remains confined in the compound.


Our sources say Mr Kayihura has the privilege of stepping out of the house when he deems fit.

They say he gets out to stand or sit at the balcony and bask in the sun, although he may not indulge in most outdoor activities such as jogging.

If he is not sunbathing at the veranda, he may be reading, sources say.

Those who have visited him say he reads the Bible and an assortment of best-seller books.

One of the titles they say he is currently reading are The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Dr Edith Eva Eger.

This is a biography of a Jewish survivor of detention at Auschwitz concentration camp.

Another book he is reading, our sources say, is The Silk Roads: A new History of the World by Peter Frankopan.

This is basically about trade routes which became the arteries on which people, goods, ideas and religion travelled.

Gen Kayihura is also said to be reading Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, a book about the debate on inequality.

The central argument in the book is that inequality is a feature of capitalism and presents a threat to democracy.

Conflicting Missions by Piero Gleijes is another book he is said to have in his collection in detention.

It is about Cuba’s policy in Africa from 1959 when Fidel Castrol took over power to 1976.

It discusses the clash between Cuba and America in Congo and Angola, for instance.

The detained man also has access to television and our sources say he watches evening news to keep abreast with what is happening in the country.

But he has no access to newspapers and his visitors are not allowed to go to see him with newsprint.


During the World Cup football tournament, our sources say, Mr Kayihura followed and watched some of the matches, although they would not readily tell which teams he favoured.

When Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, then a brigadier, was incarcerated at the Officers’ Mess in Kololo after the 2015 falling-out over the removal of presidential term limits, one thing he fought for was access to cable television to be able to watch the English Premier League.

It appears Mr Kayihura has no such problem.

Coincidently, both men were fired on the same day – March 4, 2018: Mr Kayihura from leading the police and Mr Tumukunde from serving as Security minister.

At Mr Kayihura’s detention centre, military guards keep close watch, but often from a distance.


Our sources say when he wants to make a phone call, he puts his request through to the authorities and arrangements are made for him to do so.

When he makes the calls, the sources say, the guards will step away and leave him alone, watching from a distance.

But the calls are very likely tapped.

The sources say he dresses in ordinary clothes, with his wardrobe taken care of by members of his family who take away dirty clothes and bring in washed and pressed ones.

Given that he is in confinement, he is not easily accessed by anybody from the outside world.

But the sources say his immediate family, lawyers and doctors have unfettered access to him any time and any day of the week.

Others who may want to visit him have two days in the week — Tuesdays and Fridays.

An intending visitor applies to the military authorities to see Mr Kayihura, upon which the former police chief is asked whether he wants to receive the intending visitor.

It is upon his answer that the decision to grant the visitor access or not is reached.


With close to two months in detention without recording any statement and also without being formally charged in court, the sources say each day that passes by, Mr Kayihura’s spirit grows stronger.

“He is resolute, steadfast and despite his family suffering, in the end he will be vindicated. If they think they want 100 more days, it is okay with him,” one of the sources said.


Early years: From 1982 when Gen Kayihura left London to the Luweero jungles to fight with the National Resistance Army that finally brought President Museveni into power in 1986, he found himself busy with work.

Upon obtaining his master’s degree in law from London, he held a number of positions before his eventual appointment as the police chief in 2005.

Service: Some of these positions that he held include being an aide to General Salim Saleh, NRA political commissar and on the Justice Benjamin Odoki Constitution Commission that drafted the 1995 Constitution.

Other positions he held were director of political education, Anti-Smuggling Unit and military assistant to President Museveni.

Police tenure: His appointment as IGP in 2005 was followed with the return of Dr Kizza Besigye from exile in South Africa.

Dr Besigye’s return was also ahead of the 2006 presidential elections.

This means that he had to work tooth and nail to contain the riots that greeted Dr Besigye’s return.

Successes: During his tenure as police chief, the number of police officers rose from 15,000 to 50,000.

He made stopping Dr Besigye’s quest for power his pet project, breaking up the gatherings of the opposition chief and overseeing his arrest several times.

Challenges: Especially towards the end of his tenure, the police office seemed to go a bit out of control, with President Museveni accusing the force of being infiltrated by criminals and eventually ordering the army to arrest a number of senior police officers and Mr Kayihura’s associates.

This ended with the arrest of Mr Kayihura himself.

Crime: In the meantime, crime seemed to spiral around the country, with killings — including of high profile citizens and robberies — being rampant.