2026; Museveni is the deal, Muhoozi the decoy

Author: Nicholas Sengoba. PHOTO/NMG

What you need to know:

  • Come 2026, Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni will be counting 40 years at the helm. There is almost nothing that is not known about him, especially what he can deliver and what is beyond his capacity.

If you have been at something, most especially in the faces of people on a day to day basis, for long you can only remain relevant by recreating yourself. You give another version of you to keep the peoples’ interest and attention. That is how you keep up with the changing times and appeal to the doubters. It is how you get new followers to replace those who are suffering from the fatigue of having the same face around.

Come 2026, Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni will be counting 40 years at the helm. There is almost nothing that is not known about him, especially what he can deliver and what is beyond his capacity. He has done all it takes to present himself as a fresh face at every election. Straight from the bush in 1986 he was to stay for four years then return to his animal farm. He asked for another five years to leave Uganda with a constitution that would ensure peace and stability which took him to 1995. Then he stayed on for 10 years to test the 1995 Constitution while enjoying the two terms that the Constitution granted him. By 2005 Africa’s problems were too big and complicated to be solved in just 10 years. Out went the term limits.

By 2010 Museveni was thinking about the Pan African dream. Uganda would be nothing in a weak Africa. He alone had the vision to help create a strong and viable continent in which Uganda would stand proud, strong and secure. Come 2015 there was a need to consolidate the gains of the revolution. Besides, the army was not yet organised and modernised to secure Uganda since it had been preoccupied with fighting insurgency in Northern Uganda for most of the decades NRM had been in power. Out went the age limit since it needed an experienced person (him) to accomplish the task.

By 2021 there was a need to secure the future of Uganda, East Africa and Africa in the face of complicated global challenges. These needed proper analysis and steady hands that had been at the wheel (him.)

In all that time Museveni was not operating in a vacuum. There was always opposition to his bid.

As happens when things are going out of fashion, with every election Museveni became difficult to sell. He thus became more aggressive. He had no choice but to apply more brawn than brain. Dr Kizza Besigye and his followers will tell this tale of sweat, blood and death. 2021 brought a new force of opposition to NRM from outside the NRM fold unlike the Besigyes who had been insiders. Daring young people rallying around musician turned politician, Robert Kyagulanyi, a.k.a. Bobi Wine, of NUP.

He captured their imagination and yanked the Buganda region out of NRM and Museveni’s hand. Museveni adopted all manner of young people to counter Bobi Wine. Musicians, comedians, clowns, and all manner of riff raffs. Many became Presidential advisors who would at times spew obscenities to counteract Bobi Wine. They did not make a sale. Rough house tactics took over. NUP brought out an unprecedented amount of violence from NRM. The unmarked Omni bus a.k.a. ‘drone,’ abductions, incarceration in safe houses, torture, and mysterious killings are now part of our politics.

The violence means NRM is coming to terms with the 2021 election and its own weakness and has to rub it in every heart and mind that it is in charge and capable of doing ‘anything’ to stay there. That arrangement means it is also making more and more enemies which makes selling it even more complicated. By 2026 there will be an army of people opposed to the idea of Museveni going on for another term which by the look of things, he is planning to do. So the challenge is how to create a new sellable Museveni. It is already happening in the ‘strangest’ of ways. Being the soldier that he is, Museveni knows a good deal about the use of decoys, tactical withdrawals and the effectiveness of laying an ambush at the right time. For 2026, Museveni will rely on his son, the former commander of UPDF’s Land Forces, Gen Muhoozi Keinerugaba.

His ‘rapid’ promotions in the army and now the countrywide tours, essentially mobilsing the youth are noteworthy. Many who all along claimed that he was a ‘project’ to succeed his father now have their eyes on him. They hear those promoting Muhoozi claiming he is their candidate for 2026.

So the focus now shifts away from Museveni to Muhoozi. They are ‘concerned’ that he flies the national carrier to meet leaders in the region like a roving ambassador. After one such encounter, the Uganda-Rwanda border which had been closed for almost two years was reopened. They read the often colorful and controversial posts on his Twitter handle and get preoccupied debating them, their implications for Uganda and its neighbors, allies and the donor community.

They compare him with his father and many are now beginning to say that they would rather continue with Museveni, despite his weaknesses, than opt for Muhoozi taking his maverick tweets into consideration.

So the more Muhoozi makes controversial and incoherent statements, the more people shift their attention and anger towards him. They will keep running after him like a red herring. Meanwhile Museveni will keep out of the limelight while quietly consolidating and preparing for 2026.

Infact the only time people will refer to Museveni is when asking him to rein in his son and bring him to order. This will work in Museveni’s favour as the one with the power to stop Muhoozi.

By the time they wake up on the eve of 2026 it will be obvious that Muhoozi is not anywhere near his father as far as leading Uganda is concerned.

In fact don’t be surprised if even those fronting Muhoozi come out with a new message claiming that Museveni be given his ‘last term’ to see out the old guard. This will help Muhoozi prepare for a new beginning in 2031 which will see a new NRM revolution with Muhoozi at the helm.

For 2026 it is quite obvious that barring any moment of history like a catastrophe thrown Uganda’s way by nature, Museveni will be on the ballot paper. For now Muhoozi is the decoy that makes him almost defiant in the face of Museveni who has tactically taken a back seat. Museveni will launch a surprise attack to ambush all those who think he is letting go. Then he will focus on 2031 as his next challenge. Watch this space and quote me.

Twitter: @nsengoba