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Muhoozi KainerugabaHow he controls the UPDF

In August last year President Yoweri Museveni, in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief (CIC) of the armed forces, promoted his son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba from Colonel to Brigadier.  It was the second promotion for Muhoozi who had been promoted from Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel in September 2011. Unlike in the past, the August 2012 promotion of Muhoozi did not raise a lot of questions. It showed that the public were getting used to the First Son as a top army officer.

Muhoozi had just finished his National Defence Collage course and, even among the most observant, an announcement that followed Muhoozi’s elevation to Brigadier passed almost unnoticed; apart from becoming a Brigadier, Muhoozi was also named the Commander of a newly created Special Forces Command.


To those not initiated, such military detail is often missed. Muhoozi had been commander of the Special Forces Group, a small unit. The new Special Forces Group, was a totally different creature that had swallowed the Group and produced two strands; the Special Forces One (VIP Protection) and Special Forces Two (Motorised Infantry).

In a recent interview, Col. Felix Kulaigye, the UPDF spokesperson told The Independent that Muhoozi’s Special Forces is now effectively the third Service of the UPDF. This means that Muhoozi is at the same level of command in the army with the Commander of the Land Forces, Gen. Katumba Wamala, and the Commander of the Airforce, Brig. Sam Turyagyenda.

The UPDF structure now has three Services or arms; the Land Forces, which traditionally is the main force and the Air Force. While one would expect the Reserve Force under Maj. Gen Levi Karuhanga that has many experienced officers to be the third, it is not a service. Effectively, Muhoozi is now more powerful than Karuhanga.

“Yes, of course at the level of commanding, they (Katumba and Muhoozi) are equal,” Col. Kulaigye told The Independent.

In comparison to Land Forces, in size, strength and equipment, the Special Forces is not close to what structurally comprises of a service.

The SFC, a force of several thousand soldiers, metamorphosed from recruits of cadets recruited by Muhoozi himself into the Presidential Guard Brigade PGB and later Special Forces.

Gen. Wamala’s command

Land Forces has always been the core of UPDF. It evolved from the 41 soldiers that launched the war at Kabamba military barracks on February 6, 1981 to the 20,000 that captured Kampala and later divided into Air and Reserve forces.

But the Land Forces remains quite large. To understand how big Land Forces is—in the UPDF, divisions are very big and their commanders are very powerful. The Land Forces has seven divisions; the First Division, the Second Division, the Third Division, the Fourth Division, the Fifth Division, Air Defence and Artillery.

Under each of these divisions, are three brigades and under each brigade are three battalions that are also reinforced with other components like platoons. For instance under the Third Brigade in Masaka, Gavas Mugyenyi heads the Armored Platoon (tanks and heavy guns) and Geoffrey Katsigazi, the platoon of  motorised artillery.

A brigade is the smallest unit to integrate different types of combat and support units; infantry, artillery and armour—it usually has less than 8000 soldiers, a division is much bigger (about 15000 soldiers) and contains all the arms needed to conduct a military operation and from two to seven divisions and various support units, a country has an army of 50,000 like Uganda’s.

According to a top military officer, although the Special Forces was elevated to the level of a service, structurally it is still a brigade. It is very small compared to the Land Forces. However, it compensates for its lack of numbers by packing a powerful punch in its structure and specialised units of tanks, artillery, air force and all other components found in other forces put under it.

Capt. Edison Kwesiga, the SFC spokesperson, told The Independent that the Special Forces is designed according to the task at hand and the emphasis is not so much on the numbers.

Kwesiga said because of the specialised training, a mission that would ordinarily require a company (137 soldiers) to accomplish with the ordinary soldiers, with Special Forces one needs only two sections or 24 soldiers.

Muhoozi’s command

Essentially, although Special Forces is a small force, it has been structured and positioned to take control of the main government facilities—reinforcing a view that it is now the heart of the UPDF.

This means that although Wamala controls the bigger force, their role is mainly on the battle front with most of them tucked away in barracks. However, Muhoozi’s force is in charge of the capital Kampala, all the critical government installations; parliament, Entebbe airport, ports and the protection of strategic resources like oil in the Albertine region. It also gets special assignments—some of his soldiers were deployed in war ravaged Somalia.

