Muhoozi’s road won’t be as smooth as many think 

Mr Nicholas Sengoba

What you need to know:

  • But his followers applaud in an exaggerated fashion like they want him to notice them and their support.

Last week Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba was in Bukedea, the home turf of the Speaker of the 11th Parliament Anita Annet Among.

A large gathering and all the theatrics akin to the ones witnessed during the campaign season, sent tongues into overdrive regarding the ‘Muhoozi project.’

Muhoozi has already been to places in Buganda, Busoga and places in western Uganda.

Some said that the first son is now consolidating by co-opting those who have support on the ground. That for mobilisation purposes, they will come in handy the day should he choose to embark on replacing his father as President of Uganda, because they are spread all over the country.  

Those speculating say his path is going to be a much easier one than that of his father, because of fatherly advantage.

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni promoted his son very rapidly to the apex of ranks in the army.

Does not reprimand him for breaking military rules by pronouncing himself on political matters yet he is still a serving officer. Some even go as far as claim that Muhoozi is the only army officer who wears a beard (on the chin) which is against standing orders -so he is the special one whose path is being beaten for his comfort.

There are three issues which one should put into perspective before coming to conclusion on how Muhoozi’s path will play out. They are all linked to the road travelled by Museveni. 

When Museveni went to the bush in 1981 he found it very easy to convince people to join him despite the fact that the mission he was taking was dangerous and results not obvious.

The population of Uganda was still very ‘immature’ in matters of politics and understanding politicians who came after the Westminster fashion.

Uganda was only about 19 years old; eight of which were under the force of Idi Amin’s military rule. The others were under the confusion of UNLF between 1979 and 1982.

Then of course the five years after 1966 when Apollo Milton Obote used the gun to become the second President of Uganda.

They could believe or give Museveni the benefit of doubt and take him for his word when he asked them to join him to fight for their rights and change the situation where men with guns carried the day.

The irony not withstanding; the promise to fight; for democracy, against bad elections, corruption, nepotism seemed believable. The method guerrilla warfare was new and rather mysterious.

Then the people of the old school still had a fear and respect for ‘educated people’ and those with authority. Time and circumstances had not exposed many. Today people have become so cynical because time has laid almost everyone bare.

People have seen men of God preach so well then commit adultery, steal and sell church land. They have seen politicians including those of party of  Muhoozi’s father, NRM kill and cheat at elections while promising democracy.

They have seen them failing to deliver on their promises and presiding over a return to the very things they fought against such as corruption, abuse of human rights and nepotism.

So Muhoozi’s support will not come out of standing on a pedestal and merely convincing the people. He will have to depend on patronage which in our circumstances means dishing out groceries.

The other alternative is to impose himself on the people through violence. Both of these paths are very costly.

Secondly Museveni had the advantage of fighting against a government and system that he was not part of. He could stand as the clean outsider and spell out all the mistakes and evils of the UPC government. Museveni could then place all of them squarely at Obote’s feet; with uprooting the whole arrangement and prosecuting the perpetrator being the plausible panacea.

Muhoozi does not have the liberty of criticising the NRM government of Museveni -his father- without implicating himself.

He is a serving soldier in an army that has been widely accused of abusing human rights. It is the army that keeps the corrupt government in power.

He can’t, even as a joke, promise to prosecute anyone for the ills of Museveni’s government should he take power. So in this bid Muhoozi cannot provide even false hope which his father had in full measure. 

Thirdly when Museveni set out on his mission four decades ago, he had almost nothing to his name to reward those who elected to follow him.

People genuinely believed in the cause that he articulated off cuff with quotations, facts, figures, empirical and anecdotal evidence spiced up with proverbs and self-deprecating humour.

It was a memorable joy listening to him. He struck one as well read, clever, convincing and charismatic.

People who follow you when you have nothing usually make reliable friends who can go the distance. It took many people who fought with Museveni up to 30 years into his rule, to notice that he was not after all, what he promised.

Muhoozi is no son of a peasant like Museveni. He has a lot of groceries to dish out to those who follow him and will have to dish them out. The 37 years of Museveni have distorted Uganda’s politics. The social safety net has all but disappeared.

The people are now beholden to anyone who can answer their material and existential needs -not one who articulates issues well.  

Muhoozi who is wont to read from little note books and papers, does not say much or sound like one, out to persuade people.  But his followers applaud in an exaggerated fashion like they want him to notice them and their support.

It is only natural to behave this way because many expect a reward. Most of those who attend his meetings go home after tucking away a plate of rice and a few pieces of meat.

This means that he is not making many authentic friends who believe in his cause. They are positioning themselves to take advantage of the proximity to power which has financial benefits. 

Muhoozi has to keep the groceries coming if he is to retain those followers and recruit more. The challenge is that a person who is with you because you paid them is an unreliable gun for hire whose heart is not in it. That person can be bought by someone else with the right money so you always have to look over your shoulder to be sure. 

Should he choose to go for the presidency, the ride is not going to be as smooth as many think.

Nicholas Sengoba,Twitter: @nsengoba
Plainly speaking