Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba (L) exchanges a document with his father, President Museveni on May 3, 2023. PHOTO/PPU


Muhoozi Kainerugaba 2026 project: Son rises or sets?

What you need to know:

  • As Derrick Kiyonga writes, the question is no longer if Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba is interested in the presidency. It’s whether President Museveni’s son will be on the ballot during the 2026 presidential poll.

Sometimes Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba—President Museveni’s enigmatic son—fires off a tweet and later, for reasons known to him, deletes it. 

Gen Muhoozi’s Twitter account has served as his official platform. Keeping up with his Twitter feed, which is a cross between public square and personal dialogue, can be a full-time job. Is or isn’t he going to delete it? Is or isn’t he serious?

These are but two questions that those with a finger on the pulse of the Twitter feed severally encounter.
“From now on the MK Movement chant should be ‘Longlive (sic) MK’,” he once tweeted, adding, “We have a lot to achieve in our country. May Almighty God bless us with health and long lives!”

Another tweet read thus: “Right now the MK (Muhoozi Kainerugaba) Movement is the most powerful political movement in Uganda. The people love us because we are not scared of speaking the truth.”

In March, Gen Muhoozi popped eyes when—in a burst of impatience—he tweeted about his frustration of having to wait to receive the baton from President Museveni ahead of Uganda’s 2026 general election.
“In 2026, it will be 40 years of the old generation in charge. That will change. Those are instructions from Jesus Christ. Our generation will be in charge of this country,” he posted.

The tweet was promptly taken down. At the backend of March, he soon fired off another tweet. This time around he didn’t delete it. The tweet confirmed that Gen Muhoozi will stand for the presidency in 2026. “Let us remind ALL our enemies that we will STAND in 2026 and with Almighty God’s help we will win that election! MK Movement forever!! Retweet and Like!” 

As Gen Muhoozi tweets and deletes his presidential ambitions, his father’s party—the National Resistance Movement or NRM—has been trying to promote what it has christened the “Muzeeyi Tova Ku Main” (loosely translates to: old man don’t leave power) campaign.

President Museveni (in mask) meets members of the “central committee of the MK Movement” on May 3, 2023. PHOTO/PPU

If the campaign—as many suspect—yields dividends, the old man will throw his hat in the ring for a seventh term in 2026. Gen Muhoozi has, however, roundly dismissed the Muzeeyi Tova Ku Main group as a “brand for all the gangsters, criminals and disasters Uganda has.” He has also said that the group “has nothing to do with my family”. 

Presidential air
In fact, Gen Muhoozi has been moving around the country making pledges that are normally the preserve of a sitting President. When he recently toured northern Uganda, the 49-year-old, whose day job is a presidential advisor, promised to “add another battalion here” to tackle cattle rustling. 

“It’s going to join the five (fifth division) they requested. So, we are going to give it to them,” Gen Muhoozi, who was fired by his father as the commander of the Land Forces last year after he threatened to attack neighbouring Kenya, said, “I’m going to give you a unit of commandos. Find the most effective place in this area, we shall deploy them there. Those are very tough soldiers and you will see the results.”

Weeks after the four-star General made the promise, this publication contacted Maj Jimmy Omara, the spokesperson of the Special Forces Command (SFC) – which houses Uganda’s elite forces or  “commandos “ that Muhoozi promised – inquiring if they had been deployed.

Maj Omara, who had no ready answer, referred this publication to Maj Chris Magezi who now serves as the director of information and communication in the office of the senior presidential advisor in charge of special operations.

“The person dealing with that is [Chris] Magezi. They have been handling that. I wish you call him,” Omara said.

When contacted Magezi refused to delve into the matter, saying it’s the army spokesperson, Brig Felix Kulayigye, who is best placed to answer.  

When contacted Kulayigye, who accused the media of trying to “divide the army”, referred this this publication back to Omara. 

“That question can only be answered by Omara, not me. Whether they have been deployed or not: how would I know? They have their spokesperson – me I wouldn’t know what they have done.”

Talking about the deployment of soldiers is normally reserved for the commander-in-chief who currently is President Museveni.  

According to the UPDF Act, the commander-in-chief may appoint an officer of the army to be known as the army commander who might assist him in the administration of the army. 

