The Ministry of Defence last evening joined the wider army in defending the rise of Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba against a backdrop of calls for more transparency in the military’s promotions’ policy in Parliament.
State Minister for Defence, Gen. Jeje Odong deplored comments emerging from Parliament about the promotion of the President’s son to the rank of Brigadier. “In the army there is what is called the Commissions and Promotions Board. And I am speaking from experience because I used to chair it when I was the army commander. It receives recommendations from different units on the basis of individual performance and they sit and look at the individual performance in line with the procedures of promotion,” he said.
“It is very unfortunate that someone can say that the processes and procedure of that board are haphazard because that means that the people who sit and work on that board are doing no work.”
A quick survey of MPs revealed both extreme and middle-of-the-ground reactions to the President’s Monday elevation of his son to his highest rank yet in 12 years of service. While some MPs recognised that other officers have undergone similar training as Brig. Muhoozi, others pointed out that their rise has not been as quick.
Others still, pointed at the effect this could have on morale and thought that the criteria for promoting officers needs review. “If it was about training and number of courses, why have they not accorded the same opportunity to others? What criteria do they use to select people to send out?” asked FDC Secretary General Alice Alaso (Serere Woman MP). “It is a dangerous move to the morale of the officers in the army and it undermines the principal of nationalising the army.”
Brig. Muhoozi now sits at the top of the restructured Special Forces Command with oversight over the elite units, Special Forces One and Special Forces Two, one of whose functions is to guard the President and his family.
“I am surprised, we have people like Col. [Fred] Mwesigye who were among the 27 who started the bush war that brought [President Museveni] to power but they are still at lower ranks and you see someone being parachuted from [Local Defence Unit] LDU to Brigadier in just a few years,” said Ms Cerinah Nebanda (NRM, Woman Butaleja). “We want equity in the army.”
Mr Theodore Ssekikubo (NRM, Lwemiyaga) said: “It is an unprecedented rapid promotion of an erstwhile UPDF volunteer who not long ago was masquerading as an LDU,” “President Museveni is coming out to expose his true nature and his selfish ambitions have been demonstrated by this latest promotion of his son. It is an insult to the UPDF soldiers who are more experienced than him yet they are not being promoted,” he said.
The army, has however, defended Brig. Muhoozi’s rise through its ranks, stating that he has earned every rank. “Brig. Muhoozi’s promotion and progress has been normal. He is a disciplined, dedicated and highly trained officer who has been serving with us for a long time,” said acting army spokesperson Capt. Chris Magezi this week. He said in questioning Brig. Muhoozi’s rise, critics were “wrong” and “uninformed.”
Bufumbira East MP Eddie Kwizera said the army needs to be transparent so that people do not become suspicious every time Brig. Muhoozi is promoted. “There should be a policy on promotion so that they don’t leave people to suspect,” he said. But MPs who supported the elevation argued that he is entitled to it.
“Everyone in the army has a right to promotion. Brig. Muhoozi is a Ugandan and this is his country like any other Ugandan. He should be promoted. He shouldn’t be suffocated just because he is a son to the President. What we should ask is did he follow the right procedure to be promote him?” said Mr Ebil Fred (UPC, Kole County).