Muhoozi returns as CDF as other officers purged 

Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba (left) meets with his father, President Museveni on May 3 last year. PHOTOS/PPU

What you need to know:

  • The first son’s re-appointment comes barely a month after President Museveni launched the UPDF Establishment Document 2021 on February 17 – a document which laid out a strategic re-configuration of the army, detailing a new command, control and administrative structure. 

The Commander-in-Chief, President Museveni has re-assigned his son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba elevating him to Chief of Defence Forces, in a major re-alignment across the military-political spectrum announced last night.

Gen Muhoozi’s return from a two-year period away from active military command came with additional reward. A number of his surrogates in the Patriotic League of Uganda (PLU) —a loose structure under which the President’s son is seeking the Presidency -- were appointed to junior Cabinet positions in an almost simultaneous mini-Cabinet shake-up.
They include Balaam Barugahara, Lilian Aber and Phiona Nyamutooro. 
The incoming CDF’s other protégé, Asaph Mweitesi Nyakikuru, who is the commando brigade commander in the elite Special Forces Command (SFC), was promoted from the rank of Colonel to Brigadier. 

Gen Muhoozi, a graduate of the British Military Academy at Sandhurst, replaces Gen Wilson Mbasu Mbadi, a career military officer who came top of his class at the same elite military academy in the United Kingdom. The unassuming and soft-spoken Mbadi joined President Museveni’s rebel National Resistance Army (NRA) in 1985 in Kabarole, which was amongst the first districts to fall to the NRA.
The first son’s re-appointment comes barely a month after President Museveni launched the UPDF Establishment Document 2021 on February 17 – a document which laid out a strategic re-configuration of the army, detailing a new command, control and administrative structure. 
The establishment document also showed changes in the army’s doctrine and posture, placing all its elements under the CDF.
It also comes at a time Gen Muhoozi has intensified his political activities, ignoring army law and the Constitution which forbids the participation of serving soldiers in partisan politics. A year ago, Gen Kainerugaba announced on March 15, 2023 he would run for President in 2026 even when it is generally believed his father plans to offer himself for re-election in the same election.

Highly-placed sources told Daily Monitor his removal of Mbadi could be linked to creeping corruption which was said to be threatening force integrity, something President Museveni alluded to in a speech celebrating Army Day slightly over a month ago.
He now finds himself in unfamiliar territory as junior minister for trade, industry and cooperatives – a position to which he was appointed in the Cabinet changes also announced last night.

Though he was not individually culpable, Gen Mbadi suffered the misfortune of being accused of being too ‘meek’ to crack the whip on theft in the area of procurement and supplies and at UPDF training schools. 
Other senior officers who were dropped from coveted positions were implicated in land grabbing, a source revealed to Daily Monitor newspaper.
The Commander-in-Chief made eight changes revealed in a statement signed by Brig Felix Kulayigye, the defence ministry spokesman. The President also appointed Lt Gen Sam Okiding deputy CDF, replacing Gen Peter Elwelu who was named senior presidential advisor.

On June 17, 2023, Mbadi was left in a spot of bother after a tactical lapse resulted in a suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) raid at Lubhiriha Secondary School in Kasese, south-western Uganda where 41 students were killed.
Lt Gen Elwelu appears to have been kicked upstairs, appointed Senior Presidential Advisor—a designation which in military parlance is known as Katebe or being rendered undeployed. 
The lieutenant general has a history of controversy. Elwelu previously said that the more than 100 Rwenzurur Kingdom royal guards and family members who were killed at the Buhikira palace in Kasese district, were criminals “who deserved what they got.”
In November 2016, Elwelu was the commander of a joint security force that raided the palace of King Charles Wesley Mumbere’s during a standoff with royal guards.
On June 23, 2022, Elwelu reportedly issued the standby class one diktat, which is the highest level of combat readiness, leading to some confusion.
This was at the time a cleavage had emerged within the highest echelons of the army. The order was issued when the President was in Kigali, Rwanda to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.  Gen Mbadi who was the CDF, had travelled to Kenya. 

