KAMPALA — On October 1, 2020, President Yoweri Museveni summoned Uganda’s security honchos for a meeting at State House, Entebbe to discuss the security situation in the country.
In attendance were the Chief of Defence Forces, General David Muhoozi, the Inspector General of Police, Martin Okoth Ochola, the Chief of Military Intelligence, Major General Abel Kandiho. Others were security minister, General Elly Tumwine, External Security Organisation chief, Joseph Ocwet.
Retired Colonel Kaka Bagyenda, who was knifed from the position of Director General of the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) also attended the meeting. There was, however, sources close to the corridors of power told Vox Populi, one stranger in the room, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, the immediate former Prime Minister whose close to 40 years relationship with Museveni took a temporary about-turn when the ex ‘super minister’ ran for president in the 2016 presidential election.
It remains unclear why Mbabazi, whose first assignment when the National Resistance Army (NRA) shot its way to power in 1986 was that of Director General of the External Security Organisation and later security minister, was attending the meeting. Some sources say the former prime minister had been meeting Museveni before they entered the meeting room together.
This was no ordinary meeting. The septuagenarian president was in a combative mood. He fired the first gun shot at General Tumwine, telling him in no uncertain terms, “It’s you who has killed ISO.” The security minister blinked, his lips twitching as he sought comfort in the gigantic leather seat on which his lean body, now shaken, ensconced itself.
The other security chiefs looked on. One could hear a pin drop until Mbabazi spoke, supporting the president in blaming top ISO leadership for poor performance of the outfit that was established in 1986 whose role is to provide national security intelligence.
Kaka, who was picked out of the doldrums of retirement in the serene islands of Kalangala whence he tried a hand at business, has not had a particularly colourful reign as ISO chief. He has been a disaster, an accident waiting to happen and perhaps one of the worst things to happen to intelligence gathering in the country’s recent past.
As senior journalist Andrew Mwenda put it in a tweet, Kaka’s intelligence reports, “had become toxic, in one of them even alleging first son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba was plotting with the First Lady to overthrow government. His reports on Rwanda went to similar extremes of fabrications that made peace impossible to craft.”
Mwenda added, “His worst contribution to our intelligence system was to destroy whatever good that had been built in ISO, and then running torture chambers euphemistically called safe houses where he brutalized his victims with the barbarity of Idi Amin’s goons.”
Kaka’s tenure also caused tremors among operatives at the organisation as unexplained sackings, delayed payments of operational funds and fake intelligence reports became the new normal. Morale dropped to its lowest. Intrigue became the modus operandi. Inter-agency rivalry hit the roof. Professionals got sidelined as rogues ran the show. Things fell apart like a pack of cards under Kaka’s feet. Disgruntlement among the operatives, poor performance and hiring of untrained individuals outside the ISO structures to do intelligence undermined Standard Operating Procedures at the intelligence outfit. Before his sacking, there had been a number of intelligence briefs written by some operatives who had disagreed with Kaka’s method of work.
How it started
When Col Kaka was appointed to the position of Director General in January 2017, he was barely known in security circles. He had retired from the army in the early 1990s and went into private business. His appointment shocked many within and outside the system. On February 6, the same year, during the commemoration of Tarehe Sita, the president hinted on why he probably recalled and appointed the man who had retired from military service over 20 years ago.
Museveni shared that Kaka had helped the National Resistance Army to spy on Masindi barracks in 1984. After giving them intelligence, the rebels under Yoweri Museveni, made a successful attack on the barracks and captured weapons, marking a turning point in the war against the government of former President Milton Obote.
His appointment though, remained a surprise to those in security agencies and according to security sources, his methods were surprising to his colleagues at ISO. “There are many strange things he was doing and you would wonder if he knew that he was heading a sensitive intelligence organization. All in my entire life, I had never seen the Director General of ISO addressing journalists inside the premises of the organisation’s head office,” one operative, speaking on condition of anonymity said.
For the three years he was at ISO, over 60 senior operatives were on suspension, including the new boss Lieutenant Colonel Charles Oluka under unclear circumstances. He threatened to sack all Gombolola (sub-county) Internal Security Officers (GISOs) without degrees even after the commander-in-chief told him to reverse his plan.