Apart from the specialised training, Special Forces has been boosted with several specialised units; counterintelligence, artillery and motorised infantry traits that show how it is being chiseled and positioned for every top notch mission.

In the words of the forces spokesperson, Special Forces is designed to come in and deal with unique missions.

After the 2010 Kampala bomb blasts, Muhoozi with a pistol at his hip and an army of his Special Forces combed the blast scenes for evidence. In another incident, when police boss, Lt Gen. Kale Kayihura got a tip that officials in the Ministry of Public Service had stolen Shs 500 billion (US$ 200 million), on October 29, 2012, he held a meeting with Muhoozi to discuss what he thought could have been a threat to national security. That Kayihura chose Muhoozi over other senior commanders including the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, to discuss what he thought a grave threat to national security is telling enough.

Muhoozi has now matured. At the rank of Brigadier, he is just one rank away from joining the generals of UPDF.

Coming of age

Muhoozi, 38, joined the army after completing his political science degree at Nottingham University, UK as Officer Cadet. He soon attended the prestigious Royal Military College Sandhurst in the United Kingdom where he graduated in 2000 and was promoted to Second Lieutenant. A year later, he became Major heading PGB. In 2008, he became a Lieutenant Colonel commanding the SFG after graduating from US’s Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. His role in the army first hit headlines 12 years ago.

On November 17, 2000, President Yoweri Museveni was at State House Nakasero chairing a meeting of top army Generals, when he called in Muhoozi, then a 2nd Lieutenant to present a paper on military deployments and other recommendations.

The Generals had hoped to discuss their own report about the problems the army was facing and possible solutions. Instead Museveni, who appeared to have already read his son’s report, was directing them, especially then-Army Commander Gen. Jeje Odongo, to implement Muhoozi’s report.

Museveni also reportedly told the meeting that he had trained over 500 cadets to take control of the UPDF. As the other Generals looked on, Museveni’s younger brother, Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho aka Salim Saleh, asked what they were to do with the other senior officers already in the UPDF.

President Museveni allegedly told Gen. Saleh and all the other generals to do with those others in the UPDF as they wished.

Army sources say that is how what is now the Special Forces became the breeding ground for the army leadership. And Muhoozi who had recruited cadets—albeit controversially—which were part of this group and since taken big positions in different services in the army would also grow into their leader.

Muhoozi had made these recruitments in 1997 mainly from Makerere University and trained at Kasenyi Landing site.

Then, President Museveni and Mbabazi then a Defence Minister dubbed the recruits Local Defence Unit (LDU) officers to skirt public criticism—then Members of Parliament like Norbert Mao, who was represending Gulu municipality, had stirred a storm accusing Muhoozi of recruiting for the army illegally since he was not a soldier himself.

Since the November 2000 meeting at State House Nakasero, in which Brig. Muhoozi, made his first pitch before UPDF top Generals, President Museveni has ensured that he gets the right command credentials.

A top army officer who has served for over 20 years told The Independent but on conditions of anonymity that Brig. Muhoozi, the Commander of the elite Special Forces wields more power than most of the senior officers and that together with a select group of officers, some of which he recruited himself in 1997 are being touted to lead the force.

“Yes, he is being groomed to lead the force, he has undertaken many top military courses except one,” the source said adding, “Muhoozi might be a Brigadier but in terms of influence and control, he is on top there. The same applies to Kayihura, although in police, he is also very influential in the army.”

Unhappy generals

While other officers might meet a few huddles here and there, The Independent has learnt, Muhoozi’s assignments are always implemented thus claims that he controls the core of UPDF.

Kizza Besigye, the former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) President, who was a Colonel before he resigned from the army officially reinforced this claim in a local media in an interview. He said that the Generals were fighting within the UPDF because they were being marginalised and frustrated that the main Force of the UPDF, was controlled by Muhoozi under the Special Forces.

But Army spokesman, Felix Kulaigye dismissed Besigye’s claim saying that the former FDC’s cannot comment intellectually about the issue because he was blinded by the political fog.

No doubt, army sources say, Muhoozi’s clout in the UPDF cannot be ranked below that of the other top officials including the CDF.

“The CDF is of course influential but when you talk about calling shots, Muhoozi is in the same league,” a source in The UPDF told The Independent.

