Time for Museveni to control Muhoozi’s tweets

Author: Nicholas Sengoba. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Muhoozi’s tweet seems to contradict Uganda’s allies in the West on matters of global domination that are close to the heart.

In Uganda, some of the most anticipated tweets on the social media App Twitter are those from the UPDF Commander of Land Forces, Lt Gen Muhoozi Keinerugaba, also the First Son, usually fires from the hip and takes no prisoners.

This would not be a problem for he, like everyone else, is entitled to his opinion and takes shelter under the freedom of speech. But the challenge as is with all freedoms, there is a context in which we enjoy them and it all comes with responsibilities plus restrictions.

At times a profession may tie ones hands. For instance a medical doctor does not go disclosing the finer details of a patient’s ailment claiming he has a right to speak. 

By virtue of the office Muhoozi holds in the army and his relationship with the President, his tweets carry a lot of weight and implication especially with regard to national security and foreign policy. They should be weighed in that context before they are made public.

For instance, Muhoozi under his Twitter handle @mkeinerugaba wrote on  September 20, 2021, “ I don’t know why my brothers in Ethiopia are fighting me? It makes me sad. You are now fighting my tribe in Tigray. Tigrayans are part of us. God is the one who protects us!”

Coming from a senior army officer/commander and son to the President, one would almost assume that the Ugandan government sides with a separatist group in another country to either secede or overthrow the sitting government. Yet Uganda has had fairly cordial relations with Ethiopia for a long time. 

 Then on February 28 it was written on the same handle that, ‘The majority of mankind (that are non-white) support Russia’s stand in Ukraine. (Vladimir) Putin (is absolutely right! When the USSR parked nuclear armed missiles in Cuba in 1962 the West was ready to blow up the world over it. Now when NATO does the same they expect Russia to do differently?” 

 Only God knows how Muhoozi gathered the views of the “majority non-whites” but he makes logical sense. Even US Senator Bernie Sanders said the same in the US House of Representatives. But Sanders is not Muhoozi and has legroom as an American legislator.

Muhoozi’s tweet seems to contradict Uganda’s allies in the West on matters of global domination that are close to the heart. You wonder how the US that provides almost $ 970 million to Uganda in development and military assistance annually, will read into this. 

One of Museveni’s greatest strengths - a thing which seriously frustrates his political opponents at home - is his relationship with the West. Over the years the US and the European Union have been critical of Museveni’s governance but in the final analysis, support him as the proverbial ‘devil you know’. Museveni has played a crucial role in the pacification of the Great Lakes region and is an asset in the dubious war on terror especially with regards to Somalia. 

 The minds of his Western allies will be intrigued and somewhat suspicious that their African ally is a sort of Nicodemus who is with Jesus by day and with the Pharisees by night. I am sure they also know about the way Africans get back at the rich and powerful especially during a funeral wake. They facilitate a villager who under the influence will then deride the rich man at times using foul language, reminding him of his arrogance and meanness. The rest of the village will then posture like they are against the nuisance of the loose mouth but pleased deep down, that their message was delivered.  

 On the home front, like him or not, Museveni has distinguished himself as the man in total control of Uganda especially in security matters -which is the cornerstone of his leadership. He is on talking terms with most of the men in uniform including the commanders of small units like squads and platoons headed by Lieutenants. In so doing he keeps up to date and knows how to act to keep the men in uniform in check, putting out possible fires before they erupt.

 What most analysts are asking themselves is, whether Museveni is still firm at it. Does he still exercise the same fearless iron fist control? 

 The type that in 1989 prompted him to sack his hitherto, seemingly ‘untouchable’ brother Maj. Gen Salim Saleh as Army Commander. The country held its breath as Museveni on top of that criticized Saleh for being a drunkard. 

The apprehension stemmed from the history of Uganda. Whoever had tampered with army commanders in the past like Milton Obote with Idd Amin and Godfrey Binaisa with Oyite Ojok plus Museveni as Minister of Defence, ended up being ousted. Museveni instead grew stronger.

 Is the Museveni who sacked Saleh more than 30 years ago, aging and losing his firm grip and control of matters that expose his leadership and the country to risk? Is Muhoozi more powerful than Museveni’s blood brother Saleh to be put on a leash in as far as his tweets and public pronouncements regarding foreign relations and national security are concerned?

I listened to a video clip by Odrek Rwabwogo on ‘ hard decision making.’ Rwabwogo is Museveni’s son in law. He comments on a story in the Bible from 2nd Kings 19 where King David’s son Absolom commits treason and overthrows his father. Joab the commander of the nations forces follows Absolom and kills him. 

 David cries for his dead son which shocks and confuses the army leadership that thought David would be happy that they had stepped in for a national interest cause against treason. 

 David had his judgment blurred because of his family relationship with his son, which now risked national security. Rwabwogo concludes that in decision making, we often need to ‘act against ourselves’. He says we need to take a neutral stand if the outcome of a situation does not favour our positions especially if an issue has festered for so long. We would be well advised to act in the best interests of the organization conclude. 

On Muhoozi’s tweets, Museveni may have to bite the bullet and act against himself and his avenger.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues

Twitter: @nsengoba