The menace of Safe Houses
Kaka operated a number of safe houses in Kampala and Kalangala where civilians were tortured and held for long before they would be dumped at police stations. Safe houses, which for all intents and purposes are torture chambers, have been a characteristic feature of Uganda’s security apparatus, right from the Milton Obote, Idi Amin administrations. On assuming power in 1986 and promising a fundamental change, the NRA started from where the Amin and Obote security agencies stopped, albeit changing tactics and methods. Perhaps no single security chief would be innocent if their tenure was assessed on the parameter of safe houses. All are guilty and have sinned before the people of Uganda.
Despite this background however, Museveni summoned security chiefs last year and told them that torture is outdated, ordering that all the safe houses be closed. Kaka continued operating them and this forced CMI and Special Forces Command of the UPDF to raid two safe houses in the Wakiso district suburb of Kyengera and Kisaasi in Kampala early this year. In one of the safe houses, they found Sgt. Issa Arinaitwe who in 2018 wrote a dossier claiming that Rwanda was planning to assassinate President Museveni.
Fake intelligence reports
Early this year, President Museveni ordered for an investigation to ascertain the motive of Kaka authoring fake intelligence reports. In 2019, an operative, one Alfred Iduso, who was heading ISO’s cyber security unit authored a damning report to the president, claiming that Kaka and another operative called Simon Peter Odongo were forging intelligence reports.The dossier claimed that they forged an audio that led to the arrest of the former Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura in which someone is heard telling “Gen Kayihura” that the mission of killing the former police spokesperson, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, had been accomplished. Kaka presented the audio to a security meeting at State House and a day later General Kayihura was arrested. But his trial went silent and according to security sources, it was later established that there was not enough evidence to connect him to the death of Kaweesi. Kaka looked bad.
According to security sources, Odongo, who is currently facing trial in a military court for illegal possession of fire arms was arrested by a joint force of Special Forces Command and CMI. They arrested him from his home in Kirinya, in Wakiso district. Sources say he was arrested after he authored a report and gave it to Kaka claiming that Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the president’s son and advisor on special duties, was planning subversive activity. The report also accused other security chiefs of working quietly with a neighbouring country to undermine Uganda’s security.
During his arrest, the operative was shot in the leg before he was taken to China-Uganda Friendship Hospital for treatment and later dropped at Bombo Army Barracks hospital. After his arrest, both Internal Security Organisation (ISO) and Uganda People’s army refused to comment on the incident.
Sacking of senior operatives
Over 60 senior operatives had been on suspension under unclear circumstances. They say whoever disagreed with Kaka would be suspended. Last month, he reshuffled and sent 10 top operatives to what he called a Think Tank which does not exist in the ISO structures.
Below we publish (in full) the un-edited dossier that sealed Kaka’s fate. It was sent to President Museveni in April 2020
TO: H.E the President
SUB: MASSIVE CORRUPTION AND INEFFICIENCY AT INTERNAL SECURITY ORGANISATION UNDERMINING NATIONAL SECURITY.
In the Financial year 2018/2019, The Parliament of Uganda appropriated UGX 3.5 Billion for the procurement of Motorcycles for 1503 GISO’s country wide. This decision was reached by the Presidential Committee of Parliament chaired by Hon. Col Fred Mwesigye and the leadership of ISO. To date the procured Motor cycles bearing Government registration number plates are rotting away at ISO Headquarters yet the GISO’s require them in the on going efforts against COVID-19 Pandemic and the locust invasion. Very reliable resources in the Directorate of Finance at ISO confirm that out of the UGX. 24 Billion allocated to ISO as non-wage bill every year, the current Director General has been diverting UGX 16 Billion annually. These Funds remain unaccounted despite ISO continually receiving funds in four quarters of UGX 6 Billion each have been misappropriated by DG ISO as follows:
Out of each quarter release of UGX 6 Billion for 03 Months, The DG ISO has only been allowing the Finance committee under the Chairmanship of Col. Don Mugimba to approve expenditure and appropriate funds UGX 2 Billion for only one month, while the balance of UGX 4 Billion is not a subject of discussion and what it does outside decisions of the Finance committee.
Out of the UGX 2 Billion that the Finance committee is allowed to appropriate, UGX 400,000,000 (Four hundred Million) is allocated to DG ISO for his operations and reserve while the balance of UGX 1.6 Billion is allocated in terms of imprest and operational funds to directorates, departments, regions, sections and districts.
