After almost a decade of speculations, Lt-Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba has publicly expressed his interest in succeeding his father Yoweri Museveni as president of Uganda.
Uganda’s first son and commander of the country’s land forces first signalled his desire to go public about his presidential ambitions when he auspiciously turned his 48th birthday celebrations towards the end of April into a national event.
With several festivities organised countrywide and the main event at State House graced by President Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, the MKAt48 birthday celebrations created quite a buzz in the media and were seen by many as an effort to make Gen Muhoozi popular as he prepares the ground for a shot at the next presidential elections.
The Muhoozi Project—which was coined by Gen David Sejusa in 2013 saying that President Museveni was grooming his son to succeed him when he retires—had been repeatedly denied by both President Museveni and Gen Muhoozi for almost a decade.
But after the much-hyped birthday celebrations, which included a marathon and a football match, Gen Muhoozi seems to have mustered enough courage to publicly express his interest in the presidency, which he did in his typical informal style on May 1 via Twitter, his preferred social media channel. Gen. Muhoozi is a prolific Twitter user with more than half a million followers.
“When Team MK wins power in this country, which we will, our first action will be to increase the sports budget,” Gen Muhoozi said on Twitter. “Team MK will announce our political programme soon.”
During Gen Muhoozi’s birthday celebrations at State House in Entebbe on April 24, President Museveni himself hinted that his son would be taking charge when he said that Gen Muhoozi “is impatient” with the corrupt and “will fight them.”
What remains unclear though is when Gen Muhoozi is likely to contest for Uganda’s top post.
His father’s term in office ends in 2026 and Muhoozi himself is still a serving soldier in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). The Ugandan constitution forbids serving soldiers from participating in active politics.
Henry Tumukunde and Kiiza Besigye, who have previously contested for president against President Museveni and lost, all had to first retire from the army before making a foray into active politics.
Efforts to get a comment from Major Chris Magezi, Gen Muhoozi’s spokesman, proved futile as he did not answer our repeated calls or respond to our messages. Even UPDF spokesman, Brig-Gen Felix Kulaigye, distanced himself from the matter.
“Ask Gen Muhoozi himself. Generals are allowed to talk,” he told The EastAfrican.
On March 8, Gen Muhoozi informally announced his retirement from the army on Twitter, fuelling speculations that he intended to leave the army and launch a political career. He, however, backtracked just a few hours later.
“After 28 years of service in my glorious military, the greatest military in the world, I am happy to announce my retirement,” Gen Muhoozi tweeted before “clarifying” a few hours later that he would be “leaving the army after eight years.”
However, one of the members of the “Team MK”, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said “the so-called political programme is not yet out and it’s the Commander in Chief (Yoweri Museveni) and the Promotions and Commissions Board of the UPDF that are responsible for endorsing his decision to retire from the army.”
According to local political analyst Professor Ndebesa Mwambutsya, whether Gen Muhoozi retires from the army before pursuing a political career doesn’t matter because of what he describes as the discrepancy and double standards by which the country is currently governed.
He told The EastAfrican in a telephone interview, “In Uganda we operate under invisible powers, meaning that they cannot be held accountable. What works in our cassava republic is the informal, but not the formal, and the Muhoozi Project reflects that. It’s these informal spaces that will determine Uganda’s next president.
“Muhoozi himself already has an informal position – Presidential Advisor on Special Duties – so anything can be covered under that.”
Professor Ndebesa argues that even though the laws that govern soldiers and their involvement in politics are clear, they “are formal on the surface and informal underneath.”