Gen Muhoozi: A man well-known without being known well (Part I)

Author: Mr Nobert Mao. PHOTO/FILE 

What you need to know:

  • Muhoozi cannot escape the scrutiny that comes with being the First Son.  

It was Thucydides who said “of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men most.” That brings me to the unrestrained jamborees that have passed for parties hosted to mark Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s 48th birthday. I have been wondering how to characterise these lavish feasts. I lacked the methodology.

So I simply resorted to the words and actions of the main character. After reading the tweets and watching videos I concluded that the birthdays are a charm offensive with a sting. Velvet concealing a coat of mail. I will return to this theme in my next column.

But who is the lead character in this melodrama? It is not easy being the son of a man many see as a colossus. Ask Jimmy Akena! Men like Adolf Hitler simply didn’t bother to have any offsprings. Even the husbands of famous women struggle to be visible in the shadows cast by their elevated better halves.

In the parliamentary garden parties Miria Matembe’s husband was a regular star. Everybody wanted to meet the husband of a woman projected as larger than life. Muhoozi cannot escape the scrutiny that comes with being the First Son. But let me first start with the facts that speak to his credentials. The interpretation will come later.

Because of the polarity and the “us” versus “them” politics, Muhoozi is presented as a man hiding behind his father’s profile. One would think if he were asked to bring his CV, he would simply produce his birth certificate! While we can assume that his privileged birth has parted many waters for him and provided him with stepping stones and tailwinds, we will also grant him his due on account of his efforts. After all, how many in similar circumstances have been given ladders to scale the heights only to set the wood ablaze for temporary warmth! 

So we place him in Kampala Parents from where he sat his Primary Leaving Exams and joined Kings College Budo for a year. He then went to St Mary’s College Kisubi until 1994 after which he joined Nottingham University where he obtained a Political Science degree in 1997. Upon return he was embroiled in a controversy about his status in Uganda’s military. The President claimed he was an enthusiastic member of the Local Defence Unit (LDU) who was doing a lot to interest his peers in a military career. In 1999 he was formally enrolled in the army. That same year he married Charlotte Nankunda Kutesa. The couple have three children.

In 2000, he went to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst from where he graduated as an officer cadet and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on return. He was also appointed head of the Combat Readiness Unit within the Presidential Protection Unit (PPU). Soon he was made Captain before being sent to the Egyptian Military Academy. In Egypt he took the company and battalion commanders courses. When he returned he was promoted to the rank of Major in the renamed Presidential Guard Brigade. While in that post he continued attending various military courses like the Kalama Armoured Warfare Training School, in Kabamba, Mubende District. Between 2007 and 2008 he attended the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 

On return he was made a Lieutenant Colonel and appointed commander of the Special Forces Group within the UPDF. Thereafter, he went and attended the Executive National Security Programme at the South African National Defence College. He continued to rise through the ranks in leaps and bounds. In 2016, he became a Major General. In 2017, he was appointed Senior Presidential Adviser for Special Operations. On February 8, 2019, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General. At the time of writing this article he has been given the additional responsibility as Commander of Land Forces.

Now that we have the profile, we shall next decipher the 2022 celebrations and why they became such a thing of national significance. What does Muhoozi believe in? What are his ideals? What message has he got for the public whether they be adoring fans or harsh critics? Apart from his 45th birthday party held in 2019 in Munyonyo, the earliest known and recorded birthday Muhoozi celebrated was when he turned 12.

In the videos he is serenaded by a loving family. It is a small family affair. Child soldiers (kadogos) attended the party and Muhoozi is seen mingling freely with them. I wonder what was going on in the mind of a 12 year old. Did this ignite his aspiration for a military career?