What you need to know:
- President says son’s activities show a ‘resistance movement within a resistance movement’ due to failings within the ruling party where the young see hope in the four-star general, but he has cautioned them against the risk of causing “unprincipled contradictions”.
President Museveni has linked the apparent appeal of his son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, to younger Ugandans to their “frustration” with weaknesses within the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.
In his first detailed public comments about the activities of Gen Muhoozi, the President said he is directly handling the issue of the Standby Generator, the moniker by supporters for Gen Muhoozi, which “is partly due to the weaknesses of the NRM”.
“… when Muhoozi celebrated his birthday, 48 years, [last year] there was some enthusiasm by some of the youth in Kampala and some of the areas [in Uganda],” Mr Museveni told parliamentarians who are members of the NRM Caucus during their ongoing 10-day retreat at the National Leadership Institute Kyankwanzi (NALI).
“And when I analysed it I could see that because of the weaknesses of our systems, some of the frustrated youth go[t] to that group [of Muhoozi] thinking that there [was] hope.”
In the May 31 address, the President disclosed that what the First Son did not know about some of his professed loyalists was that they were looking for “their own interests”.
“Some are looking for this, some are looking for that. But me, what I did, [was] I called them [ Gen Muhoozi and his group] and I talked with them …,” he said.
He added: “What I explained to Muhoozi was [not] causing unprincipled contradictions among the people. It is not a good thing. You should only fight the one who is against your ideology, not anybody within your ideology.”
The remarks come months after Gen Muhoozi raised questions about the direction of the ruling party, calling it “the most reactionary” and “I certainly do not believe in NRM”.
“Whatever NRM has become does not certainly represent the people of Uganda,” he said in a tweet that lobbed political canister and confusion in Uganda’s body polity, considering that his father, President Museveni, is the national chairman of the ruling party.
Gen Muhoozi grew up a child kept mostly outside the public glare and he became a subject of national debate when he from 1997 to 1999 allegedly recruited university students into the military as the future core of what today is the Special Forces Command (SFC), which he has commanded twice.
Following the revelations, some members of the 6th Parliament (1996-2001), among them Eddie Kwizera who at the time represented Kisoro’s Bufumbira East, called for the prosecution of the First Son they accused of illegally drafting Ugandans into the army in violation of the Constitution.
However, President Museveni poured cold water on the claims, arguing that Muhoozi was no soldier but a volunteer member of the Local Defence Unit (LDU).
The First Son later formally joined the military in May 1999 under intake 6. Many of his cohort-mates today hold key intelligence and military positions, among them Brig Charity Bainababo who is second-in-command at SFC and Col Edith Nakalema who, fresh from a National Defence College training, returns to superintend another anti-graft outfit at State House.
Following various senior command and strategic defence courses in Egypt, the United States, South Africa and the United Kingdom, Gen Muhoozi gained national attention on the back of rise in ranks faster than most peers. He used his 47th birthday observance at Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo in Kampala for a quasi-political introduction.
With that as a template, his 48th birthday fete which President Museveni referenced to NRM Caucus members on Wednesday, this week, morphed to assume a national portrait with mega bashes held in Kampala, Bunyoro, West Nile, Sebei and a record-crowd pulling in Kabale last month.
These events drew senior security and government officials, blurring the lines between the state, government and the personal.
Politically-charged comments by the First Son during some of the birthday events --- one of them being a reference to taking power – polarised the country, leading Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju to demand an explanation from the line minister why Gen Muhoozi was preferentially permitted to indulge in politics when a serving military general in breach of the Constitution and the UPDF Act.
Similar comments in past landed generals such as now Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde in long detentions and trial.
Gen Muhoozi’s birthday bashes were interspaced with running commentary on twitter by the general on political, security and foreign policy – taboo topics for serving army officers - despite his father in June 2022 directing him to use social media instead for mobilising youth for sports and promoting culture and development.
The messaging in some of the tweets turned problematic, both at home and outside the country, with President Museveni forced in one instance to apologise to Kenya after Gen Muhoozi, then the UPDF Land Forces Commander tweeted that it would take them only a fortnight to capture Nairobi.
The First Son upended decorum in the conduct of state-to-state affairs by using the micro-blogging site to take public sides with rebels in Ethiopia, the M23 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and with Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, leaving Ugandan diplomats and security officials second-guessing whether the expressed views reflected his own, army position or had the approval of his father, the commander-in-chief.
He remained unfazed, continuing with tweets that at home vilified political opponents of his father’s government and some of the Cabinet ministers.
In October, President Museveni sacked Muhoozi as Land Forces commander, promoted him to a four-star general and retained him as senior advisor on Special Operations in a change that switched off the son’s hierarchical power while simultaneously levelling his pips to the highest-ranked military officers.