Imprest and operation Funds for all ISO establishment have been systematically reduced by a cumulative figure of about 70% totally incapacitating the staff from gathering and processing intelligence.
For every quarter of 03 Months, ISO structures are facilitated for 01 month while the Funds for 02 other Months are diverted and probably embezzled by DG ISO, a matter that remains un checked.
Untill recently ISO had a total of 22 Regional Internal Security Officers (RISO), in a move that was rejected by ISO Top Management Committee, DG ISO arbitrarily reduced the number of RISO’s from 22 to only 7. This move has compromised sharing of intelligence between the various security agencies, RISO’s are Chairpersons of JIC at the Regional level, there removal has seriously under mined intelligence sharing for National Security. The reduction of RISO’s was motivated by the desire to eat into the UGX 30 Million they were all supposed to get on a monthly basis translating into UGX 360,000,000 (three hundred and sixty Million) per annum. What is laughable is the fact that the RISO Western now supervises ISO operations from Kisoro to Kiryandongo covering Kigezi, Ankole, Rwenzori, Tooro and Bunyoro regions, without any substantive support in terms of means of transport and financial facilitation.
The arming of non ISO Staff with weapons that are a preserve of the armed forces remains a challenge under the leadership of the current DG, a reliable source in charge of the Armory at ISO revealed that close to 100 AK 47 rifles have been given out to non-trained and non-staff, this is in addition to a big number of pistols already in circulation. The armed individuals regularly with authorization of the DG ISO have their ammos replenished without clear and valid reasons as to what the ammos are being used for. This trend seems to replicate what happened in Uganda Police and if not checked could be a cause for Insecurity in the Country. Needless to say this is contrary to the laws of Uganda and the continued blatant abuse by DG ISO in arming nonmembers of the security forces is an offence triable under the laws of Uganda.
Other operations directed by the DG ISO are targeting and tarnishing the image of other Security Agencies and undermining cohesion. Negative propaganda targeting CMI, SFC and Police Operatives is availed to the public through the notorious Pulse Patriotic TV and a face book page in the names of one Seruga Titus. Emmy Katabazi the former Deputy Director in charge of Media monitoring at ISO was recently demoted and sent to Ministry of Internal Affairs as a liaison officer after openly disagreeing with DG ISO on the issue of targeting and defaming senior UPDF Officers like Brig Charles Asiimwe of CMI, Gen Proscovia Nalweyiso and others using ISO media out lets.
About 60 Senior Officers are and remain currently redundant in total disregard of ISO Appointment Committee’s decisions i.e. 20 Senior officers at the Rank of Director and Deputy Director, RISO’s and DISO’s. The one man decisions are usually by phone calls and have affected long serving officers and many of them at the Ranks of Lt Col, Major and Captain, these officers problems stem from their opposition to ISO operations in their areas of responsibility that are conducted by non ISO staff whose operations are sanctioned by the DG ISO. Needless to say, some of these operations involve extortion, illegal arrests and illegal detentions etc.
The deliberate efforts of denying GISO’s means of transport substantiates the efforts by the current DG ISO to continually frustrate the operations of the organization and foster his personal agenda. This has created fundamental gaps in the operational cycle of intelligence gathering and processing. If unchecked incidents such as the attacks on Zombo Military Detachment will continue occurring and escalating.
There are reports still being verified to the effect that DG ISO has been extending financial support to opposition leaning Saccos in Mukono and Bwikwe districts, funds to these Saccos are coordinated and delivered by one Gashumba a staff of ISO, full report to follow after verification.
In light of your guidance to the nation on the 31st of March 2020 regarding the deployment of GISO’s to relay information regarding COVID-19 suspects and also to work as part the sub-county teams to relay timely information and updates to the National Task Force and the need for DISO’s and Border Internal Security Officers (BISO) actively participating in Implementing your directives regarding combating COVID-19, and to ensure closure of borders. There is need to urgently have the motor-cycles rotting away at ISO offices delivered to GISO’s and to restore the facilitation of ISO structures to the previous levels in order to enable ISO staff fully play their role in the fight against COVID-19 and National Security.
This story was first published by the East African Center for Investigative Reporting’s online publication Vox Populi. PML Daily has been authorized to publish this story under the Center’s Collaborative Investigative Journalism Initiative.