What’s in a birthday? The curious case of Muhoozi’s national event

Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba and his wife Charlotte Nankunda Keinerugaba. PHOTO/ABIBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The announcement of the birthday party was preceded by Gen Muhoozi’s sudden drop out of Twitter on April 13, much to the consternation of the legions of fans and at least half a million followers he commands on the social media platform.

Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Uganda’s first son and commander of the country’s land forces, has turned 48. And the celebrations happened with pomp and glitz, featuring who’s who in Uganda and East Africa.

Such is the auspiciousness of this occasion that preparations have gone on for days, complete with a national organising committee.

The announcement of the birthday party was preceded by Gen Muhoozi’s sudden drop out of Twitter on April 13, much to the consternation of the legions of fans and at least half a million followers he commands on the social media platform.

He returned on the platform with good news: a birthday bash on April 24.

“I’m very happy to announce that my uncle, the very great commander and leader of Rwanda, will be attending my birthday celebrations,” Lt-Gen Muhoozi tweeted. “The chairman of the MKAt48 committee Honourable Kiryowa Kiwanuka (Uganda’s Attorney General) has just briefed me that there will be a kasiki (pre-event warm-up party) on 23rd April in Lugogo (an events venue in Kampala) organised by ‘Friends of MK’ under Mr Nuwagira Michael.”

Pre-birthday soiree

Aside from the Lugogo fete, there are more events elsewhere, including a pre-birthday soiree at the Hotel Volcano in Rubanda district, over 300km southwest of Kampala.

In Masaka City in central Uganda, Lt-Gen Muhoozi’s fans took the party to the Masaka City Bus Park on April 20.

Dozens of fans donning T-shirts bearing words “MK Project. Team Chairman. Secure your Tomorrow” thronged the streets of Uganda’s largest southern city, about 130km southwest of Kampala.

Some T-shirts bore the writings: “Muhoozi K is our next president; Muhoozi Kainerugaba is our choice”. Others referred to him as “Standby Generator”.

In Bushenyi, about 300km southwest of the capital, Igara East legislator Michael Mawanda is heading the celebrations.

Back in the capital, there is a planned marathon dubbed “Lt-Gen Muhoozi 48th Birthday Run” in addition to a football match and a live band.

The birthday celebrations are expected to climax with a dinner hosted by his father at State House.

In addition to Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Rwandan musician Intore Masamba and former Miss Rwanda Jolly Mutesi are said to have been invited. It is rumoured that Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has also been invited.

Giles Muhame, one of the members of the MKAt48 Committee, said the event has turned out to be a big deal due to the support Lt-Gen Muhoozi enjoys across the country.

“We see young people in Uganda and the diaspora voluntarily raising funds for bull roasting, marathons, beer festivals and other activities to celebrate his birthday. He has also used social media, especially Twitter, where he boasts a fan base of over 500,000 followers, to popularise the event.

“More so, the confirmation of President Paul Kagame's attendance has further popularised the celebrations. Lest we forget, Muhoozi was in the limelight for spearheading efforts of reviving Uganda's bilateral relations with Rwanda and commanding the military operations in DR Congo. The birthday celebrations cap a chain of action-packed events in which Muhoozi has been directly involved in the past couple of months."

Some political commentators say the First Son might be warming up for the 2026 presidential election.

Timothy Kalyegira, a Kampala-based political commentator, posted on Twitter: “It’s shaping up into a quasi-state event that aims to show the West that the said birthday boy is popular in Uganda, and by this try to persuade the West to change its mind about its recent decision to cancel its prior endorsement of his future presidency.”

Although Lt-Gen Muhoozi has never openly declared his presidential ambition, some say he seems to be preparing to take over from his father, when “the current regime decides to retire.”

“He is nice, loved, trusted and humble. As our parents age, we need a standby generator and I think he is the best available option,” said Balaam Barugahara, a confidant of his and one of the members of the MKAt48 Committee, who also has close links to the President and ruling party.

Major Chris Magezi, Lt-Gen Muhoozi’s spokesperson, said the much-publicised birthday bash has nothing to do with the presidential election that is four years away.

“I do not see the relationship whatsoever between a private birthday event, however publicised, and a presidential election which is four years away. The General and his many well-wishers are fully entitled to celebrate his life just like many other citizens do in this country and elsewhere,” he told The EastAfrican on Thursday.

While the Lugogo Cricket Oval even is freely accessible by all interested, the State House dinner is planned for only 250 people: Lt-Gen Muhoozi’s family, friends and special guests from the East African region, according to Mr Muhame.

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