SUCCESSION DEBATE RAGES! Ugandans beg First Son to join politics, say ‘Muhoozi revolution’ is unstoppable

BY VENENSCIAS KIIZA

On April 26, Gen Muhoozi posted this photo on his Twitter handle with a caption: “They were joking with us until they saw how strong we are! Uganda is ours! No one shall ever intimidate us! Uganda belongs to Team MK!

A section of Ugandans are begging the First Son who is also the Commander Land Forces in the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces, Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, to capitalize on his 48th birthday bash to join politics.

They opine that the outpouring birthday messages on social media and the turn up on various events countrywide to mark the day—from all political divides, business community, corporates, musicians, old and young, and the common people including Boda boda riders—sent a strong message to those with future political interests.

“It was an endorsement that he can put up a formidable challenge and become a force to reckon with once he joins active politics,” those this Newspaper talked to reasoned.

To the fans, the Birthday bash was a testimony that Gen Muhoozi, 48, has support of the army, has a national character appeal, he is recognizable, easy to sell, lovable, scandal free, energetic, able to build a winning coalition, sensitive to tribal and religious politics and among others—which all qualify him for any political office of his choice including the Presidency.

To some Ugandans “it’s now or never” and the “Muhoozi revolution is an unstoppable”, adding that his political charm is starting to permeate all aspects of Ugandans especially the youth whom they see as their generational leader.

According to political pundits who have been studying how politics of succession will play out in the post Museveni era, in the grand scheme of NRA/NRM politics, the Birthday bash officially introduced Gen Muhoozi to the political sphere.

Many Ugandans have been talking about the succession, and judging by the reactions from social media, mainstream media (print, TV and radio), Muhoozi’s entry will be welcomed by many quarters.

Observers further add that this should not come as a surprise as it implies that the Patriarch could be in the final lap. It was expected. This is what it is. And it should be.

During the Birthday prayers at Cricket Oval Lugogo on Saturday, Pastor Aloysius Bugingo, of  the House of Prayer Church, also known as Canaan Land in Makerere Kikoni in Kampala and proprietor of Salt Television and Salt Radio (That accorded Gen Muhoozi Birthday activities live coverage free of charge) publicly proclaimed that; Muhoozi is the anointed son to replace President Museveni. He called upon God to bless Gen. Muhoozi to ensure he ascents on the throne of power peacefully, which was received by a thunderous applause from guests present.

Gen Muhoozi’s Presidential endorsements are awash on Facebook page; Muhoozi Project, which is followed by majority youth in Uganda and the diaspora.  “MK is our next President. Mission 2026”, reads one of Muhoozi Project Facebook Posts.  The Muhoozi Project Facebook page ran almost all the activities to mark Gen Muhoozi’s Birthday. These include; Muhoozi Birthday run at Kololo Independence Grounds, which climaxed in the grand Birthday public celebrations at the Oval Cricket grounds in Kampala and Muhoozi Birthday state dinner at State House, Entebbe in which President Paul Kagame of Rwanda attended. President Paul Kagame hailed Lt.Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba for the peace mission between Uganda and Rwanda.

In another related Facebook posts, Balaam Ateenyi Barugahara, the Muhoozi Project National Coordinator and proprietor of two local FM Radio stations; Radio 4 and Radio 7 wrote: “We shall stand by you till you occupy the State House once our beloved Papa Gen Yoweri Museveni decides to retire one day. You are our Glory to be.”

Martha Byabagambi, President, Business and Management, at Kampala International University (KIU) and CEO Marth Events also wrote on her Twitter handle; @AinweruhangaMa1: “Thank you Gen @mkainerugaba for the invitation to join you for your Birthday party. Everything turned out pleasant and interesting. The time simply flew by. Much appreciation for my next President Mission 2026”.

