Uganda: Is Sacked Spymaster Gen Kandiho a Sacrificial Lamb or his Removal from Powerful CMI Strategic Move?

    In the intelligence world, few things are what they seem to be.

    Yesterday's sacking of Uganda's most poweful spy chief, Major General Kandiho, the then Chieftancy of Military Intelligence (CMI) boss has already been connected to latest efforts by President Museveni to woo his Rwandan counterpart, President Paul Kagame, to repair hostilies between the two East African nations.

    Reports say Rwanda has demanded that General Kandiho be removed from the CMI post, citing human rights abuses, including kidnap, torture and imprisonment of hundreds of Rwandans in Uganda, under the general's watch.

    Gen Kandiho’s removal comes just days after President Museveni’s son and Special Presidential Advisor on special operations, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, visited Rwanda on Saturday to meet President Kagame for a trip that marked warming relations between the neighbouring countries after years of tension.

    Prior to Gen Muhoozi's visit, President Museveni had deployed his emissary, Ambassador Adonia Ayebere, "to transmit a special message to President Kagame."

    Has Gen Kandiho Been Made a Sacrificial Lamb?

    Possibly. It is obvious that Uganda is not just determined to repair damaged relations with Rwanda but there is a sense of desperation in view of recent events. While it makes sense for either or both of the two neighbours to seek for imporved relations, it also raises the questions why now, and why so fast?

    However, in grand scheme of things, sacrificing General Kandiho for the sake of Uganda's national interest(s) would be a right thing for President Museveni to do.

    Is General Kandiho's Removal a Strategic Move?

    Could be. If it is true that General Kandiho's sacking was in response to Rwanda's request, it would undoubtedly give underscore how determined President Museveni is to restore relations with Rwanda. Because Gen Kandiho was not just a spymaster but also one of the president's most trusted allies.  

    To prove how important the general was to President Museveni, when the US slapped Gen Kandiho with sanctions, the Ugandan People Defence Forces (UPDF) condemned the Americans

    Reacting to the news that Gen Kandiho had been sanctioned by the US, a person who described himself as "a survivor of the horrible torture from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) dungeon" had this to say

    Among the entire horde of vicious brutes that have been violating the rights of Ugandans in total disregard of the domestic and international laws, it doesn't make a modicum of sense nor is it effectual for only a single individual, Abel Kandiho, to be sanctioned in order to force change of behaviour.
    The entire military leadership in Uganda including police and prison chiefs should be embargoed and that is how we, the victims of despicable barbarism, will appreciate that somewhere in the world there are civilized people who are concerned about the state of human rights in Uganda.
    If I must ask, from whom does Kandiho take orders and why are they not sanctioned with him collectively? We watched many of them barbaric officers of this rogue regime, in the media, glorifying violence.

    The fact that Gen Kandiho was promoted by President Museveni from rank of Brigedier General to Major General while serving as CMI chief suggests the faith the head of the state had in the general.

    It is worth noting that back in 2017 when the then Col Kandiho was appointed to head the CMI spy agency, Rwanda was reportedly unhappy with the appointment. According to Eagle Online,

    Rwanda is unhappy with the appointment of Colonel Abel Kandiho as Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces Chief of Military Intelligence, military sources have told EagleOnline.
    According to the sources, in the late 1990s and early 2000s Col. Kandiho was deployed in Rwanda and also at Uganda-Rwanda border and reportedly gave Rwandan operatives on espionage hard time to enter Uganda.
    Even when Rwandan security operatives were colluding with individuals in Uganda Police to abduct Rwandan refugees and take them back to Rwanda, Col. Kandiho was against it, the sources said.
    This angered Rwanda and his appointment as the new military boss has ruffled feathers in Kigali.

    It is therefore not implaussible to think that the removal of Gen Kandiho from CMI to South Sudan post is just strategic, taking off the heat from both Rwanda, which Uganda wants to repair relations with, and the US, which sanctioned the general.

    Away from the spotlight, the general could very well continue to be important person in Ugandan intelligence circles.

    It was reported that he travelled to South Africa in December, where he met with one of Rwanda's most wanted fugitives, the exiled General Kayumba Nyamwasa. Away from the spotlight as he is now, there is a possibility that the meeting could have happened unnoticed.

    Succession plans

    General Muhoozi is the most likely to ascend to his father’s throne. The First Son has been strategically placed at the center of Uganda politics in preparation for his father's exit from political arena.

    Not much is known about relations between him and Gen Kandiho, but the former was noticiably silent when the latter was slapped with US sanctions. And he was among the first people to confirm on Twitter that Gen Kahindo has been removed from his CMI post.

    While it is highly likely that Gen Kandiho's removal - for whatever reasons - had Gen Muhoozi's blessings, whether the demoted spymaster would fit in the so-called "Project Muhoozi" remains to be seen.

    In conclusion, although much is still not known about the reason(s) behind Gen Kahindo's removal, there is still a possibility that we have not heard the last of the spymaster.


    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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