Sometime before 2008, President Yoweri Museveni told the military High Command that then Libyan leader, Col. Muammar Gadhafi was complaining that he, Museveni, was sitting on the son’s promotions. Museveni was referring Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who May.16 was promoted to the third highest military rank of Major General, sparking fresh claims of how he is being prepared to succeed his father.
At the time of the High Command meeting, Muhoozi was a Major, a rank bestowed upon him in 2003 by then Libyan leader. The Libyan leader had made him skip two ranks of Lieutenant and Captain. Before 2003, Muhoozi had been a Second Lieutenant—the most junior grade of commissioned officer and the first rank given to graduates of cadet courses.
Apparently, when Museveni raised the matter at the meeting, the army chiefs kept quiet.
But very few of them were shocked when Museveni promoted his son to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the promotions that followed. Four years later, he made Muhoozi skip the rank of Colonel, promoted him to Brigadier General and put him in charge of the Special Forces Group (SFG)—which deals with specialised training and several specialised units; counterintelligence, artillery and motorised infantry. It also controls all the critical government installations, and has been described as an army with in the army.
In only 12 years, Muhoozi became a Brigadier General and with the latest promotion, he is a Maj.Gen, in only 16 years.
Under the British system on which the Ugandan army is modeled, a major general commands a division with three brigades, his insignia is the Court of Arms and crossed swords and the red collars of his uniform have golden linings.
At this rate, observers say, Muhoozi could attain the highest rank in the army—of General—in four years, two or even one.
Those who do not see anything unique with Muhoozi’s meteoric rise, point to fallen Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Aronda Nyakairima, Gen. David Sejusa and Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu, as other officers that rose rapidly.
Like Muhoozi, Aronda became brigadier within 12 years (see details page 4). And Aronda and Sejusa became generals in only 17 years. Muntu, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), was a colonel in 1988 and was promoted to Major General the following year also becoming army commander at only 28 years of age.
But for critics, Muhoozi’s case is much different from the three. Unlike him, they all fought in the 1981-86 bush war that brought Museveni into power, are not Museveni’s blood relations, and none of them has ever been seen as being prepared to succeed him.
One of them, Sejusa sparked tensions in 2012 when he wrote a letter to the Director General of Internal Security Organisation (ISO) calling for an investigation into allegations that certain government officials including Aronda, himself and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who were opposed to what he termed the “Project Muhoozi” were being targeted for assassination.
Sejusa escaped to exile in London, but returned following reconciliation efforts by President Museveni, and was later court martialed until the High Court ordered that he is freed from the ambit of the military.
With the latest promotion of Muhoozi, critics say Sejusa was on the money as far as the Muhoozi project is concerned.
Museveni’s move to promote his son is seen as part of succession plan
FDC’s Ibrahim Semujju Nganda, who covered the army as a journalist, sits on parliament’s Defence Committee that oversees the army and has petitioned the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) over the promotions in the UPDF, is one such critic.
Semujju told The Independent that President Museveni practices practical politics and understands that Uganda is under military rule.
“So, Museveni doesn’t have to announce Muhoozi as his successor,” Semujju said, “by promoting him and putting him in charge of the army, he has positioned Muhoozi enough. It would now be up to Muhoozi to take charge.”
Semujju gave the example of Togo. When Gen. Gnassingbe Eyadema, who had ruled the country since 1967, died in February 2005 en route to medical treatment overseas, the military replaced him with his then 39-year-old son, Faure Gnassingbe.
Under the country’s constitution, power should have passed to the country’s parliament speaker until elections decided another leader but the military said the speaker was out of the country, and a leader was needed quickly.
Semujju is also one of those that believe Museveni directly controls the army. The legislator told The Independent that even though Gen. Katumba Wamala is the CDF, it is Museveni, his brother; Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho aka Salim Saleh and his son that are in charge of the army.
To drive his point home, Semujju said that in one of the radio messages, Museveni had asked Katumba never to move soldiers above the rank of colonel without getting permission from him.
Semujju and his colleague Fangaroo Kaps Hassan, the shadow minister for Defence, in 2012 petitioned the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) against Museveni’s army promotions and the SFG, among others.