Sources at the ongoing 10-day NRM Caucus retreat in Kyankwanzi said President Museveni was prompted to offer a more detailed explanation after a Member of Parliament from Pallisa asked him what Muhoozi was up to.
Other lawmakers had separately raised concern with their party chairman that many of the mobilisers for Muhoozi under a loose grouping code-named MK Movement were opponents in their constituencies.
Christening of the First Son by loyalists as “Our Revolutionary Leader, Our Next President” has put incumbents and aspiring political leaders on the tenterhooks to take sides between father and son, with many at crossroads while some have one foot in either camp of a divided NRM house.
The polarisation in January, this year, prompted Vice President Jessica Alupo, in comments later echoed by the ruling party’s Secretary General Richard Todwong and NRM First National Vice Chairman Moses Kigongo, to confirm that Mr Museveni will be on the ballot in 2026.
The President meanwhile has maintained an ambiguity, simply telling the competing sides that elections are still far and leaders must expend energy on fulfilling the manifesto and pulling peasant Ugandans into the money economy.
Following the fresh demand in Kyankwanzi for an account of the activities of the First Son, Mr Museveni said he had already cautioned him and his group against the risk of causing “unprincipled contradictions among people”.
“It is not a good thing. You should only fight the one who is against your ideology, not anybody within your ideology,” the President noted, adding, “We had a long discussion with Muhoozi, mama [First Lady Janet Kataha Museveni] was there … what I explained to Muhoozi was [not] causing unprincipled contradictions among the people.”
He hinted that the First Son had also gained fame for good work of fighting corruption within the rank-and-file of the UPDF.
“There was also some corruption in the army and Muhoozi has been very, very strict with that war there in the army. So, that is why I could see that it was some sort of a resistance movement within the resistance movement,” Mr Museveni added.
The President promised to unite the MK Movement team with mainstream NRM on the four principles of patriotism, pan-Africanism, socio-economic transformation and democracy.
Gen Museveni’s blow-by-blow account on Muhoozi activities
“Now the issue of standby generator [a moniker by supporters for Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba], that one I am handling with Muhoozi and his group because this issue of Muhoozi is partly due to the weaknesses of the [ruling] National Resistance Movement (NRM) [party].
Because you remember when Muhoozi celebrated his birthday, 48 years, there was some enthusiasm by some of the youth in Kampala and some of the areas [in Uganda]. And when I analysed it I could see that because of the weaknesses of our systems some of the frustrated youth they go[t] to that group [of Muhoozi] thinking that there [was] hope.
And within the army (UPDF) itself, there was also some corruption in the army and Muhoozi [the immediate past Commander of Land Forces] has been very, very strict with that war there in the army. So, that is why I could see that it was some sort of a resistance movement within the resistance movement.
But, of course, what Muhoozi doesn’t know – because Muhoozi some of the things he doesn’t know, he is in the army – some of them [his professed supporters] are looking for their own interests. Some are looking for this, some are looking for that. But me, what I did, [was] I called them and I talked with them.
You [Muhoozi loyalists and NRM Caucus members] will come back together, all of you. Because also what I explained to Muhoozi was [not] causing unprincipled contradictions among the people. It is not a good thing. You should only fight the one who is against your ideology, not anybody within your ideology.
So, I am helping them,
I met them, you see now, don’t create unnecessary contradictions among yourselves. We had a long discussion with Muhoozi,
We had a long discussion with Muhoozi, mama [First Lady Janet Kataha Museveni] was there.
There are principles of the NRM; patriotism, are you for patriotism or are you for sectarianism? If you are for patriotism, then you are altogether. It’s only the one who is for sectarianism that you should see as a problem. If I am for patriotism and you are for patriotism, why do you see me as a problem?
Pan Africanism, East African federation. I was getting a message from MPs from Ankole that they are worried about the [Ugandan] milk going to Kenya, because Kenya sometimes blocks [entry of Ugandan milk into their market].
I spoke to President (William) Ruto and he assured me that he is not aware but he is going to solve it. That is why principles are the most important. Does this person support pan-Africanism? If he does, then what are you disagreeing with him about?
That means there is something else, unprincipled – personal or fighting for position, not for principle. Socio-economic transformation. Do you believe in that? If you do, then what are you differing on? If you go back to the principles, then things would be easy rather than personal – this one, this one.
But as the MP from Bukedi [he did not name] said, the people whom they were fighting with are now --- who were competing with them for the other one – are now part of the standby group, according to the Bukedi MP. But we shall bring them together. We shall bring you together around principles: patriotism, pan-Africanism, socio-economic transformation [and] democracy. Nothing personal in what we are doing.
If you bring personal things and looking for power, for position, then you are lost.”
Extracted from President Museveni’s May 31 address to the NRM Caucus at the National Leadership Institute Kyankwanzi.