WIDER PICTURE

This should not come as a surprise. In the grand scheme of NRA/NRM politics, Gen Muhoozi is classified as a shareholder. He could be having minority shares. He is a son of the revolutionary leader, implying inheriting some shares automatically. In his speech during a private dinner to celebrate Muhoozi as he made 48 years on earth at State House on Sunday, Gen Museveni went on to reveal that he (Muhoozi) was the earliest Kadogo of the Resistance (only second to Julius Kategaya [Son to Eriya Kategaya (RIP)] who took another path). He went on to add that he (Muhoozi) is also an early veteran at 5 years when we were arrested in Kireka by “our UPC allies, they were planning to send us to God but our force with Kagame and Saleh rescued us. I do not know what impact that scenario had on him, because he was a prisoner of war.”  Gen Muhoozi has also amassed a wealth of experience  in leadership and statecraft . He  has been serving  in the army since 1999 in various capacities, undergone advanced courses and training in military, and often deployed in daring missions—the latest is the UPDF offensive in Eastern DRC against rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) which he is overseeing. He is also a presidential advisor on special operations.

SUCCESSION PLAN

According to pundits, Gen Muhoozi may not succeed his father immediately with speculations that there could be a stopgap leader to facilitate a transition. There are always front runners in any political setup, and analysts opine that after Gen Museveni, the possible successor is unpredictable because there are few apparently. This means surprise names will emerge from these groups— NRA historicals, the army, First family, opposition (but allied to NRM) or from a splinter group within the NRM. But one must have support of the army, must have a national character appeal, recognizable, easy to sell, lovable, scandal free, energetic, able to build a winning coalition, sensitive to tribal and religious politics and among others—Muhoozi,48, possesses all these.

Going by President Museveni’s words on Sunday during a private dinner to celebrate Gen Muhoozi’s 48th birthday, it was construed that the Patriarch may be ready to listen to the former if he decides to talk about joining politics.

Gen Museveni said: “To the parents, listen to what your young people say, give them your opinion, but don’t suppress them.  That’s what I have been doing for my children, you may be suppressing something good.”

SUCCESSION: BY BIRTH OR COMPETITION

It also goes without mention that even in other democratic nations like the U.S, Kenya, the Philippines, South Korea and others, leaders have always left power after preparing their relatives for future political maneuvers.

This is how Vera Songwe, a Nonresident Senior Fellow – Global Economy and Development, Africa Growth Initiative Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary – United Nations Economic Commission for Africa stresses this point: “The experiences indicate that citizens are willing, through a contested process and based on an individual’s merit, to elect family members of former heads of state. Notably, in cases like these, usually the family members do not immediately follow their parent; there is a time lag between the two. Africa has a more mixed experience. Seven countries on the continent have had both father and son (and one brother) lead the country: Botswana, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Gabon, Togo, Mauritius, and Malawi (Morocco and Swaziland are excluded from the list since they are kingdoms). In each of these cases, the succession process has been different, as has the interim between father and son. Three sons of a founding father (the first president or prime minister after independence) are currently in power in Botswana, Kenya, and Mauritius—President Ian Khama, President Uhuru Kenyatta, and Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, respectively. In the case of all three, the succession took place over a decade after the father left office: In Botswana, Khama was elected 27 years after his father left office, while in Kenya, Kenyatta was elected 34 years after his father, and, in Mauritius, Ramgoolam was elected 13 years after his father. Therefore, enough time had elapsed in which citizens could assess the impact and results of the father’s leadership and make an informed decision regarding the son. By the time the sons became president, the three countries had a history of contested elections, and each one took over in generally peaceful elections and under stable constitutions. Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika similarly was elected president years after his brother’s death in office. On the other hand, some sub-Saharan countries have experienced immediate succession by the son of the head of state after his father’s death, often leading to decades of rule by a single family. With President Gnassingbé’s reelection, his family will have run Togo for over 87 percent of its 55-year post-independence history, with five more years to go. Gabon has a similar experience: With a father and son at the head of the country for over 86 percent of the country’s post-independence history (1967-2009 and 2009-2015)—47 out of almost 55 years—and the son is still in power. In the DRC, President Joseph Kabila came to power in 2001 immediately following the untimely assassination of his father. Altogether, the Kabilas have ruled the DRC for a third of the country’s post-independence history—almost 18 years. The Rangoolam family of Mauritius has similarly ruled the country for over half of its independence history, for 20 out of 39 years. However, as noted above, succession was not immediate from father to son but rather through a contested process with two leaders in between.”

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