The Officer told The Independent that while seniority is one thing, being entrusted with authority by the President—who is the CIC — through special assignments is what puts Muhoozi and his ilk in control.

When it comes to special assignments, Muhoozi, some officials who are in SFC or whose breeding ground is SFC and other officials like Kayihura, are top priority. Indeed, The Independent understands that Kayihura and Muhoozi, have worked on a few missions together.

Several young officers in the ranks of Colonel and Major and other top ranks were bred from Special Forces. Others are; Capt. Napoleon Namanya, who heads Museveni’s top notch security, Maj Stuart Agaba, a former Aide to the President, Col Sabiiti Magyenyi, Maj Charity Bainababo, Lt Col Dan Kakono, Maj. Don Nabasa, Capt. Allan Matsiko, Counterintelligence, SFG and Capt. Michael Kanyamunyu, Special Investigations Bureau, among others.

Entrusting authority with Muhoozi’s ilk and other officers that are not necessarily senior but that have attributes dear to President Museveni has left the senior officers like Gen. David Tinyefuza, the Coordinator of Security Services, frustrated with several seeking or contemplating resignation.

While some of the officers are unhappy because they can no longer steer things, others disagree with how some of these young Turks are doing things.  For instance, sources say, many unhappy were that Museveni had put people like Brig.Moses Rwakitarate, the former Air Force chief of staff in high positions and they messed up things. Museveni fired Rwakitarate, following the findings of the Gen. Salim Saleh investigation into the crash of three choppers in Mount Kenya.

Col. Kulaigye, who is now the entire force’s spokesperson—not a mean post—and was also bred from the same force, attempted to refute claims of the SFC being a breeding ground for UPDF leaders. “Special Forces soldiers undertake specialised training, when I was there I undertook that training and most of the people have undertaken it,” he said.

Comments (23)Add Comment
written by Musinguzi, February 17, 2013
The problem is that we have no platform to challenge these mental dwarfs-Muhozi and company, otherwise we would continue from where we ended in Kisubi. He is lucky his father is the president of this banana republic. eventhough I am a Munyankore, looking at the names of officers you have mentioned, I I get annoyed. It is wrong; where is the national face to these people/force who are using Ug taxpayers money including those from Central, East and the North? Which national leaders does things like this? No wonder, we are operating at 5% capacity because offices are occupied by incompetent people bse of nepotism.
written by Musinguzi, February 17, 2013
Even the likes of Janet could only enter parliament after the likes of Matembe, Winnie, Musumba etc were shipped out. No condition is parmanent though. The right brains will climb to the suitable heights one day. These are good people but they are not the most talented to lead this country full of bright Ugandans.
written by DonKing, February 17, 2013
Capt. Napoleon Namanya, who heads Museveni’s top notch security, Maj Stuart Agaba, a former Aide to the President, Col Sabiiti Magyenyi, Maj Charity Bainababo, Lt Col Dan Kakono, Maj. Don Nabasa, Capt. Allan Matsiko, Counterintelligence, SFG and Capt. Michael Kanyamunyu, Special Investigations Bureau, among others."

