Uganda’s Commander of Land Forces Lt-Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba was this week speaking a different language on the Ethiopian conflict, the result of a trip to Addis Ababa and an apparent lobbying by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.
Lt-Gen Muhoozi had irked authorities in Addis Ababa when he tweeted support for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the rebels opposed to Mr Abiy, and sided with Egypt in a statement presumed to take sides on the controversial Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (Gerd).
But after a trip that saw him visit Gerd station, meet with military chiefs in Addis Ababa and Mr Abiy, Lt-Gen Muhoozi said the people there had received him with “love and kindness.” “This morning our delegation had very good and fruitful discussions with our brother Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia.
“We believe in African solutions to African problems. I’m optimistic about a resolution of the Ethiopian conflict. Godbless Africa!” he wrote on Twitter on Thursday. His trip also took him to Ethiopia's Airforce Headquarters, Military Intelligence and police headquarters where he and his delegation “met had productive discussions with management respective facilities” according to a statement by Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Lt-Gen Muhoozi’s visit came after Ethiopia's ambassador to Uganda Alemtsehay Meseret Gelaw met President Yoweri Museveni at State House Entebbe on August 3 during which the Tigray conflict was discussed.
As the Tigray conflict raged on last year, Muhoozi sent out a series of tweets in November 2021 and rattled the government in Addis.
“I urge my great and brave brothers in the Tigrayan Defence Forces to listen to the words of General Yoweri Museveni! I am as angry as you and I support your cause. Those who raped our Tigrayan sisters and killed our brothers must be punished!” he tweeted on November 5 2021, after rights watchdogs claimed atrocities had been committed by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces in Tigray.
On November 6 2021, he sent out another tweet in support of the Tigrayans.
“Our great Tigrayan brothers and sisters cannot be defeated. They have an unconquerable spirit!”
The Twitter posts prompted both the Ugandan military and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue statements clarifying that Lt-Gen Muhoozi's tweets did not represent the official position of government.
This week, he was received at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport by Temesgen Tiruneh, the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) Director-General, and other senior security officials, signalling a thaw in the anger Addis Ababa had about him.
He was accompanied by Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem, Director of External Security Organisation Joseph Ocwet and his military assistant, Col Mcdans Kamugira.
Lt-Gen Muhoozi, who also doubles as Presidential Advisor on Special Operations, travelled to Addis Ababa following an invitation from Mr Abiy, an official dispatch said.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a brief statement said the Ugandan delegation is in Addis Ababa to discuss on bilateral and regional issues of common concern.
“During its stay in Addis Ababa, the delegation is expected to hold discussions with its Ethiopian counterpart that will help strengthen cooperation between Ethiopia and Uganda to ensure peace and security in East Africa and to prevent terrorism," reads Lt-Gen Muhoozi could play a role to push progress on peace talks between Abiy and Tigray leaders.
“Muhoozi has the trust of Tigray leaders who doubt the neutral position of the African Union-led peace process.
However, his trip came as fighting between TPLF and the government resumed after a series of allegations over breach of ceasefire.