Muhoozi’s meteoric rise to top
What you need to know:
Shadow defence minister says First Son given preferential treatment while army insists Brig. Muhoozi has worked for his ranks.
The rise of President Museveni’s son, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, through the military ranks following his Monday promotion to the rank of Brigadier has been one of the fastest in the UPDF, an analysis by this newspaper shows.
In an assessment of a list of at least 25 senior ranking UPDF officers to have attained the rank of Brigadier over the years, shows that it has taken an individual an average of more than two decades from the time of joining the force to attain the rank of Brigadier.
Brig. Muhoozi, however, has achieved such seniority in less than 15 years since formally joining the UPDF.
The army, nevertheless, yesterday defended Brig. Muhoozi’s spectacular rise through its ranks, stating that the First Son has earned each and every rank bestowed upon him. “Brig. Muhoozi’s promotion and progress has been normal. He is a disciplined, dedicated and highly trained officer who has been serving with us for a long time,” said acting army spokesperson Capt. Chris Magezi.
Critics, however, were quick to suggest that Brig. Muhoozi is a beneficiary of his blood relations with President Museveni, his father who is also Commander-in-Chief of the country’s Armed Forces.
When asked why it had taken other officers an average of more than 20 years from the time they joined the army to attain the rank of Brigadier, Capt. Magezi said it is difficult for officers to have similar career paths given varying points of entry into the force.
“Yes there are some who have been in the army longer and it is true that some have taken longer to become officers,” he said. “It is because there are those who join the army right away as commissioned officers and those who join as non-commissioned officers. Of course, they cannot take the same path and comparing them would be wrong.”
But Shadow defence minister Hassan Fungaroo, who is also the Obongi County MP said: “The promotion is irregular, starting right from his (Muhoozi’s) selection for studies and training in the military. Ask yourself, why do they select Muhoozi for all these trainings and studies and not a person from Nakapiripirit, or Busia, or Butambala?”
In raising questions about the speed of the First Son’s ascent in the army, some have also suggested that President Museveni could be grooming his son to run the country in future, but Brig. Muhoozi has repeatedly defended his advance as being on merit. There is also no published proof that Brig. Muhoozi’s career advancement was in preparation for political office.
Soroti Municipality MP Mike Mukula once reportedly told American officials in Uganda, in comments captured in leaked diplomatic cables published on whistleblower website, Wikileaks, that President Museveni was “increasingly patterning himself after (Zimbabwean President) Robert Mugabe and wants to position his son, then Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, as his eventual successor.”
Contacted for comment yesterday, Mr Mukula, who is the ruling party’s vice chairman for eastern Uganda, said: “For me, no comment.” However, Mr Fungaroo said if the First Son’s rise in the army “is a calculation” by Mr Museveni as regards “succession”, “it is a big miscalculation because it will be bad for Muhoozi.” He added: “Muhoozi will never be assessed on the basis of his own abilities and merit because he will be carrying this baggage from his father.”
Capt. Magezi said in questioning Brig. Muhoozi’s rise, critics were “wrong” and “uninformed” and argued that precedents had long been set by President Museveni with the “fast rise” and promotion of officers such as Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu- long serving army commander and now opposition stalwart, Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho (Museveni’s brother), Maj. Gen. Fred Rwigyema-fallen soldier who led the Rwandan Patriotic Front and Gen. Elly Tumwine.
“Brig. Muhoozi’s case is not unprecedented,” said Capt. Magezi. “How old was Gen. [Mugisha] Muntu when he became commander of the NRA in 1989? In our records, he [Muntu] was a colonel and jumped the rank of Brigadier before he became major general.”
In defending the President’s promotion of his son, the army establishment has been quick to point out the array of professional trainings Brig. Muhoozi has undertaken at prestigious military institutions across the globe and his decade-plus years of service.
They cite his completion of the officer cadet course, company commanders course, junior staff college, senior staff college training, national defence college training, tank course completion, and a paratrooper’s course completion, formal military education that not many have been able to attain at his age.
Capt. Magezi also said Brig. Muhoozi is “almost at the best age” to head a battalion, a position that comes with the rank of Brigadier, given the “physical and mental” challenges that come with the job, and added that his promotion was also a result of President Museveni’s decision to restructure the elite Special Forces Group into the Special Forces Command which his son leads.
“That is another fact that has precipitated his promotion,” said Capt Magezi.