All these from one region. is it still because history of NRA? for older founder members it the answer maybe acceptable. But today the new bred of army should never have been seen controlled from one region of the county, because after 27 years of rehabilitation of Uganda army, it surely be seen composed of various tribes of Uganda as enshrined in the ten point commands of NRA..
The UPDF is very national
written by Col. Kiyemba, February 17, 2013
The UPDF altogether is very national in character. See, Katumba Wamala, Jeje Odongo, Moses Ali, Elly Kayanja (poisoned and in hospital), Mike Mukula (taking political science lessons at Luzira University, in preparation for the top most job in the land) and many more, are all NOT from Ankole. The SFC is a very small group, that if it came to a Kisangani type of Scenario where RDF and UPDF faced off, Wamala's Land Forces would prevail at long last. Hence, Muhoozi must be given the better part of the UPDF (the Land Forces) in order to protect his dad at the helm. By this time next year, Muhoozi must take over the Land Forces, since things are falling apart in the UPDF. Watch this space.
One Judges Muhoozi Depending on the Political Glasses they are wearing.
written by Tina, February 17, 2013
Families like the Kennedys,Bush,Odinga,Kenyetta have got a history of having their children in Top Leadership positions. the Politics of Ug is not so rich in that one would vote basing on family linage otherwise Amin,Obote Lules sons would have been all over our politics. for Ug anything can happen basing on the current voting trend its too early to say yes or no on whether Muhoozi can make it or not.our voting pattern is not really up to standard coz of various factors.M7 worked hard to liberate ug almost on his own. Ug is one of the best examples of unpredictable countries today you are their darling tomorrow their enemy we are good at changing goal posts perhaps thats why leaders hold onto power for long.
Col. Kiyemba
written by Paul, February 18, 2013
Why are you including Mike Mukula among UPDF officers? He is not a military captain; he is a pilot
written by Gen Adam Kifaliso, February 18, 2013
Special forces my flipping bottom , Kulayigye is fond of talking and praising UPDF like a fake priest, he almost utters rubbish every time he opens his buccal cavity .Ugandan forces are under trained and under equipped in all sectors . In real military terms you can not call Muhoozi Zara or LUDO group special forces , Kulayigye you must stop talking like a prisons warden and stand up to your rank in the army.UPDF needs the help of Ugandans to upgrade it make an effective fighting force and not a m7 armed militia . Some guys in CAR are serving three years in the jungle ,you lack even means to supply them , Kulayigye will you shut the FAQ up sometimes don't betray our learned officers
Unanswered questions
written by kinene, February 18, 2013
M7 has skirted all pertinent questions about his son in all recent missives. 1) Why does Muhoozi always have to be close to him as commander of the force in charge of his security? Why can't we see him being deployed in the mainstream UPDF e.g. as a Division commander? 3) Why is it that he is the one selected for each and every prestigious course that comes up? Is he the most brilliant officer in the UPDF? His classmates in SMACK tell a different story 4) Why the accelerated promotions i.e. a new rank every year? Is it poosible anywhere in the world to become a Brigadier-General after just 12 years of service?
written by Hussein Kashillingi, February 18, 2013

