The Kayiira Phenomenon: Reasons Behind It All
Central Police station probed by Scotland Yard.

The Kayiira Phenomenon: Reasons Behind It All

Intricate details are now emerging.

By Gerald Businge
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First published: January 31, 2007

May Kayiira's soul rest in eternal peace. But how can it rest when his name and person have become a political gameboard 19 years after he was mysteriously murdered? Or is it just that people in Uganda care so much more about the late Kayiira today?

Many people are wondering what it is about the Kayiira murder and Kayiira report that has popularized it as one of the most important milestones in the country. Is it because it is the murder of a prominent politician and the report was not released? Well several other politicians like George Nkwanga, Kayiira's comrade, were killed with no promising details released after the investigations? Interesting

Intricate details are now emerging explaining why the murder of Dr. Andrew Lukakome Kayiira, who was then Minister of Energy in the new government of President Museveni, is making a comeback as if it were the most important thing to happen to Uganda. But to understand the complexity of these arguments, one needs to understand the man who Kayiira was.

Who is Kayiira?

By the time of his untimely death in March 1987, Dr. Andrew Lutakoome Kayiira was the Minister of Energy in the 'unity' government formed after the incumbent President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni led the National Resistance Army captured power in 1986. Though a Minister, he was charged with treason, but was acquitted, although the government insisted on Kayiira being charged guilty of treason. A few months after his release, he was gunned down while having lunch at the home of his friend, then BBC stringer, Henry Gombya in Lukuli-Konge in Makindye.

Earlier Days Showed a Promising, Ambitious Politician

Dr. Kayiira first blossomed onto Uganda's political limelight in the 1970's. He was the head of the Uganda Freedom Union (UFM), one of the groups which made up the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), which with the help of Tanzania toppled then President Idi Amin Dada in 1979.

According to Henry Ford Miriima, a friend of the late Kayiira, he (Kayiira) became very popular during the political unrest which followed the ousting of Prof. Yusuf Lule whom the UNLA had put in power. President Lule was overthrown after 67 days in power.

Miriima, a veteran journalist says that Kayiira's prime ambition was to rule Uganda, and he was vocal about. He never made it a secret.. Kayiira openly declared his ambitions at the beginning of the anti-Obote guerilla war.

Originally from the Democratic Party that was believed to have won the 1980 general elections, Kayiira was the only leader in DP to consider a military option to oust Obote, together with Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA).

During the January 1981 War Council held in Nairobi by the leaders of the four main anti-Obote groups (Kayiira, Yoweri Museveni, Yusuf Lule and Robert Serumaga) to plan a way forward, Kayiira was assigned to take control over Central region in collaboration with Serumaga and Prof. Lule.

"After the council, I met Kayiira with Maj. Fred Mpiso, currently living in Sweden. Kayiira was in high spirits telling everyone that at last the people of Central Uganda were about to assume their rightful place in political leadership," Miriima says.

Kayiira fought Obote's government with his untrained Uganda Freedom Movement (UFM) Forces but did not made a significant military achievement, with many of his fighters finally joining Museveni's NRA. He followed them later and became part of the victorious forces and the unity government that the NRA assured in.

Inconclusive Investigations into His Death

After Kayiira's death, the government hired famous investigators- Britain's Scotland Yard to investigate the murder. The investigators released their report on May 1987 to the Government but the report was never made public until about a month ago when the Democratic Party said they were going to release the report and expose the culprits involved.

The DP version of the Kayiira murder report implicates some National Resistance Army officials (now UPDF). The Government has dismissed the DP version as false.

In mid-January 2007, the Government released what they claim is an authentic report. The Government report exonerates the army from complicity in the murder of Dr. Kayiira.

Internal affairs Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda who earlier said the original report on the murder of Dr. Andrew Kayiira went missing from the Police, announced recently that Scotland Yard had sent the Government a copy of the report through the Uganda High Commission in London.

On Wednesday January 25, the British Government said that it handed over an authenticated report on the murder of Kayiira, but this report is yet to be made public.

Amid all this and the pomp it has generated, it is still not clear what exactly happened to Dr. Kayiira, and why it should be important today.

Political Capital?

It has now emerged that the death and eventual investigations into Kayiira's murder are becoming big political capital, especially for the Democratic Party, which commentators believe was at the verge of going into oblivion. A party which won the 1980 elections with an outstanding majority (it is said Obote's Uganda People's Congress stole the vote) now has only 9 MPs in Uganda's 303 members Parliament, with much of the young generation forgetting that DP is a political party, the oldest political party at that.

It is said that the DP leadership looked around for what could bring them back to the limelight, and centered on exposing the unresolved Kayiira murder report. If it is true that the DP wanted to resurrect its image from that of a silent party, boy they have done it.

