Two members of Uganda's parliament have remained locked up for almost eight months as President Yoweri Museveni takes a hard stance against granting ... bail to defendants in one of his latest ploys to curb the opposition.
Muhoozi announced his retirement in a tweet on Tuesday 8 March, surprising even some of the people close to him. “I was totally unaware of it,” a person close to him tells The Africa Report. For Muhoozi, the move requires applying for retirement and getting approval. Brigadier Gen. Felix Kulyigye, the spokesperson for the army, did not answer our questions and referred back to Muhoozi’s post.
After 28 years of service in my glorious military, the greatest military in the world, I am happy to announce my retirement. Me and my soldiers have achieved so much! I have only love and respect for all those great men and women that achieve greatness for Uganda everyday.
— Muhoozi Kainerugaba (@mkainerugaba) March 8, 2022
ChimpReports, a local digital publication, reported last October that Muhoozi had threatened to retire after failing to receive about $56m that he had requested to improve the troops’ welfare. “If my soldiers’ problems are not sorted, I will retire from the army by next year,” he reportedly said.
In recent weeks, Muhoozi was in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo commanding Uganda’s army. Along with its DRC counterpart, the Ugandan army is fighting the Allied Democratic Forces rebels.
Succeeding his father?
In recent months, Muhoozi became a polarising figure due to his free-tweeting style. Many of his supporters see him going down the path of politics. That potentially means trying to succeed his father, who took power in 1986 after five years of guerrilla war.
There has been a growing movement of Muhoozi supporters who tout him on social media daily as his father’s successor. Hashtags such as #MuhooziProject and #MK2026, #MyNextPresident2026 and #MyNextCommanderinChief often trend on social media.
Muhoozi has not discouraged his fans. Balaam Barugahare, a businessman in the music industry who has been at the forefront of campaigning for Muhoozi, was quick to tweet his support.
Mission Unstoppable We are glad to begin this Smoth Journey to White Palace together . Glory be to Uganda and Our Great Leaders @KagutaMuseveni @mkainerugaba @RobinahNabbanja @jessica_alupo @AnitahAmong @verified https://t.co/B110upbMhZ
— Balaam Barugahara Ateenyi (@Balaam1980) March 8, 2022
Arinaitwe Rugyendo, a journalist and close friend of Muhoozi, tells The Africa Report that he sees “an increasingly political Muhoozi taking centre stage, which fuels speculation that he has political ambition.” Rugyendo says Muhoozi will be mobilising young people to embrace government initiatives that benefit them.
“I also see him taking up a possible ministerial role in the next cabinet reshuffle, which might happen around 2024,” Rugyendo says.
Andrew Mwenda, another journalist and close friend of Muhoozi, argues that Museveni is the number-one stumbling block to the son succeeding. Museveni says he has no plans to retire. Mwenda suggested that there are no signs that Museveni will step down in 2026. If Muhoozi starts actively engaging in politics, it could be a sign that he has received a nod of approval from his father.
My father, President @KagutaMuseveni, told me as a young child 'You will only be as great as me if you are willing to suffer for Uganda as I have!' Ugandans will make their decision if I have walked in his footsteps. pic.twitter.com/SoM8BTUrgT
— Muhoozi Kainerugaba (@mkainerugaba) March 5, 2022
In an extensive interview with journalist Peter Mwesige in 1997 – which Mwesige recently shared – Muhoozi expressed sympathy for his father. Museveni was in the spotlight, and everything he said was blown out of proportion, Muhoozi said. “I really hope I never become the president,” Muhoozi explained.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Here is the full interview I had with 'First Son' Muhoozi Kainerugaba in July 1997. It came after our story that he had recruited a group of university students into the army. Many of Muhoozi's recruits joined the PPU, which later became PGB, and is now SFC. pic.twitter.com/cTfVSk3lIO
— Peter G. Mwesige (@pmwesige) February 21, 2022
Dining with heads of state
At the end of January, Muhoozi paid a surprise visit to Kigali and held talks with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame. This resulted in the opening of the Rwanda-Uganda border, which had been closed for almost three years due to tensions between Kampala and Kigali. Muhoozi mentions the reopeing frequently on Twitter. He said he will return to Kigali in the coming days to “sort out all outstanding issues between Uganda and Rwanda”.
Muhoozi recently met South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta – twice. He also received the ambassadors of Turkey, Kenya, Egypt, Russia and Ethiopia.
Joining the army
Though Muhoozi said he has served for 28 years, he officially joined the army in 1999, meaning he has served for 23 years. But he began engaging in military activities as early as 1994 after completing secondary school.
First lady Janet Museveni wrote in her memoir My Life’s Journey that “a large group of friends and him [Muhoozi] enrolled at Kasenyi, close to Entebbe to do basic military training.” Kasenyi is a base of the Special Forces Command (SFC), an elite force that guards the president, his family and sensitive assets, such as oil fields.
“They learnt drills, assembling of a gun and other military exercises,” Janet Museveni wrote. Thereafter, Muhoozi went on to study political science at the University of Nottingham in Britain.
He resumed his military activities when he returned to Uganda in 1997. Muhoozi featured in a parliamentary debate in 1997 after claims emerged that he was recruiting soldiers illegally. A legislator suggested that Muhoozi should be imprisoned. Museveni defended him, saying he was not a soldier but a member of a Local Defence Unit (LDU). LDU members received basic military training and were armed to promote security in their communities.
The success of the SFC
Muhoozi’s biggest contribution in the army is the formation and shaping of the SFC. It is the most potent branch of Uganda’s army, with an estimated 10,000 soldiers. He commanded the SFC from 2008 to 2017 and then again from December 2020 to July 2021 during the heated presidential election season.
As early as 1997, speculations were rife that Muhoozi was setting up an elite unit of the army to guard his father. In 1997, Mwesige asked Muhoozi if he was establishing an army unit akin to that of Zaire’s dictator Mobutu Sese Seko’s son. Mobutu Kongulu was a soldier in the Special Presidential Division of the Congolese army. Muhoozi laughed in response and said: “I don’t know.” He dismissed any comparison with Mobutu’s son.
Muhoozi is a politically sensitive topic in Uganda. Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, a writer now exiled in Germany, was arrested in December 2021 for calling the first son “obese” and a “curmudgeon”. He was tortured and accused Muhoozi of personally mistreating him.
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