A Look back at Asuman Mugenyi’s Time in the Police
Since 2016, Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Asuman Mugenyi’s name has been synonymous with the police’s breaking up of opposition political gatherings, and as early as last year, foiling singer and presidential hopeful Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine’s) musical concerts.
Mugenyi performed his last duties as a policeman on May 29, 2020, after 32 years in the uniform, and handed over the commandership of the directorate of police operations to Senior Commissioner of Police (SCP) John Nuwagira who has been his deputy.
There had been reports Mugenyi had been suspended or fired, but police spokesperson, Fred Enanga, clarified that he had served his contract.
“He simply observed his contract to the end,” said the Police spokesperson. Mugenyi becomes the fifth AIGP to quit the police institution in the last three years.
Two months ago, AIGP Steven Kasiima, who was director traffic and road safety was forced out of office by IGP Martin Ochola after his contract had expired. Although AIGP Kasiima was shown the exit with four other AIGPs, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni renewed contracts of the other three but not his.
In November last year, AIGP Godfrey Bangirana, who was director logistics and engineering was forced out of office by the High Court after he had defied Ochola’s directive to quit office when his contract had expired.
Other retirees were AIGPs, Fred Yiga, who was director Interpol and Elizabeth Muwanga, who was director welfare and production retired in 2018 and 2017 respectively. Yiga and Muwanga quit after waiting for close to two years for their contracts to be renewed, but in vain.
As director of police operations, Mugenyi authored several letters disallowing gatherings by political groups seen to be opposed to the ruling establishment, and, those that defied his directives, tasted the wrath of the police force.
Some of his directives saw him become a subject of court suits like during the famous age limit petition hearing in Mbale where he was cross-examined over a directive he issued to police commanders not to allow MPs to consult outside their constituencies.
His October 16, 2017 directive required police commanders to stop any MPs from backing up their counterparts during consultations on what came to be popularly known as the age limit bill that led to the amendment of the Constitution to remove the 75-year age cap for presidential contenders.
All the five justices of the Constitutional Court namely, Deputy Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo, Remmy Kasule, Kenneth Kakuru, Elizabeth Musoke and Cheboroin Barishaki that heard the age limit petition in Mbale, faulted Mugenyi for the directive which they termed as arbitrary, unfortunate and unconstitutional.
They directed the police management to take action against Mugenyi but by May 29, when he retired; the court directive hadn’t been implemented.
“I can’t forget that moment when we cross-examined him during the age limit hearing in Mbale when he made a fool of himself trying to defend that directive. I’m sure he will remember that moment when he stood in the dock to defend that bogus; ridiculous directive,” said Kampala Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago who was part of the legal team that challenged the age limit amendment.
On March 26, 2020, the Constitutional Court again found Mugenyi in the wrong when it declared Section 8 of the Public Order Management Act unconstitutional.
This particular piece of legislation always formed the basis for Mugenyi’s decisions to disallow opposition gatherings but the Constitutional Court declared all actions the police took under Section 8 null and void.
As if that was not enough, two weeks to his retirement, Justice Esta Nambayo of the High Court in Kampala indicted him as she quashed Police orders that stopped Bobi Wine from staging concerts dubbed Kyarenga Extra.
The judge said that by the time Mugenyi issued the orders stopping the concerts, he had “taken leave of his senses.”
“I sympathise with all career policemen like Asuman Mugenyi that they have no good record they are leaving behind as professional police officers because they allowed Museveni to turn the police into an arm of the NRM,” Lukwago said.
Should the International Criminal Court (ICC) pick interest in the November 2016 killings in Kasese, Mugenyi may not miss on the list of suspects being that he was among the commanders that were deployed in the western Uganda district to crush an uprising by loyalists of the Rwenzururu kingdom.
The shadow minister for Internal Affairs, also Butambala MP, Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi believes that Mugenyi had no control over his actions.
“He has been a figurehead commander who has been acting on behalf of someone else. Police operation have been always been directed by the deputy IGP [Maj Gen Sabiti Muzeyi],” Kivumbi said.
To Masaka Municipality MP, Mathias Mpuuga, despite retiring, Mugenyi needs to be investigated over human rights-related offences.
“High Court Judge [Esta Nambayo] summarized his tenure in the Bobi Wine cases; just ignorant and lacking knowledge of his duties, politicking and acting as if he is the law on to himself! He had no business in the police… his criminal conduct throughout his tenure is subject to investigation on serious violations of rights, and serious illegal conduct,” Mpuuga said.
“It is regime serving officers like him that the force lost public trust and look at police as an arm of the regime,” Mpuuga added.
Mugenyi joined the police in 1988 shortly after he graduated from Makerere University. His first deployment was in the Immigration Department but after a short while, he was moved to the Special Branch, the then intelligence unit of the police.
In 1990, he was deployed to Kamuli Police Station as a commander and a year later to Kabarole as District Police Commander (DPC).
The deployment put him at the centre of operations against the Uganda Muslim Freedom Fighters (UMFF), a rebel outfit that was launched by Jamil Mukulu in 1992, and established operating bases in the Rwenzori sub-region. UMFF later rebranded as Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
He was later moved to Karamoja and Sebei before returning to Police in the early 2000s to take over the role of Police spokesman.
In 2004, he was moved to Masaka as Regional Police Commander. In 2012, he was re-appointed Police Spokesman and director of the Police Commissariat before the then IGP, Gen Kale Kayihura appointed him the director of police operations.