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Muhoozi Project

By Independent Team

The Inside Story

  • How was it framed?
  • The army generals behind it
  • The Dr. Besigye’s role
  • The army’s plan for Gen. Sejusa
  • The Janet Museveni connection

Does President Yoweri Museveni have a grand plan backed by a strategy to make his son Brig. Muhoozi Keinerugaba president of Uganda? When does Museveni want Muhoozi to take over the presidency: in 2016 or 2021? There is also a real possibility that Museveni and the National Resistant Movement (NRM) may amend the Constitution to remove age limits on the presidency so that the president can run for office in 2021. So would Museveni plot for Muhoozi to succeed him in 2026, 2031 or 2036?


Museveni is 69 years old this year. In 2036, he will be 92 years, almost same age as President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. So if he is still alive, and holding other factors constant, Museveni can even run in 2041 and try his luck in 2046.

Also, at what point does Museveni want Muhoozi to inherit the presidency? Would it be when he is still alive so that he can manage the process directly? Or does he plan that this project is implemented by a successor after he retires? Or does Museveni want Muhoozi to inherit the presidency after he dies in office – in which case he is putting in place infrastructure to ensure Muhoozi takes over after him?

And which method would be employed in either scenario: Would Muhoozi’s ascension to the presidency go through the constitutional process? Or would Museveni use the army to literally stage a military coup and use Muhoozi’s command of the most decisive and strategic component of the army, the Special Forces Command, to achieve this objective?

Five presidents in Africa have been fathers to future presidents. Three of these have been succeeded by their sons immediately upon their death. They include Joseph Kabila in DRC, Faure Eyadema in Togo and Ali Bongo in Gabon. Two other sons have succeeded their fathers but only after a long period of time, with two other presidents in between.

This latter categoty came to power through a constitutional process where their father’s name played a decisive role: Ian Khama in Botswana and Uhuru Kenyatta in Kenya. Therefore, a presidential succession is possible for Muhoozi. However, the success rate of such succession has been low, meaning the project is a difficult one to execute.

So what are the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the ‘Muhoozi project?’ How would Museveni seek to leverage the strength and overcome the weaknesses; and exploit the opportunities while starving off the threats? Museveni’s main strength and equally weakness in trying to make Muhoozi the president is the “Museveni brand.” Museveni’s name is known across the country and he enjoys widespread support in all regions.

That is an important asset for anyone seeking office via elections. Muhoozi can leverage his father’s legacy to stake his claim. Many children and wives of presidents across the world – including democracies like India, Sri Lanka, South Korea, USA, Indonesia, Pakistan, Botswana, Kenya etc – have used their family brand names to win or come close to winning elections. So the Muhoozi project would begin with an advantage of the family brand.

But the Museveni brand is equally a liability to Muhoozi. Many people would be sensitive to what they see as a presidential monarchy. As can be seen from the recent media outcry, accusations of trying to build a family dynasty provide important grist to the anti Museveni mill. Nothing weakens Museveni’s standing in the eyes of Ugandans – perhaps a large section of elite Ugandan society – than accusations of family rule.

Secondly, the failures of the Museveni presidency would bedevil the Muhoozi candidature. Therefore, it is possible that save for a military coup, using the constitutional process would not be a smooth ride even inside the NRM party. If Muhoozi won the party primaries, it could divide the party leading many of its pillars to join ranks with the opposition to defeat him. Or it could unite it around a brand the party members like.

Which brings us to the opportunities and threats to the Muhoozi project. One major opportunity is that over the last 27 years, and with differing degrees of success, Museveni has fashioned the State in Uganda in his own image. There is not a single person who holds any important job in the government in Uganda – whether in Parliament, Judiciary, Cabinet, Public Service, statutory bodies, public enterprises, Army, Prisons or Police that Museveni has not personally directly or indirectly appointed to that office.

And many of these appointees still hold loyalties to him personally and are therefore an important asset to his family generally. Many in the professions, business and even the churches still depend on him for patronage. Therefore, the constituencies with a vested interest in perpetuating Museveni’s rule beyond the president’s terms or even life are large and varied.

But this opportunity is equally a threat. Museveni has hurt many people whom he has fired or impoverished. Many may be in positions where they feel they should be doing better. These form an army of militants to sabotage him and his plans. So Muhoozi’s least risky journey to the presidency is via a military coup. Yet, this would meet considerable resistance from within Uganda and from the international community.

The African Union and the world generally have become averse to coups. Many coup makers in recent African politics have been forced to backtrack. And as the claims by Brig. Kasirye Gwanga and Gen. David Sejusa show, even within UPDF there is no unanimity that the president’s son should take the presidency on a silver platter.

