Army defends Muhoozi over foreign policy tweets

Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the Commander of Land Forces. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Officials warn that the First Son’s comments could cause issues with other countries.

The army has defended the Commander of Land Forces, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, after he made comments on internal matters of foreign countries saying it was within his personal rights.

Gen Muhoozi used his Twitter handle to comment on the coup in Guinea and the Ethiopian government’s handling of the situation in Tigray. 

He tweeted that Uganda would fight anyone who would fight Egypt. The comments come at the time when the dispute is tense between Egypt and Ethiopia over the latter’s construction of a hydroelectric dam on River Nile. 

The spokesperson of the army, Brig Flavia Byekwaso, said Lt Gen Kainerugaba made the comment in his personal capacity, but not as a military commander and, therefore, they don’t reflect the institution’s stance on the stated. 

“I think he was saying so in the spirit of Pan Africanism…. He can also talk about some issues because he has his freedoms,” Brig Byekwaso said.

Since last week, Gen Muhoozi has been making statements on his social media platform about internal matters of other countries. 

He first tweeted that the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) was ready to send troops to Guinea to “discipline” coup leaders, who deposed and arrested President Alpha Conde, who had friendly relations with Uganda. 

Gen Muhoozi later tweeted that anyone, who thinks of fighting Egypt, should know that they will be fighting Uganda as well. 
Ethiopians, who are currently having strained relationship with Egypt over the construction of a dam on River Nile, which is the major source of water for Sudan and Cairo, picked it up and attacked Gen Muhoozi for fanning hostilities. 

On Monday, Lt Gen Muhoozi tweeted in response: “I don’t know why my brothers in Ethiopia are fighting me? It makes me sad. You are now fighting my tribe in Tigray. Tigrayans are part of us. God is the one who protects us!”
In April, the UPDF signed an agreement with Egypt on sharing intelligence. 

In August, Ethiopian Prime Minister held a closed-door meeting with President Museveni during a one-day visit and the duo, according to State House, discussed bilateral, security and issues of mutual interest.

One serving diplomat and two retired ones, who we talked on condition of anonymity, said given Gen Muhoozi’s position in the government and military, his statements may be seen by the mentioned countries as interference in their domestic affairs. 

One diplomat said this may affect Uganda and Ethiopia’s relationship in Somalia, which both countries are the biggest troop contributor. 

Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs Muwada Nkunyingi said: “When you are a commander in the army, you must meet basic professional standards. …the statements can compromise our international relations because it is known that military interventions in another country must have been sanctioned by continental bodies or the United Nations,” Mr Nkunyingi said.

“The power to send troops abroad isn’t with the military but the Parliament.”

Ms Edith Ssempala, the former Uganda ambassador to the US, said diplomacy is a delicate service that an individual soldier shouldn’t engage in unless he or she has got approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“What Gen Muhoozi is doing is harmful to our country. It is putting our country in a bad light. He is usurping the roles of the foreign affairs and doing it badly, which complicates our diplomatic relationship,” Ms Ssempala said in an interview.