Elwelu’s replacement, Lt Gen Samuel Okiding is Force Commander of the African Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis). It was during Okiding’s service on May 26, 2023 when Al-Shabaab terrorist killed 54 Ugandan troops during raid on two forward operating bases located in Buulo Mareer, a flat marshland—which previously served as the insurgents’ bastion— 110 km south of the Somali capital of Mogadishu. 

President Museveni's son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba salutes during his pipping ceremony in Mbuya, a Kampala suburb 2019. PHOTO/ ABUBAKER LUBOWA

At the crack of dawn, a force of about 800 fighters—four times the size of the Ugandan army in the camp launched a multi-pronged attack using suicide bombers, eight Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs), grenade launchers and shoulder-held Rocket propelled Grenades. 

Staring down the barrel and bleeding from gunshot wounds as the insurgents gained an upper hand, the base commander, Lt Col Edward Nyororo—whose storied military career was formed in the crucible of trench warfare— pulled the trigger to avoid the humiliation of being captured alive by the enemy force.  
In November 2023, the General Court Martialchaired by Brig Gen Robert Mugabe dismissed Maj Steven Oluka and Maj Zadock Obor, commanding officers at the two military bases, after they were found guilty of the offence of cowardice, having ordered the troops into what turned out to be disorderly and fatal retreat.

Okiding an experienced and disciplined officer who served as the former UPDF artillery commander, was at the time of the attack based in Mogadishu and was not responsible for the tactical lapses at the Buulo Mareer.
Maj Gen Leopold Kyanda was dropped from the coveted position of Joint Chief of Staff and relegated to Defence attache but without a posting named. He was replaced by Maj Gen Jack Bakasumba, the outgoing Chief of Staff, Land Forces. 
The SFC commanding officer, Brig. David Mugisha, was promoted to the rank of Major General.

Gen Muhoozi’s appointment appears to be a tactical gambit by the President to keep him occupied with the affairs of the army, ahead of the 2026 general election.
Muhoozi who wears many hats including the role of Senior Presidential Adviser Special Operations, has been traversing the country alongside his supporters under the cover of the nascent Patriotic League of Uganda who are keen to have him succeed his father. 

Earlier on in October 2022, Muhoozi was removed from his position as the UPDF Commander Land Forces when he triggered a diplomatic incident between Uganda and Kenya by tweeting that the UPDF under him could invade Ugand’’s eastern neighbor and capture Nairobi capital city within weeks.
Although he was sacked from command, President Museveni who apologised to Kenya still promoted him to full General and re-assigned as an adviser.
On March 8, 2022, Muhoozi who was then third in hierarchy of the UPDF briefly announced his retirement though he later announced that it was a joke.
“After 28 years of service in my glorious military, the greatest military in the world, I am happy to announce my retirement. Me and my soldiers have achieved so much. I have only love and respect for all those great men and women that achieve greatness for Uganda everyday,” he wrote on his Twitter account then.

As senior presidential adviser, Muhoozi has enjoyed an expanded role where he established a parallel politico-diplomatic structure outside formal government channels. For one, his charm offensive with Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame resulted in the re-opening of the Rwanda-Uganda border, closed by Kigali in 2019 after three years of a deadlock.

He also visited Kenya — twice in four months — and Somalia, where he spoke with Ugandan troops under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). He held talks with Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and recently met South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa.
However, Muhoozi’s twitter passion has broken with UPDF tradition as he relied on the account to engage in no-holds barred contests with his critics and adoring legions.

His tours across the country have also elicited condemnation amongst his critics who are accusing him of flouting the provisions of the UPDF Act, which prohibits serving officers from engaging in politics. 
However, Muhoozi’s admirers argue that the officer should retire from the army so that he can ascend the greasy pole and be able to sustain ‘the NRM political dynasty’ in the restive Great Lakes.