Most Ugandan elites who debate this subject do so out of emotion rather than out of reflection. It seems unlikely that Museveni has a Muhoozi project. What seems most likely is that Museveni has a Museveni project. The Museveni project is to remain president for as long as he can and if need be to die in office.

It seems that Muhoozi is there to ensure the success of the Museveni project – because as the president’s son, Museveni is more likely to trust him more than anyone else to protect the president’s position. Therefore, Muhoozi’s rapid rise in the army may have little to do with his future as with the future of Museveni. It seems unlikely that Museveni can retire to Rwakitura and leave Muhoozi in
State House. Hence claims of a Muhoozi project can only make sense after Museveni has died. And if Museveni plans the Muhoozi project to take place after he has died, then the project is long in waiting.

At 69, Museveni has many years to live. If he can live till 90, then Muhoozi has many years to wait. But anything can happen. However, even then, if Museveni plans Muhoozi to succeed him after his death, then he knows that he cannot control events and processes from his coffin or grave. After Museveni’s death, the events will be influenced by what Muhoozi does with the infrastructure his father will have left.

For example, if Museveni died today, Muhoozi is not in line of succession, if we go by the Constitution. Save for staging a military coup and all its attendant problems, Vice President Edward Sekandi would take over the job for six months to organize an election. Muhoozi would have to rapidly retire from the army, join NRM and rush to contest in the party’s primary elections against heavy weights such as Prime Minister and NRM Secretary General Amama Mbabazi, Parliamentary Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya.

Although analysts may exclude Sekandi from the potential contenders for the presidency, they could be making a fundamental error that many Kikuyu politicians made regarding Daniel Arap Moi in Kenya towards and after the death of President Jomo Kenyatta. The Kikuyu politicians allowed Moi to take over, thinking he was weak and therefore a walkover.

But Moi was quick to consolidate his position and turn his guns on them. As president for only six months, Sekandi can show his hitherto hidden face – firing Muhoozi and other army generals and police chiefs he suspects of disloyalty and overnight appointing new ones. This would probably force the army and police to intervene with a coup, a factor that would most likely be resisted by the international community.

Yet, more than the threat from the international community, it is the internal dynamics inside UPDF that could deliver a deadly below to the Muhoozi project. For all his weaknesses and failures, Museveni’s greatest achievement has been to build an army of a largely educated professional core. There may be some degree of ethnic imbalance favoring the West over other regions. But that is at the level of command. Overall, the UPDF is ethnically broad and its leadership is well educated.

Such quality of officers would appreciate the national and international dangers of staging a military coup in this day and age. Therefore, it is very possible that many officers would oppose a coup to install Muhoozi as president. With Museveni dead, even those most loyal to the president would think twice before throwing in their lot with a military coup. This makes a military takeover a more difficult undertaking.

Therefore, if Museveni is to really have faith in a Muhozi project, it has to be through the constitutional process. It has to be initiated inside NRM and then consolidated in the wider Ugandan society. In short, Museveni has to market Muhoozi politically and sell him democratically. The president can retire soon and leave in power someone he trusts – like Kenyatta did with Moi – that before they leave the presidency they will promote Muhoozi to vice president and hence put him in the line of succession.

But no leader, however powerful, can control future events. This would be speculation and Museveni is smart enough to know this. Or Museveni can appoint Muhoozi his vice president so that upon the president’s death, Muhoozi is constitutionally in a position to inherit the presidency. Although this option is possible, it appears absolutely unlikely that under Museveni we are going to see Muhoozi as the vice president.

Therefore, if there is a future for a Muhoozi project, it would have to rely on the ability of Museveni to leave behind a strong legacy, which Muhoozi can leverage for his own presidential ambitions. It is therefore Museveni’s deeds, more than his manipulations, that stand a better chance of giving Muhoozi a shot at the presidency. And in here lies the potential of a Muhoozi presidency. Since 2000, Daily Monitor and New Vision have conducted many opinion polls often asking who would succeed Museveni.

Although Muhoozi has not shown any overt presidential ambitions, polls always show him second or third to whichever vice president and prime minister at the time – meaning that already the public sees him as a potential presidential candidate. The recent storm around his name ignited by Gen. David Sejusa aka Tinyefuza is, therefore, very good for Muhoozi. As long as the public debate makes Muhoozi’s succession a possibility, that is good for the brigadier’s ambitions.

But why did Sejusa kick off this storm at this time? The Muhoozi project, if it exists at all, cannot be for 2016 since it seems clear that Museveni is likely to run himself. So why would Sejusa draw so much fire to himself with very grave short-term consequences on him when there is little or no prospect that what he is claiming can happen in the short term? It seems Sejusa has a different battle he is fighting other than the one he is talking about. He knows that because he is a serving army officer, this move can be highly costly. He can end up in the dock of the Military Court Martial. There must be a short time gain he is looking for commensurate to the short-term high-level risk he is taking.