Gen Muhoozi, who is a senior presidential advisor on “special operations”, has no position within the country’s defence hierarchy. 

“It just shows you that this is well thought-out to make him look presidential,” says Mr Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a political historian at Makerere University. “I don’t think any General within the army can make promises of deploying special operations, but the President’s son can do that because he has to be seen as the president.”

The desire to exhibit Muhoozi as presidential was there to see when Museveni ordered that he supervises the operation that saw more than 200 Ugandans evacuated from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, following the violence that erupted following the fighting between the Sudanese regular army and a paramilitary group.

Muhoozi had spent days celebrating his birthday in Rwanda, but sources that preferred anonymity to speak freely said his father ordered him back to Kampala to oversee the operation which involved deploying commandos from the SFC that he twice led.

First Son Muhoozi Kainerugaba (R) accompanied by KCCA executive director Dorothy Kisaka and her technical team inspect potholes in Kampala on May 10, 2023. PHOTOS/ STEPHEN OTAGE/FILE

Though it’s now an open secret that Gen Muhoozi wants to take over from his father, the decision to stand in 2026 has always been foggy, if not shrouded in mystery.     

“I am not considering running in 2026,” he told The Economist in an interview last year.
Gen Muhoozi further told the British weekly newspaper thus: “[Running for president is] not something I’ve yet fully assessed and there are still things I want to do in the military.” 

This was before his ouster from the position of commander of Land Forces. The 49-year-old now says he wants to retire from the army this year. 

If Gen Muhoozi was imprecise about standing for president, that’s no longer the case. He and his supporters, who are mainly members of the ruling NRM party, openly market him.    

“We don’t need to be on the fence. We are supporting the good for this nation and you’re the one to lead us to a brighter future as a country. We are right behind you, sir,” says Mr Michael Mawanda, the Igara East lawmaker who belongs to the NRM party.

M23 question
Gen Muhoozi has gradually stamped his authority on Uganda’s regional policy. This is evident in the position President Museveni has taken not to fight the March 23, or M23, Movement rebels after they captured several towns and villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

While the rebel movement, which is alleged to receive the backing of both Uganda and Rwanda, has caused havoc in the DRC that has displaced thousands of people, Gen Muhoozi last year called them “our brothers” and “not terrorists”.

M23 rebels in Kibumba, eastern DR Congo

M23 rebels in Kibumba, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. PHOTO | AFP

He, in no uncertain terms, tweeted: “As for M23, I think it is very, very dangerous for anybody to fight those brothers of ours. They are NOT terrorists! They are fighting for the rights of Tutsi in DRC.”  

Having dispatched nearly 1,000 troops to the DRC, there was a media report that the Ugandan army was to face off with M23. President Museveni moved quickly to quash the notion.

“… in that effort, we are not going to battle or fight the M23. The Congo government and the M23 have agreed to a peace plan, which involves cessation of hostilities (fighting), withdrawal of the M23 from some of the specified areas they had captured to other areas that have been agreed upon, etc.”

Museveni revealed in a statement last month, adding: “We are, therefore, going to the Bunagana-Rutshuru area, not in order to fight the M23, but to act as a neutral force as the Congolese use the time to sort out their political problems.”

It’s a position that greatly pleased Gen Muhoozi. In fact, when the M23 rebels handed over their position to the UPDF last month, the immediate past commander of Land Forces tweeted: “… M23 are our brothers. There is no need to fight them. We can discuss and solve all issues.”

Foreign policy
Evidently, Gen Muhoozi’s Twitter feed is not just a platform where he seeks to bend reality to his will. It has also helped sketch a portrait of what his foreign policy would look like in case President Museveni passed on the baton. 

Gen Muhoozi has chosen to align with the eastern bloc, comprising China and Russia. The decision by Russia’s Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine gave Muhoozi a chance to openly air his anti-Western agenda.

This combination of pictures created on January 2, 2022 shows Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden. PHOTO/AFP

The West or Global North has cast its lots with Ukraine.
“Call me a ‘Putinist’ if you will, but, we, Uganda shall send soldiers to defend Moscow if it’s ever threatened by the imperialists,” Gen Muhoozi, who was trained at Western military academies such as Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and the United States Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, tweeted.

