By Charles Mwanguhya
Gen Kale Kayihura has found himself shoved to the centre of the controversy surrounding the project to keep President Museveni in power, never mind that Mr Museveni worked personally hard to win the declaration by the Electoral Commission on February 20 to earn the title President-elect 2016-2021 while still holding the belt of reigning President.
On Thursday, the police chief released a long ‘memo’ to the media, three odd pages in which he lambasted the media for misrepresenting the circumstances surrounding Opposition politician, Dr Kizza Besigye and his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).
The General talks of a “continued campaign of distorted information, speculations, biased and unfounded as well as unfair criticism of police actions as well as outright lies regarding the handling of Dr Besigye by the police.”
Then in the very next paragraph, Gen Kayihura states, “First of all we wish to state from the very beginning that the responsibility for the actions that police has taken involving Dr Besigye, during and after the campaigns lies squarely on his shoulders and that of his unruly and indisciplined supporters.”
In the paragraph after, Kayihura launches into the media which he blames for running “propaganda” noting that “in all police actions, it has acted lawfully professionally, conducted ourselves with utmost restraint in the face of incredible provocation.” In three paragraphs, the IGP, a lawyer, has covered a myriad of contradictions, from a denial, to an admission and then to finding someone to blame!
The General knows quite well that opinion journalism has significantly receded in the past few years, newspapers, the harbingers, of most opinion that media broadly gets lambasted for, have in them some strict editorial processes, but more importantly are increasingly being forced to chase after real time TV.
TV, unlike radio and newspapers, cannot have news if it does not have images and most of the debate about police conduct in the recent electoral process is dictated by TV footage.
In old journalism, we were often told, “a picture is worth a thousand words” meaning that a single image is enough to summarise Gen Kayihura’s entire essay about the “lawfulness, professional and utmost restraining” conduct of the force he commands as well as the “provocative, lawless and unruly” conduct of those the job forces them to confront.
The dousing in pepper spray of photo journalist Isaac Kassamani in Kasangati the other day, did not require “media propaganda” to tell the world, the police was targeting the wrong suspect.
The restrictions on Besigye, until he is produced and charged in court, will not be interpreted in any other way other than an extension of a political scheme to frustrate his political ambitions. Besigye, and his FDC party, believe they were cheated in the February 18 elections, they claimed before the election that police assumed a partisan political roll to tilt the ground to their disadvantage, they believe the incidents on Election Day itself provided them an opportunity to show the world they were cheated and that post-election, police are denying them the opportunity to gather evidence and to prove their case.
The police know that endless investigations are often the worst irritant to a judge and the certain trigger of stillbirth of many good cases political or otherwise. To avoid the embarrassment of court once the case has been presented, police choose to apply a limited scope of the law so called “preventive action” while trying to impress it upon the public that there is not just an intention but actual commission of a crime. Surely then, the IGP cannot turn around and blame the media when it questions the spectrum of application of the law vis-a-vis the constitutionally given rights in Chapter Four of the Constitution.
By offering political answers to legal questions, Kayihura should be forgiven by borrowing the phrase made famous by former US president Bill Clinton’s campaign, it’s not the man, it’s the job stupid.