Muhoozi is already a one stay General. His full rank is Brigadier General. So he's already joined UPDF Generals. Your assertion that he'll join the UPDF General on being promoted to Major General is factually wrong.
written by mukuo, February 18, 2013
Muhoozi can not use his barins to do anything.He is too dull to lead the force.He can not make speeches off head hence always reading from prepared text.The guy is too dull to be a future leader.I do not understand why Museveni is forcing his son on Ugandan.
To the author
written by Immaculate Nambi, February 18, 2013
So how exactly does Muhoozi control the army? My reading from the article is simply that Muhoozi has had special privileges on account of his being the first son. And the fact that he heads an opaque branch of the UPDF referred to as the "Special Forces". Surely you can't interpret this to mean that he "controls" the UPDF, can you? In a nutshell, you haven't told us anything we didn't know.
written by Joseph Kamugisha, February 19, 2013
It has been said before and the saying remains to be true. "The guilty are always afraid...." Otherwise, why would Muhoozi, go through extensive training every so often, followed by rapid promotions as if he is one of the original twenty seven members of the rebellion. If everything was as normal as Kuyihire would want us to believe, the first so would have been a regular just as hi most senior officers àre in the UPDF.
written by Ondoga, February 19, 2013
Kabaka Mutebi is now a Kabaka simply because he is supposed to be a son of Muteesa(much as he might be be a son of Daudi Ocheng)
Now Muhoozi is where he is because he is the son of our dear President,who risked his life for all the good things we are enjoying now.Jesus has a special status because he is a son of God.Muhoozi has done many courses have heard that he failed any course?.The good Bible tells us that no one can give his child a stone instead of a fish.Muhoozi was given a fish by his father.Stop hating.
written by ken, February 19, 2013
The First Family Suffer fron Chronic illegitemacy
written by Lakwena, February 19, 2013
From the onset, the coming into power (State House) of the first family, was by hook or crook. This is because they suffer from chronic illegitimacy due low self-esteem, which make them vicious instead of virtuous: Mr. M7 shot his way to State House, Salim Saleh (A-level dropout) also became the Minister for Micro Finance out of wishful thinking; Janet M7 by hook or crook got her Education Degree in order to become an MP and Minister, and Muhoozi rocket to Brig General from an illegal vigilante militia (LDU). And In order to galvanize their illegitimacy they have all written one or two Books of Lies , like the Sowing of the Mustard Seed. Moreover all were written by ghost authors.
Business Man
written by Khim, February 20, 2013
love or hate M7 but he has really squeezed out balls with success. Muhoozi is rising while we are looking. Mukula is imprisoned and kutesa, kamugasha and kakuyo are left off the hook. you may not like m7 but one has to accept that the guy has his eyes well fixed on what he wants.
Mwenda kind on Muhoozi
written by Fred, February 20, 2013
This article had to be written just so that the Independent's readers would not ask why such an important topic had been left un-discussed! The independent made sure it gave Brig. Muhoozi an easy ride in this article without looking into the questions that have been raised by the debate of the two political heavy weights M7 and the Doctor! One is tempted to think that perhaps personal family relationships have closed Mwenda's mouth on this subject and that objectivity is now impossible as far as this subject is concerned! Actually with the rise of Muhoozi one has noticed a thawing in the fire from the Independent. Unfortunately this is not all that She wrote and believe me you will wish you had helped Uganda by being a little bit more objective
country director RWAND
written by D.MITALI, February 20, 2013
Energy, honesty, integrity, personality and decision-making ability. will always make UGANDA a peaceful country and as we all know," Peace is supreme understanding between people for the benefit of the whole." I'm RWANDA but i think you guys are lucky to have M7 as your prezzo just like we have our PK,the two countries are slowly but surely stabilizing politically,economically etc..mubelemu tujya kuba bulungi
Social Critic
written by Timothy Baguma, February 20, 2013
Ugandans never cease to amuse! Hypocrisy and envy override reason. The man from Ankole who claims to know Muhoozi's 'mental dwarfism' from his days at SMACK should be HELPED. I think the debate should be about professional issues ....without getting personal. In all this, what is Muhoozi's fault...that calls for personal attacks against his mother and himself.
It is fine to attack him on grounds of professional negligence or incompetence.
And what would people like Musinguzi do if they were in Muhoozi's shoes( Thank God they can only dream)???
Guys... stop malicious and reckless remarks you make.... try to be objective in your criticism; Only then we shall see change for the better.

To All Muhoozi Haters
written by winnie, February 21, 2013
Hi fellow Uganda I know some of our brains are not properly developed coz we grew up taking cold porridge(without sugar) its obvious that Muhoozi will be our president the we have no choice anyway. we will have to vote for him coz we need a handsome president who will not a shame us at UN Summit & one who will bring in more Aid after all, he is tall,brown and handsome i know people are envious of developments M7 has brought like Mobile Money,internet, Skype,Exotic Foods etc (You know in Amin's time the only exotic food was chapati & samosa).
MUHOOZI: not smart maybe ....but properly invested
written by Margaret S. Maringa, February 25, 2013

1.SOLID ROOTS: no stone-throwing or glass-breaking of institutions one hopes to inherit someday.
2. EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION: being understood (not just heard) by the "power-brokers" above sensational journalism.
3. GROUNDED BOOTS: consistent grooming of leaders beyond the cyclic ballot dramas.

These points became crucial when my uncle became seriously ill last year -- and we discovered that our generation could not step into his shoes because our professional skills had been "groomed" to benefit other people (not our family business).

Muhoozi Kaneirugaba may not be "brilliant" (to quote his many scoffers) but he is certainly the better son (compared to his scoffers) because he has invested himself in the family business (Proverbs 15:20)
When did the UPDF become a family business
written by Julian Mwine, February 26, 2013
Maringa, at first your comment seems to make some points worth giving consideration but then you go and spoil it all by somehow insinuating that Muhoozi's rapid rise in the army is somehow justified because somebody has to take care of the family business.

What exactly does a statement like "SOLID ROOTS: no stone-throwing or glass-breaking of institutions one hopes to inherit someday."mean. When was the UPDF for Muhoozi to inherent. Uganda/UDPF is not Museveni family property.

I am hoping it was all tongue in cheek but somehow the allusion to your Uncle makes it appear less so.
written by Jonathan Kalani, February 27, 2013
It is not good to talk about military issues derogatively.

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