Muhoozi’s next test; seeing and entering the promised land

Mr Nicholas Sengoba

What you need to know:

  • You fool yourself if you dismiss Bobi Wine as a ‘tribal leader’ popular in only one region.

Last week, 25 or so years after he joined the UPDF, Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba became the gaffer of the force as the new CDF. 
For many it was another clear sign that he is destined for the presidency after what many call accelerated promotions. Muhoozi’s detractors think that the system headed by his father; President Yoweri Museveni, will deliver a smooth sailing to the promised land.

This widely touted notion is significantly based on assumed support and influence from the army he now commands. Whether it is that straight forward, only time will tell. For now, we may start with the ceremony at the 4th Division Headquarters in Gulu where he took over from Gen. Wilson Mbasu Mbadi. It was presided over by Muhoozi’s uncle, Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho, a.k.a Salim Saleh. Saleh, a younger brother to Muhoozi’s father, does not hold a ‘formal’ position in the army. But there he was at the important function; speaking casually about ‘Gen. MK,’ like he was at a family gathering.

Saleh said ‘they’ were happy after convincing Muhoozi to return to the army after he had left informally. He then prompted those in the gathering, who were essentially the serving top brass of the army by saying ‘…so guys you clap for Gen.MK…’ who had promised that he was ‘back for good’. It was like Saleh was speaking to reluctant converts who should have clapped all through to express their honest joy for the return of the prodigal son. But maybe in the army they were waiting for a command, for that is very essential in the forces.  
It remains to be seen for how long his father and uncle will hold his hand and be in his shadow on this journey. Also  if there will be clapping if they are no longer in the picture.
The other very important aspect is the political vehicle Muhoozi rides in on this journey. For now, the political formation Muhoozi had put together for his mobilization the Patriotic League of Uganda (PLU) seems to be on ice. As a serving officer it will not be easy for him to build an outfit from a distance, from scratch and arm it with necessary structures and personnel to launch a serious bid. Even if he attempted, it is very difficult to see him attracting a coterie of patriotic cadres pervaded with self-abnegation. If not seriously watched especially in its formative stage, there is a risk of attracting a new lot of self-seekers with a misguided sense of entitlement, ready to have their turn to eat. Besides, it creates competition with the existing NRM, cutting off some of its weight. 

The available option is to take advantage of the existing NRM structures; many of which are fused and confused with the state for convenience and effectiveness.
The challenge with the NRM is that after 38 years in power it is a brand on the wane and is quickly losing its stock value. The deeply rooted corruption and impunity which in some instances is useful for patronage and mobilization, means two things.

That increasingly you can hardly get anything done for the progress of society because individuals are waiting to cut corners and steal taxpayers’ money. Secondly, you can’t easily punish anyone; for the vice is widespread and intertwined with nepotism. If one is to take action, it may mean sanctioning and alienating their support base, and close relatives. That is the risk that comes with riding on the shoulders of the NRM. Yet at the moment this is Muhoozi’s most plausible option. This option is not going to market him easily among the largest section of Uganda’s youthful population.
These young people are grappling with the challenges of unemployment and are looking for hope and redemption through practical solutions not propaganda.
As such there is a gravitational pull towards what is currently the largest opposition grouping; NUP headed by musician turned politician; Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi a.k.a Bobi Wine.

Bobi Wine is the man for Muhoozi to watch at the moment. Whatever especially the elite, analysts and of course the apprehensive NRM supporters and sycophants say about his humble formal education, lack of sophistication and policy depth etc, he has a sizable following. 

For many young people he is their reflection, made from a poor background in the ghettos, ‘down pressed,’ as Bob Marley would sing, by the excesses and insensitivity of the establishment (NRM.) They aspire to be like Bobi Wine who has pulled himself by the bootstraps to move out of poverty to political prominence. He is a charismatic young leader, great entertainer and communicator. He moves the crowds and the people follow his commands with the ease that attracts followers to cult leaders. Most importantly, he does not pay them to follow him. Muhoozi does not match Bobi Wine in most of these areas.

Bobi Wine as a politician fresh off the press is still a mystery that many may risk betting their shirt on. He does not come with the proven baggage of failure that is carried by an NRM associated actor.
Taking it from the last election in 2021, the support base of Bobi Wine being in Buganda and not Baganda is a point Muhoozi will have to honestly ponder.

 Buganda as a region is a very cosmopolitan area that has attracted all ethnicities overtime. In fact the non-Baganda may outnumber the Baganda in many places in Buganda. The way the region votes and voted for Bobi Wine in 2021 is a reflection of the thinking in the entire country, for it is the heartbeat of the economy and most things that matter. Its pulse has a contagion effect countrywide.

 In the past a popular Museveni also swept the region - before brand NRM started losing its value. You fool yourself if you dismiss Bobi Wine as a ‘tribal leader’ popular in only one region.
The other boxes that include the concerns of global capital and partnership in regional security depend heavily on having the above factors firmly in the bag. A leader who is considered acceptable enough at home is viewed as a going concern. Such can be adopted and supported by global forces to run the political economic unit that is a post-colonial African state like Uganda.
Like it was with Prophet Moses, seeing the promised land and entering it are different issues.

Twitter: @nsengoba