Kampala. First Son Muhoozi Kainerugaba was on Monday promoted from Brigadier to Major General to keep him in the right rank to command the Special Forces that is to be expanded into an autonomous Service Force within the UPDF.
The expansion means SFC troop numbers, budget and equipment will increase to match the levels of the Land and Airforces, the existing two services created following a 2005 defence review. The review did not recommend establishment of SFC.
Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, the Defence and Military spokesman, said: “To command a Service Force, one must not be below the rank of Major General and he [Kainerugaba] has done all the requisite training. He also has command experience.”
This is the clearest indication of why Muhoozi, who initially enlisted as a Local Defence Unit (LDU) before joining mainstream army in 1999, was this week elevated to a two-star general --- the same rank or higher than some of the veteran officers that fought in the 1981-86 war that brought President Museveni to power in 1986.
The rapid rise of Maj Gen Muhoozi has been a subject of intense public debate in Uganda, with Opposition leaders questioning whether the army promotions and commission’s board is not favouring him because he is the son of the Commander-in-Chief.
Former minister Mike Mukula, according to one of the diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks, told American embassy official in Kampala that he believed the President was preparing the son as a successor.
Both the UPDF and State House deny Muhoozi is being purposed to lead the country, and pointed out trainings he has undertaken at top world military academies as commensurate with his evolving assignments.
The First Son studied at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK and US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, alongside training in South Africa, Egypt and Uganda.
The outsized Special Forces that he commands guard the presidency, state guests and other Very Very Important Persons (VVIPs) as well key strategic national installations, including the oil fields.
Lingering questions about Muhoozi’s meteoric yesterday prompted the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Katumba Wamala, to defend the promotions as “fair and normal routine programme” when asked by journalists.
The presidential adviser on Buganda, security Brig Kasirye Gwanga, who has previously publicly challenged Muhoozi’s promotion as undeserved, said in response to the latest changes, that: “I don’t care whether some people are promoted to Lieutenant General or Major General. I’m also a general. Not only a general, but a rich one.”
In 2013, the then coordinator of Intelligence Services, Gen David Sejusa, said he and colleagues who fought in the National Resistance Army (NRA) guerilla war should be retired to save them from the embarrassment of saluting their children or grand-children. Muhoozi is 42 years.
Three army officers who spoke to Daily Monitor in confidence to avoid possible administrative reprimand yesterday faulted the new procedure, introduced last year, of using examinations to promote junior officers.
They claimed some officers made to take the exams had never done courses for more than 20 years yet questions asked are derived from the military courses.
“Some officers are brought from the operational areas and made to sit for exams with their colleagues who have done course from which questions are derived,” one officer said.
Lt Col Ankunda, however, dismissed the allegation, saying all officers who sit for the exams do the same course.