Has Museveni Positioned Muhoozi Closer to Power or Pushed Him Away? Insights from the Army Spokesperson

In the last weekend, the announcement that General Muhoozi Kainerugaba was appointed as the Chief of Defence Forces in Uganda sparked a flurry of discussions among political analysts and the general public alike. This development has led to widespread speculation regarding the intentions behind this significant appointment, as General Muhoozi had been engaged in quasi-political activities across Uganda for over a year, with his supporters openly declaring him as the desired successor to his father, who has been in power for 38 years.

During his quasi-campaign activities, Muhoozi expressed his interest in governing Uganda, with presidential elections only two years away. This appointment as the Chief of Defence Forces has raised questions about whether President Yoweri Museveni is grooming his son for succession or distancing him from power to curb his political ambitions.

BBC Gahuzamiryango spoke with Brigadier General Felix Kulayigye, the spokesperson for the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), in an effort to clarify these speculations. General Kulayigye insisted that there were “no other reasons” for President Museveni’s decision to appoint his son as the chief of defence forces. He stated, “The President has the prerogative to appoint military officers as he sees fit. General Muhoozi has previously commanded land forces…it is within the President’s discretion to bring him back to continue the work he started through the land forces and now in the entire UPDF.”

According to Uganda’s Constitution, like in many other countries, military personnel are not allowed to engage in political office campaigning. Recently, Muhoozi hinted at resigning from the military, presumably to pursue his political ambitions, by posting a message on X (formerly Twitter) about his departure from the military, which he later deleted. Nevertheless, he continued political activities by founding the MK Movement to support his political aspirations, which was last year renamed to Patriotic League of Uganda, further fueling speculations about his political ambitions.

This situation led Ugandans and regional observers to more firmly believe that General Muhoozi is being positioned for succession. However, Brig Gen Kulayigye clarified, “Muhoozi remained a general in the army and has not retired. I’m not aware of his political activities as I have not followed them closely. His return is welcomed [by us] as we are familiar with his capabilities and are prepared for him to lead us towards our goals.”

Muhoozi, who is known for openly expressing his views on X, has not commented on his appointment as the chief of defence forces. However, he retweeted messages from some deputies and supporters in the Patriotic League of Uganda, praising President Museveni’s decision.

When asked about the possibility of Muhoozi succeeding his father, Gen Kulayigye responded that every Ugandan citizen has the right to run for office. “If General Muhoozi decides to enter politics, he would resign like any other and pursue a political career. As I mentioned, if he wishes to do so, there’s no objection to that.” Regarding concerns about Uganda’s presidency being perceived as a hereditary position, he countered, “What about Uganda? Didn’t Bush’s son become the President of the United States following his father? Why wasn’t that questioned? Therefore, it’s conceivable that Muhoozi could succeed his father, as any citizen has the right. Should he or anyone else decide to run and win, and if Muhoozi, as a former general, requests to retire, we see no reason why the relevant authorities would object.”