Museveni is very sensitive about his family and Sejusa knows this. This sensitivity hints towards an inner guilty conscience in Museveni’s mind. It is possible that the president feels, maybe in his subconscious, that his actions regarding his family in government are not appropriate. Therefore Sejusa knows that in raising a hue and cry about a Muhoozi project he is touching a raw nerve in Museveni. He must be making these allegations of possible assassination in order to launch a political campaign; by seeming to champion a popular cause – a topic where the passions can be high.

However, there is a question: If Sejusa wants to launch a political movement to challenge Museveni, he would have needed to reach out to the opposition especially people like Dr. Kizza Besigye (a former close friend) and the FDC President Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu. He has not. Why? Maybe because he knows they would not trust him given his previous behavior. But he may have calculated that if he takes the Muhoozi issue head on, he might be sent to jail for it, which will give him the necessary credibility to make up with them when he comes out.

It is very likely that Sejusa is not involved in military and security subversion. Evidence by intelligence organizations The Independent has seen does not seem credible. It seems therefore that Sejusa wants to take a stand on a populist platform in order to provoke a political response from the government, which will furnish him the necessary political momentum.

Let’s put this in perspective. When Mbuya was attacked, The Red Pepper claimed it was orchestrated by a general in the UPDF. It is possible this information was supplied to the tabloid by Sejusa in order to lay the foundation for his later revelations including his purported letter to the Director General of Internal Security Organization. In fact, The Independent has seen intelligence reports emanating from Sejusa’s operatives claiming that it is the Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura, who orchestrated the attack. Could Sejusa have been acting in good faith on the basis of intelligence he had or he was using this opportunity to fight Kayihura? It is difficult to tell.

It seems Sejusa has been in touch with people in NRM who want change. He may be calculating that if he takes the risk at the national level, he can induce others taking other actions. For example, former Vice President Prof. Gilbert Bukenya has come out to announce his plans to challenge Museveni for the NRM presidential candidate slot in 2015. Then Brig. Kasirye Gwanga came out to talk to Daily Monitor about opposition to the Muhoozi project in the UPDF. All this comes against the backdrop of the NRM having battles with its own ‘rebel’ MPs. Was all this a coincidence? Or have people picked on this Muhozi project after a broad consensus?

But most critically, Sejusa and Kasirye Gwanga have kicked off a debate on the Muhoozi project only a short while after Besigye had made it an issue in his debate with Museveni in the media. Has Sejusa read the mood and decided to take the high risk? Sejusa is aware that he has little potential to be an NRM presidential candidate. He also knows that a military move against Museveni is impossible to execute. Why then is he playing this highly risky game? Maybe he believes that he can inspire a political uprising inside NRM by showing that the army itself is not united around a possible Muhozi project.

Janet connection

Yet, it is possible that all this talk of a Muhoozi project is misguided speculation. Many observers say that if (God forbid) Museveni died suddenly today, it is not Muhoozi but his mother Janet Museveni who could easily become the likely successor. That is why the debate on Muhoozi may be a deliberate or inadvertent diversion.

Mrs. Museveni is a politician in her own right – an MP, a cabinet minister and easily recognizable to most Ugandans. And she carries the Museveni name. More than Muhoozi, if she staked her claim on the NRM presidential nomination, she could win it with minimum effort. This is because in the event of a Museveni death, there would be a lot of sympathy for her and the family across the country. Secondly, inside the NRM, most of the powerful historical players may see Muhoozi as only a young man but have too much respect for Mrs. Museveni.

Secondly, most of the influential NRM players would also be concerned with stopping Mbabazi from taking the top job. Since Janet has never antagonized most of these people, they would feel confortable with her. People like Kahinda Otafiire, Jim Muhwezi, Hassan Basajjabalaba, Crispus Kiyonga and even Prof.

Bukenya among others would most likely gang up against Mbabazi. And with public sympathy on her side, they would not dig in for Kadaga but Mrs. Museveni. Once she has trounced her rivals in NRM, Mrs. Museveni would most likely face Besigye or Muntu in the presidential race. Here, she would come with many advantages that would give her a considerable edge over any rival.

First, she would attract the women vote. Second, she has a large following of the evangelical churches. Third, she has the Museveni name, one of the most powerful assets in her arsenal. Fourth, she would have the backing of the military and security infrastructure to give her an unfair advantage over her rivals.

Fifth, she is a charismatic person in her own right with a particular puritanical streak that gives her exceptional passion for any cause she is involved in. Finally, the mass media, especially that largest section controlled by the Vision Group would root for her. Therefore, even without a Museveni plan and strategy, the potential for a family succession in Uganda is high and the person to watch is not Muhoozi – at least not for now – but Mrs. Museveni.

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