In just a short time, Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the once quiet military officer who until recently had shown no political ambitions, has become a household name. The First Son and Commander of Uganda’s Land Forces has stormed the national political stage, backed by social media platforms, notably Twitter.
His army of youthful supporters call him “Presidential Material”, “Chairman MK”, ” next President,” “Role Model,” among other flattering titles.
Then there’s Team MK, MK 2026, and others wearing t-shirts with the general’s photo and billboards and posters showing their support for state it.
His increasing influence, both in the army and in the general population, has drawn mixed reactions. Many in the higher echelons of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) are uneasy about the general’s growing status and influence, particularly those in the bush war that brought President Yoweri Museveni to power in 1986.
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His involvement in combat includes deployments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia – where Uganda is part of the African Union peacekeeping force – and in more recently in Karamoja, a region plagued by cattle rustling for many years.
So some of the veterans in the NRM and army feel sidelined in favor of an inexperienced upstart to do serious military work.
Paralyzed by history
Some have reported to local media about the fear in the base of the UPDF to oppose General Muhoozi because of the possibility that sp his father to become president later.
Sources say that while senior generals are not sure Museveni will hand over power to his son, they are taking the risk of supporting the son’s plans just to keep on top of the to be on the right side of history.
According to Army sources, Gen. Muhoozi’s presidency is supported by most colonels and major generals under the age of 60, who see themselves as the biggest beneficiaries of promotions and job postings.< /p>
Gen Muhoozi’s contemporaries are high-ranking officers in positions of influence today. He enjoys support in the elite Special Forces Command responsible for the security of the President and other national strategic institutions, which he commanded for years.
A few months ago, a Kampala lawyer, Gawaya Tegulle, filed a lawsuit against Gen Muhoozi said that its national and district birthday celebrations and political statements are inconsistent with Article 208(2) of the Constitution, which provides that UPDF shall be non-partisan, national-leaning, patriotic, professional, disciplined, productive and subordinate to civil authority under the Constitution. But the court has yet to subpoena General Muhoozi or set a date to hear the case.
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Using the same constitutional provisions and Army code of conduct, in May 2005, former Director General of the Homeland Security Organization (the country’s intelligence network), Henry Tumukunde, was arrested and charged with comments during a radio program in which he made political statements.
He was prevented from retiring from the army but was forced to resign as the army’s representative in Parliament. In November 1999, Colonel Kizza Besigye authored a dossier critical of the government.
His quick decision to challenge Museveni in the presidential election saved him from a court-martial.
In December 1996, Senior Army Officer David Tinyefuza (now David Sejusa) accused the government of not having ended the war in the north of the country. Sensing the danger, he quickly decided to resign, but was blocked by the establishment.
The army has always come out to clear up tweets from General Muhoozi. For example, Brigadier General Felix Kulayigye, UPDF spokesman, recently said that tweets by General Muhoozi about the Ethiopian Tigray rebels were personal and not from the army.
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Speaking to the BBC’s Focus on Africa this week, Mr Kulayigye said: “I’m aware of everything that the military does. And as you noted, that was a tweet, not from the Commander of the Defense Forces of the UPDF, not from the Defense Department spokesman. So that cannot be our official position. Information on the Ugandan Ministry of Defense’s official position on matters affecting other militaries will be given officially, not via tweets.”
Additional reporting by Gilbert Mwijuke