KAMPALA – President Museveni has promoted his son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba to full General but dropped him from commanding the infantry wing of the national forces.
The President, in changes announced on Tuesday, October 3 also promoted Kayanja Muhanga to Lt. General and appointed him to command the land forces.
This mean, Gen. Muhoozi, who was 11 years old when his father’s National Resistance Army took Uganda’s capital Kampala in 1986 is now on the same rank as Gen Museveni.
The new promotion also makes him one of the highest-ranking officers in the defence forces where until today, he has served as the commander of the land forces since his most recent elevation in 2021.
Muhoozi Kainerugaba Monday went on a Twitter meltdown, warning that he would only need two weeks with his army to capture Nairobi.
In what has turned into an embarrassing diplomatic tiff for the neighbouring country, Muhoozi posted a series of controversial tweets about Kenya, Uganda’s neighbour to the East.
He started by blaming retired President Uhuru Kenyatta, whom he refers to as his “big brother”, for not contesting for a third term in the August 2022 polls, adding the retired president could have easily won the election.
Former president Kenyatta was barred by the Kenyan constitution from contesting for a third term.
But Muhoozi, 48, suggests Mr Kenyatta, who handed over power to President William Ruto on September 13, 2022, should have changed the constitution to remain in power.
“Haha! I love my Kenyan relatives. Constitution? Rule of law? You must be joking! For us (Uganda), there is only the Revolution and you will soon learn about it!”
Not done, Muhoozi sensationally claimed on the same platform he needs a fortnight to topple President Ruto’s government.
In 1999, Muhoozi formally joined the Ugandan defence forces while a student at Makerere University.
He has been subsequently trained at elite military academies in the UK and US, and continually promoted ahead of more experienced peers.
After Muhoozi’s most recent promotion to commander of the land forces, he has featured in a number of Uganda’s military deployments. These include those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia where Uganda is part of the African Union peacekeeping force, and the Karamoja region in Uganda’s northeast.
Muhoozi’s fast-tracked rise into a position of power within the military has long produced accusations that he is being groomed by Museveni for succession. Yet, despite this ‘heir apparent’ accusation, Muhoozi’s public profile had previously remained relatively small. He is still perceived as something of ‘an unknown quantity among broad swathes of the Ugandan public.
He has rarely given interviews to traditional media outlets. For most of his adult life, the average citizen would probably not have known very much about him.
The reasons for this relatively subdued profile were related to the inner workings of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) regime that Museveni has led since 1986.
At every point in his now 37 years at the helm, the president has maintained a posture of impending retirement. Museveni consistently suggests that the next election will be his last and that he dreams of the simple life of cattle keeping.
Being constantly about to step down in this way has allowed Museveni to play off the factions of the NRM against each other. He has dangled the possibility of succession before them.
In Uganda, this ploy has been referred to as the succession ‘queue’ within the ruling party.
In recent years, however, this act has worn thin.
This is mainly because Museveni has successfully marginalised several powerful National Resistance Movement figures who had developed partially autonomous political bases. They include former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya, former Parliamentary Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, former Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura, and most spectacularly former Prime Minister and Party Secretary General Amama Mbabazi.
The decline of these figures – all rumoured to be in the metaphorical ‘queue’ for the top job – has made even the most naive party elites incredulous to the idea that Museveni will ever hand over power to one of them.
This change has coincided with the political emergence of Muhoozi in recent years.
His public profile has been growing both domestically and internationally. As a presidential advisor on special operations, a post he was appointed to in 2017 alongside his military roles, Muhoozi has held summits with the leaders of Egypt, Kenya and Somalia.
He has also held regional engagements with Rwanda’s Kagame, whom he refers to as his ‘uncle’. Following a meeting between the two men in Kigali in January, Rwanda finally agreed to reopen its border with Uganda. It had been closed for three years following Kigali’s accusations that Uganda had been harbouring members of the opposition Rwandan National Congress.
The perception that Muhoozi’s intervention has been key in mending the frosty relationship between the two countries was reinforced by a further meeting, again in Kigali, in March. After this, Muhoozi and Kagame announced a broader bilateral agreement to stop supporting dissidents in each other’s countries.
Shortly afterwards, Rwandan opposition blogger, and former journalist, Robert Mukombozi, who had been living in Kampala, was pictured boarding a plane at Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport.
Muhoozi confirmed on Twitter that Mukombozi had been expelled, describing him as an “enemy of Rwanda and Uganda”. It was not clear where Mukombozi was going, although it was possibly to Australia, with which he has ties.
No longer a quiet figure in the background, the First Son has recently become vocal on social media about many aspects of Ugandan politics and its foreign affairs.
In many cases, his stances appear to have contradicted some of the official positions of the Ugandan government. These include his tweets in support of Tigrayan rebels in Ethiopia’s civil war, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in his invasion of Ukraine.
Alarming to many is not just the positions Muhoozi has taken, but the bombastic and egotistic tone of his discourse.
He frequently states that he will destroy Uganda’s enemies, and likens himself to military and revolutionary figures throughout history. These are discursive traits that have long been components of his father’s rhetoric.
Yet, across the country and online, multiple ‘Team MK’ or ‘MK 2026’ groups are popping up to support his future presidential run.
The most likely explanation for Muhoozi’s recent emergence is that his once low profile is being raised to position him to succeed his father. If this is indeed the regime’s wish, it would be unwise to bet against it.
However, the pathway for Muhoozi to reach the State House is far from guaranteed. The Ugandan public would expect him to win an election to legitimise his leadership, and in so doing he would potentially face 2021 candidate Bobi Wine in fierce competition for the nation’s increasingly young electorate.