He proceeded to refer to the West as imperialists. “The imperialists, the colonialists, killed Colonel Muammar Gadhafi. We shall NEVER forget that crime. They shall pay for it!”
Gen Muhoozi’s posture as a backer of the Eastern alliance mirrors what his father stood for in 1986.

Upon capturing power, Mr Museveni and his victorious National Resistance Army (NRA) committed to a neo-socialist economy and sought to trade worldwide through barter. 

The Cold War was, however, coming to an end and this move backfired spectacularly. As a matter of fact, by 1988 Mr Museveni had dumped it. He swore off socialism and became one of Africa’s most bellicose free market regimes, slackening everything he could come across.

Gen Muhoozi is yet to give his views on which economic policies he will pursue. His tweets are mostly restricted to military alignment.    

“The fact that we don’t have a single street in Kampala named after Fidel Castro is a crime. I hope KCCA sorts this out quickly!” Muhoozi tweeted on April 1 in reference to the former Cuban leader who gave the West a hard time with his communist agenda.

It’s a family affair
Though Gen Muhoozi has tried to draw a line between his MK movement and his father’s political party, in practice it has become difficult to execute. 

First Son Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba and First Lady Janet Museveni, cut cake during Gen Muhoozi’s 48th birthday dinner on Sunday at State House Entebbe. Witnessing are Rwanda President Paul Kagame (left) and President Museveni. PHOTO/PPU

Throughout his decades-long stay in power, Mr Museveni instituted a tailored style of leadership that has debilitated the country’s State institutions, substituting them with casual systems of power. For instance, his wife, Janet, has for years held the fort as the Education minister. She previously ran the rule over the Karamoja Affairs docket.

Museveni’s brother, Caleb Akandwanaho, alias Salim Saleh, has since retired from the military. He, however, has tentacular business interests. He is, by and large, perceived to be Uganda’s second-most powerful man. 

Gen Muhoozi, just like his father, has chosen to use informal channels in constructing the “MK Movement” by casually appointing and firing people. Most of those appointed or dis-appointed are his friends. This is usually done on Twitter. 

In a tweet, Gen Muhoozi said he was in search of a vice chairperson for the MK Movement in Buganda. He asked his followers to give him options. 

“Mr Frank Gashumba appointed vice chairperson for the MK Movement in Buganda,” he later tweeted.  
In a March 30 tweet that showed a jocular, if not cavalier style of working, Gen Muhoozi said he was in search of Tamale Mirundi—his father’s former spokesperson.

“My good friend Tamale Mirundi appointed our spokesperson in Buganda. I haven’t been able to find him. So, all of you tell him that he has been appointed in absentia,” he tweeted.

Gen Muhoozi has also used Twitter to respond to Cabinet ministers perceived to be against his presidential ambitions.   

ICT minister Chris Baryomunsi faced the four-star General’s wrath when he said on NBS TV that it was wrong for Gen Muhoozi to engage in politics.

“You can’t ask individual NRM members to answer questions about Gen Muhoozi because he is a serving military officer,” Dr Baryomunsi reasoned, adding, “If you want to ask the government, you can engage the commander-in-chief or CDF (chief of defence forces). Gen Muhoozi is not a member of NRM. He is a serving military officer. This is the position of the government. What he is doing to politick is not correct and he should abandon it.”

READ ABOUT: The crisis inside NRM

In response, Gen Muhoozi bragged about how he conspired with his father to arrest Baryomunsi following the controversial death of former Butaleja District woman lawmaker, Cerinah Nebanda, in 2012.

“This Baryomunsi who wants to be believed that he loves President Museveni & also speaks truthfully for govt, once told the whole world that Mzee M7 (Museveni) & NRM had killed Nebanda yet he knew the cause of death as a doctor. This is the whole problem of appeasement politics,” said Mr David Kabanda, the Kasambya County lawmaker who is also a member of the central committee of the MK Movement.

ICT Minister Chris Baryomunsi.

For now, Ugandans should expect one of their most (in)famous Twitter users to continue to deploy the platform as a megaphone ahead of the 2026 poll.