A day after the leaders of Uganda, Rwanda, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo met via videoconferencing to discuss security in the Great Lakes region, President Yoweri Museveni sacked his intelligence chief Col. Kaka Bagyenda, who was among the key security figures singled out by Rwanda as an enemy of peace.
Kaka was fired through a colleague on Thursday October 7, 2020. Rwanda is also unhappy with Ugandan Military Intelligence chief Brig. Abel Kandiho and State Minister for Regional Cooperation, Philemon Mateke. Action on those other two remains to be witnessed.
Since the beginning of 2019, Rwanda and Uganda have fought a cold war including closing the border between themselves. Following accusations that both sides were seeking to destabilize the other through the support of rebel groups and mistreatment of citizens, the border has been closed since last February 2019.
Hopes of resolving the spat were restored in July 2019 when the leaders of the two conflicting neighbours met in Luanda in a summit facilitated by Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The summit was followed by two more in the Angolan capital and the latest meeting at Gatuna.
The key outcome was a memorandum of understanding, which committed both parties to release imprisoned citizens, refrain from supporting destabilizing groups and create a commission to monitor the implementation of the agreement.
Positive steps have been taken in the release and return of citizens. In January 2020, Uganda handed over nine Rwandans facing charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, followed in February by 13 more arrested for espionage and security related offences, including two individuals wanted by Kigali in connection with an attack that killed eight people in northwest Rwanda last October.
Rwanda responded by announcing that it had already terminated the prosecution of 17 Ugandan citizens and released three who had already completed their sentences. All 20 were returned to Uganda.
But also among discussions between officials of the two states were concerns that if some senior security figures in Uganda were not tamed peace wouldn’t prevail between Uganda and Rwanda. Key among those security officials cited by Rwanda were Military Intelligence Chief Brig. Abel Kandiho; Minister Philemon Mateke and Internal Security Organization chief Kaka Bagyenda.
Kaka has now been replaced by Lt Col. Charles Oluka, a career spy who will be deputized by Lt Emmy Katabazi the current deputy Director of Mass Media at ISO. Oluka was head of Special Operations during the era of Wembely under Brig Elly Kayanja.
According to an insider in ISO, Oluka is very critical, results-oriented, believes in team work and always meets deadlines for assignments.
Kaka was appointed Director General of Internal Security Organization effective January 2017 after lobbying by Gen Salim Saleh a young brother of President Museveni.
A close look at Bagyenda’s three years as head of ISO, allegations of torture, human rights abuses, arbitrary arrests and internal fights among ISO agents have taken precedence, putting the country’s security at risk.
But Kaka’s dismissal should be more keenly seen from the spy chief’s role in the Uganda-Rwanda conflict.
When Kaka was appointed to head ISO he immediately embarked on neutralizing former Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura, whom accused of working for Rwanda to destabilize Uganda. It is unclear whether Kaka was representing Gen Saleh’s interests. Saleh has been accused by Rwanda of working with and protecting enemies of the RPF administration in Kigali.
Saleh is said to be a business partner of Rwandan businessman Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, whom Rwanda accuses of funding rebel groups hostile to President Paul Kagame’s government.
It is alleged that senior intelligence chiefs briefed President Museveni that there were senior security officers in Uganda working for Kigali to destabilize Uganda.
Intelligence told the President that some security officers were mainly in police and had in fact superintended over murders, assassinations, kidnappings, illegal repatriation of refugees from camps and handing them over to Kigali.
It was further reported that the head of state was informed that in all the assassinations, police as lead investigator was using ADF rebels as a scapegoat. It should be remembered that the president while visiting the home of late AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi after his assassination warned Kayihura to clean “his house or i will help him clean it.
Joint intelligence teams had arrested senior police officers SCP Joel Aguma, SSP Nixon Agasirwe and others for working with Rwandan agents in the kidnap and illegal repatriation of Rwandese refugees most of whom were allegedly executed.