But other than such a strategic reason, Kayiira was the only man who gave the DP the strong man leadership - a military muscle and practical ambition which has seen the party outstripped of victory and abandoned by the most fitful in favour of other ambitious political parties.

So in a way, it may be nostalgia, but also a need for justice for a man many DP faithful believe would have had the necessary military credentials to lead Uganda had he been alive today.

At the time of his murder, Kayiira, it was believed, would have lasting and destabilizing support in Central Uganda, being a Muganda and a member of the then popular DP.

It is against this background that the DP and mainly those in the opposition think the Government had a lot of reasons to eliminate Dr. Kayiira. President Yoweri Museveni has denied his National Resistance Movement (NRM) Government or army killed Kayiira. He says the NRM does not believe in eliminating their political opponents, and reasons that he called all of them to form a unity government.

Drama Taking Us Nowhere

The issue of Kayiira is creating more and more drama on a daily basis. One Cpl. Eddie Sande walked into the offices of the Daily Monitor, Uganda's independent daily newspaper and claimed he was part of team that killed Dr. Kayiira when he was based at then Lubiri barracks. The paper also carried interviews with a former Dogmaster, Dison Kopliano Odutu who allegedly said that he was involved in tracking the killers on March 6, 1987.

The Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura however says all the two interviews are false and blames the newspapers of taking positions on the matter and "throwing its lot with the populist posturing of certain activists fronting a forged version of the New Scotland Yard report" He was referring to Daily Monitor's headline among others that "DP unveils true Kayiira report".

"Several other partisan reports designed to portray the government as deceptive on the matter were run in ensuing editions," Kayihura says, with an obvious enthusiasm to defend government and entrench the official government position. Kaihura says Cpl Sande is a mental case, while Dison Odutu was off duty on the day he claims to have led police dogs to discover the Late Kayiira's murderers in Lubiri barracks.

But to many people, the Government is certainly telling less than the truth. Why wait for pressure after 19 years to release a report for which they had to hire the highly regarded Scotland Yard investigators? It is even more surprising that the Government version of the report doesn't accuse anyone in the Government as popularly believed, yet the Government found it difficult to release the report earlier, or even clearly now.

As of now, the DP believes they have caught the Government half-naked from cheating. DP lawyer, also Lubaga Central MP, Elias Lukwago says the Government hurriedly doctored the Kayiira report to remove incriminating evidence against top Government officials.

He says the Government hastily came up with a report and has some facts wrong, like mention the government on Tito Obote. There was no such government as the immediate past leaders had been Tito Okello (RIP) and Milton Obote (RIP).

The DP and Henry Gombya claim that the Government killed the late Kayiira, implicating a Government official with the rank of General. Gombya says the chief murderer is a Brigadier General, while DP President Ssebaana Kizito told journalists recently that the chief architect of the murder is a serving officer in the Government at the rank of General.

Both have all gone short of mentioning the official, making many Ugandans doubt their authenticity and motives: if they have the information, why don't they reveal it?

The Government insists that Kayiira might have been killed by rivals within FEDEMU, while of recent the Government has pointed an accusing finger at Gombya, now living in the UK about the knowing the killers.

Gombya managed to escape from the place of murder with a lot of money, and later flew to exile under suspicious circumstances. But why did the Government take that long to release the report if they didn't have something to hide?

If the DP claims to know the real killers, and has the right version of the report and wants the killers of Dr. Kayiira brought to justice, why don't they just mention the officials it says were implicated by the Scotland Yard? These are the questions many observers have been asking.

The police are now questioning the DP, Daily Monitor journalists and all those who came out to give evidence. It is amazing that the Uganda Police is hoping or is trying to find out the truth regarding the murder 19 whole years later. The question is why this late in the game?

Some people believe that whatever the scenario, the Kayiira report is being blown out of proportion. Looking at a lot of the media, it seems like the Kayiira murder issue is the most important issue in the country. "Uganda has more serious issues to deal with than the resurrection of dead matters. We all know that flogging a dead horse is as futile as breathing life into dead bones. So why do it?" asks one Jahan Berns. What do you think?

The Court searching for Kayiira's justice.

By Gerald Businge
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First published: January 31, 2007
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Gerald Businge is a media practitioner and features Editor at Ultimate Media Consult in Uganda. He is a graduate of Mass Communication and several journalism and leadership certificates. He has been a practicing journalist since March 2001 and has worked at The New Vision as features writer, and has written extensively for different newspapers, magazines, newsletters in Uganda and internationally. He currently does fulltime media communication consultancy work as well as writing and editing at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd where he is a founding member and CEO. You can get his attention so long as you are interested in and you are working for a better world.