By Dr. Muniini K. Mulera
Many Ugandan political commentators appear to be convinced that the “presidential succession” game is already in play. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, son of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, has already been anointed the leading candidate. Numerous people, at home and abroad, are falling over each other to be seen to be Muhoozi loyalists and campaigners.
I believe that most people make conscious decisions with self-interest in mind. The decision to support a political candidate, idea or action is frequently preceded by rational consideration. Promoters of the Muhoozi Project are staking a claim to become the new “historicals” of his reign. Many genuinely like him and believe he is best suited to be Uganda’s next ruler.
Others are loyal to the ruling House of Kaguta and want to keep power at Rwakitura. Yet others, professional, opportunists, are positioning themselves in the queue to eat from Muhoozi. They would just as happily eat from any of his potential rivals for the presidency. I call them the non-partisan patriots. Their stomachs do not have political opinions.
I defend all these folk’s democratic right and freedom to choose their candidate for president. They know what they are up to. I offer them no words of caution, except to urge them to contain the temptation to see their candidate’s opponents as enemies.
It is to the crowds of excited people who know very little about Muhoozi Kainerugaba and know nothing about the game that is in play, that I sound a word of caution. Human gullibility is the great curse of the species. Group think, the consequence of instinctive conformity, is the enemy of considered decisions. A herd mentality is the most potent saboteur of human independence. The desire to belong overpowers our doubts. We ask no questions. Loud voices of the charismatic blur warning signs. Gifts of cash drive the sane into songs-of-praise, even as disaster looms. We have seen these many times before. We hope you will do better. So, it is time for you to take a deep breath and ask the right questions, like:
Is what I hear about the Muhoozi 2026 Project true? Do his statements and actions make sense to me? Does his father’s reaction to him make sense? What does history and my experience tell me? What is the real play before us? Where do I fit in this play? To whose benefit is the game being played? Mine or theirs? Am I a tool or a beneficiary?
First things, first. Where is the evidence that Museveni is about to let go of his throne? Does our president look like a man who believes that he is subject to the disabling mental and physical ravages that advancing years inflict on mortals? Forget his past contempt for old men like Malawi’s Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Cote D’Ivoire’s Felix Houphet Boigny, and Tunisia’s Habib Bourguiba who stayed in power long after their “best by” dates. He probably has a very favourable view of these African patriots.
In any case, at 78, Museveni is not even among the top dozen oldest current executive rulers and leaders. He is younger than Cameroun’s Paul Biya (89), Palestine’s Mahmoud Abbas (87), Saudi Arabia’s Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (86), the Vatican’s Pope Francis (85), Kuwait’s Nawaf Al Ahmad Al-Jabbar Al-Sabah (85), Iran’s Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei (83), Namibia’s Hage Geingob (81), Cote D’Ivoire’s Alassane Ouattara (80), Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (80), Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa (80), America’s Joe Biden (80 next week), Nigeria’s Muhammad Buhari (80 next month).
Second, where has this oft-repeated claim that Muhoozi is tired of waiting for his father’s job come from. The idea here is that Muhoozi has launched a campaign to democratically depose his father. I have read reports that there now exist pro-Museveni and pro-Muhoozi factions in the National Resistance Party. While the gullible may have taken sides in anticipation of a showdown, they are probably in for a big surprise.
Museveni is not the type to tolerate a challenge from any quarter, not even from his son. His normal response to rumours of a potential challenge is to unleash an all-out assault against the pretender to his throne, decapitate that individual’s political machine, and leave him or her dazed, disoriented, and drained. Brave men like Kizza Besigye and Mugisha Muntu fight on without Museveni ceding an inch of peaceful change to them. Others surrender to him, seek forgiveness and rehabilitation, become publicly mute and quietly endorse his life presidency.
It stands to reason, then, that had Muhoozi’s campaign been without his father’s blessing, the bells would be tolling for the hapless, ambitious pretender to the throne. There is no way Museveni would have allowed his son’s so-called birthday parties and army retirement celebrations that are undisguised political campaigns.
Muhoozi’s alleged statements in support of rebel groups in neighbouring states, declarations of a rebirth of Bacwezi rule, the claimed ease of a military expedition to Nairobi, and other utterances about international affairs, have caused consternation among many who take diplomacy and foreign relations seriously. Some have dismissed Muhoozi’s statements as those of an unstable individual.
A word of caution: while those statements may have come from a lone ranger, they may have been teasers from conversations heard at high-powered gatherings. Provocative language in politics is almost always uttered with a purpose. You dismiss Muhoozi’s words at your peril. Wise are they who take his words very seriously and seek interpretation and understanding of the game.
So, what may the game be about? Could it be that Museveni is promoting a Muhoozi candidacy, complete with his worrisome statements, to warn Ugandans that removing Museveni at this time might leave them in the hands of one who is not ready to rule them?
Alternatively, could it be that Museveni is introducing his son to the country, to have a back-up ruler in the event of nature interfering with the health of a man that, we are told, is God’s anointed? While Museveni plans to continue to rule beyond 2026, having Muhoozi ready to take over at short notice is an insurance strategy for one with dynastic plans. The recent examples of Chad, Congo Free State, Eswatini, Gabon, and Togo come to mind. Their dead rulers were succeeded by their sons.
Where do you, Tingasiga, fit in this play? To whose benefit is the game being played? Yours or theirs? Are you a tool or a beneficiary? I do not presume to think for you. I just remind you to think and make up your mind. Based on facts, not emotions.
Muniini K. Mulera is Ugandan-Canadian social and political observer. firstname.lastname@example.org