They also carried out a number of arrests against suspected Rwanda’s spy agents from different areas in the country for committing a number of serious crimes and combed all government departments, agencies, NGOs and other multinational corporations holding Rwandan wrong elements not forgetting the deportations at MTN-Uganda.
Then IGP who was alleged to have been maintaining close links with Rwandan agents was also arrested alongside his blue-eyed boys and were detained at Makindye military barracks cells.
Upon prosecution of Kayihura it was established that Kaka had manufactured most of the evidence against the former police chief. It is said that Kaka’s most trusted operative, Simon Peter Odongo, who was the head of ISO’s ICT Department, framed Kale Kayihura on the killing of Andrew Felix Kaweesi. The joint security investigation into the death of Kaweesi found out that the information that ISO shared about Gen Kayihura was false.
But Kaka in an interview with a local newspaper sometime back denied reports that he was part of a clique of army officers who had planted multiple allegations against Kayihura and participated in conspiratorial plots to criminally frame him.
“Why would he think that I came all the way from Kalangala where I was on retirement before being appointed the head of ISO to plan for his downfall? I have never had any conflict with Kayihura and I am one of those people who are very unhappy with the sanctions,” he said.
In addition, several sources say ISO authored some controversial reports that accused some big military shots and some members of the first family of working against President Museveni. Most of these reports have been found fake.
However, Uganda’s case against Rwanda had been built around Gen Kayihura’s prosecution. This was an embarrassment to the President who believed that his security personnel had a genuine case against Rwandan authorities.
It is possible that President Yoweri Museveni having grown tired of the ongoing useless cold war between Uganda and Rwanda has decided to take action, beginning with the dismissal of Kaka.
Before his appointment in 2017 Col Kaka had been a businessman running several hotels across the country. When he took over intelligence in 2017, he was seen as the saviour and was credited for doing reconnaissance and gathering intelligence that helped thwart internal rebellion in the army and government.
However, under him ISO operatives were accused of carrying out human right abuse including arbitrary arrests of people and detaining them at an island in Lake Victoria for months. In 2019, lawyers under their umbrella body, the Uganda Law Society (ULS) accused Kaka of arresting, detaining and torturing citizens and usurping the powers of other security agencies and acting outside the law.
The then ULS president Simon Peter Kinobe said Kaka had taken over the role of other security agencies and turned ISO into a clearing agency for wealthy individuals to the detriment of regular citizens.
The raid by Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence on several ISO safe houses in Kampala in July 2020 surprised many but also signalled that Kaka had a big fight for survival on his hands with higher forces probably fed up or rattled by his methods of work.
In July 2020, personnel from Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence raided several safe houses in the city centre where ISO detained suspects and arrested the guards before taking away people detained in the houses.
The raid came after President Museveni summoned ISO director general Col Kaka Bagyenda for a meeting at State House. Col Kaka later failed to come to office the following day, sparking speculation that he had been fired. At the time of the raid, there had been tension at ISO headquarters after more than 100 operatives, including 10 directors, were suspended.
In 1981, Bagyenda joined the National Resistance Army (NRA), a rebel guerrilla outfit, led by Yoweri Museveni, who waged the Ugandan Bush War, between 1981 and 1986. He carried out covert operations for the NRA and was instrumental in the capture of Masindi Army Barracks by the NRA on 20 February 1984. To disguise himself from the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) soldiers, he adopted the name Kaka, dropping his birth names Frank Bagyenda. He served in the Ugandan military, rising to the rank of Major, before he retired at that rank in 1993
His assignments in the military included as the commanding officer of a brigade based in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. He then served as head of the directorate of transport, and then as a member of the then Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), which today is the Chieftainancy of Military Intelligence (CMI). He also served in Uganda’s Northern Region, where commanded a brigade in the early 1990s.
While in Kalangala, Bagyenda remained an active intelligence operative, playing a role in the disruption of illegal fishing on Lake Victoria. In 2013, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel, while in retirement.
UJA House, Bombo Rd,
Keti Falawo Zone, Kawempe Division
Kampala – Uganda