I am not eyeing the presidency - Muhoozi

The Special Forces Command boss, Maj Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba with wife after receiving his pips at the army headquarters in Mbuya, Kampala, yesterday. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

Kampala- President Museveni’s son, Maj Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, yesterday broke his silence on the raging debate over suspicions that he is being groomed to replace his father as President, saying he harbours no presidential ambitions.

Newly promoted Maj Gen Muhoozi, the commander of the Special Forces Command (SFC), addressed the lingering succession talk, that he may succeed President Museveni, during his piping ceremony.

Mr Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, will be barred by the Constitution on the basis of age from running for another term in 2021.

Mr Museveni, 72, has promised to respect Article 102(b) that bars persons above 75 years from contesting for the presidency.

Speaking at the UPDF headquarters in Mbuya where he was decorated with the rank of Maj General, up from Brigadier, Maj Gen Muhoozi said the so-called “Muhoozi Project” is “non-existent” and a “redherring”.

The new rank will enable him command Special Forces, which will soon be elevated to Service Force within the UPDF.
Responding to a question on whether he agrees with his father that if he is interested in succeeding him, he can go through the procedures laid out in the Constitution, Maj Gen Muhoozi responded: “That is the procedure of every Ugandan, including me.”

President Museveni told Al-Jazeera in 2013 that the question of whether his son is interested in succeeding him “is for him [Muhoozi] and the people of Uganda, but it is not in the short run”. But Maj Gen Muhoozi denied harbouring any plans to give a shot at the country’s top office, saying he is happy to serve in the military for “some time”.

“No, I do not have the ambition to be President. I am very happy being in the military and that is where I intend to stay for some time,” Maj Gen Muhoozi said.

Long-simmering suspicions that Maj Gen Muhoozi was being groomed to replace his father as President come to the fore in May 2013 when Gen David Sejusa, the then coordinator of intelligence services, instructed a top spymaster to probe a suspected plot to bump off top government officials opposed to the plan.

Threatened with charges of offending the UPDF Act, the general fled to exile in London but has since returned and will appear in the High Court on Friday to hear a ruling on whether he is still a serving military officer.

Maj Gen Muhoozi also dismissed concerns about his rapid ascent through the ranks, saying all his promotions have been through the army promotions and commission’s board.
Maj Gen Muhoozi’’s rapid rise, who the army yesterday said first received training in 1994 before formally joining the Forces in August 1999, is a constant subject of polarising public debate in Uganda.

“There is a process. There is a commissions board that looks at each case by case and decides. So you have never heard of a message where I promote myself. It is always [by the] promotions board. That is the process of the military,” Maj Gen Muhoozi said.

Asked about plans to elevate the Special Forces into a Service Force within the UPDF, which the former army commander and now FDC President Mugisha Muntu has said the Opposition will challenge in Parliament, Maj Gen Muhoozi said the “ talk of [SFC] Independence is misplaced”.

“There is nothing as [SFC being] independent in the UPDF. We all work together so talk of independence is misplaced. There may be adjustments, there may be changes but the UPDF is one Army and the SFC is under UPDF. You saw me saluting my commander-the CDF.”

The former exiled Lt Col Anthony Kyakabale, was also promoted to the rank of colonel and retired. He returned from exile in Sweden last year after he fled Uganda in 2001.