General Muhoozi Kainerugaba has often presented himself as the next possible successor of his father, Yoweri Museveni. But now he says that is only possible if the “old man” acquiesces to that quest.
This is in spite of an aggressive grassroots campaign led by President Museveni’s younger brother, Toyota Kaguta, for a 2026 presidential bid for the Uganda’s Presidential Adviser on Special Operations.
This week, General Muhoozi conceded all that could go up in smoke if President Museveni refuses.
“If my father allows me to stand in 2026, we will shock the entire country by the amount of support we have,” he said.
General Muhoozi had declared intentions to stand in the next general election and his supporters have been at the centre of a series of public, politically intoned events, including countrywide birthday celebrations. His grand 48th birthday, last year, was celebrated across the country and crowned with a dinner at State House Entebbe, graced by Rwanda president Paul Kagame. But supporters are already gearing up for the next one, April this year, which he says will be held in Kigali.
Whether the birthday celebrations will reignite a new momentum for political agitation is another issue. His new spokesperson Andrew Mwenda says theirs is a movement, competing with nobody or any political force, but articulating the ideals of young people who feel “disenchanted, disconnected from the body politic of Uganda” because the government is not serving their interests. He says General Muhoozi supporters are young people who are looking for an alternative, insisting that theirs is not about gaining power. He says they are different from other players such as National Unity Platform leader and former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, or Kizza Besigye, and are focusing on creating reforms in the ruling party to ensure the party can be led by tired, old and weak, can deliver on infrastructure and jobs the young people are yearning for.
President Museveni’s supporters fear his son could take over political space and suffocate the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). These are especially his 1981-86 bush war comrades such as Gen Kahinda Otafiire (Internal Affairs Minister), Brig Haji Moses Kigongo (NRM party vice-chairman), Maj Jessica Alupo (the country’s vice-president), and Vincent Ssempijja (defence minister). They rushed to endorse President Museveni for the 2026 bid, although Mr Museveni has avoided discussing the issue and referred supporters, especially the youth to concentrate on development issues.
Addressing over 10,000 youth in Kololo Ceremonial Grounds in the country’s capital Kampala last week, Mr Museveni cautioned the youth and medical workers who had endorsed him for the 2026 general elections to concentrate on economic transformation, saying the time for campaigns ended after elections in 2021.
Mr Mwenda says Muhoozi is a product of failure of the opposition to offer an alternative political formation for the new national challenges, saying the youth around the country see a great potential in Muhoozi, who he described as a “good listener, with great analytical skills and great social intelligence.”
According to Mr Mwenda, the Muhoozi team is now creating and building grassroots structures, with regional and local leaders, having operated amorphously for nearly two years, which could mean a more protracted approach to gain ground before he could go for the country’s top position.
Preparing for 2031
Muhoozi’s reduced tone on his ambition seems to confirm that he may actually be preparing for 2031 and not 2026 as his supporters would want.
Justice Minister Norbert Mao, who recently joined the government, while claiming he is still the leader of Uganda’s oldest party, the Democratic Party, says he has been assigned to manage the transition.
“I appeal for the support of the people of Mitooma on the assignment I have been given. I believe by 2031 we shall have a new Uganda,” he said. But the President later denied giving Mao such an assignment.
NRM Secretary-General Richard Todwong says there is no vacancy for a presidential candidate until the term of office of the current president ends.
“The party will decide on who becomes our flag bearer,” he told local media.
Thrown into confusion
The party has been thrown into confusion for months now as taming and restraining its members from the two political camps remained a big challenge. Senior party members urged the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC), the highest decision-making party organ, to ask the president to clear the air about his son to no avail.
Mr Todwong says the President is aware of what is taking place. The fear is that the two groups could clash.
To Muhoozi fanatics such as Balaam Barugahara, the Muhoozi Movement is awakening sleeping NRM veterans and bush war heroes who have refused to step down for the energetic, youthful members.
“We are putting in place structures to prepare Gen Muhoozi to take over from his father when the time comes. We are doing it independently. We are not attached to NRM,” he added.
“Those who haven’t set their priorities right are the ones confusing themselves. They don’t know whether to please the son or the father,” he told local media in Kampala.
While his supporters are members of the NRM party, Muhoozi recently said the party, which his father led against former president Dr Milton Obote in the early 1980s, supported by local people up to military victory in 1986, was no longer representing the people of Uganda.
“I am listening to the outcry of our people for change. I am with the people. Whatever NRM has become does not represent the people of Uganda. I certainly do not believe in NRM,” he said.