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Ugandan leader's son unnerves with tweets of ambitions

Ugandan leader's son unnerves with tweets of ambitions
FILE - Then Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, right, son of Uganda's President Yoweri...   -  
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Hajarah Nalwadda/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.


On Twitter, the Ugandan president’s son has mused about invading neighboring Kenya, praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, and offered cattle for the Italian prime minister's hand in marriage.

While many of his tweets are dismissed as laughable, the ones about succeeding his father in this East African nation are a source of concern for some.

Many Ugandans want decisive political change after nearly four decades of the same government, but the son of President Yoweri Museveni is already claiming victory. “I will be President of Uganda after my father,” Muhoozi Kainerugaba tweeted earlier this month. “Those fighting the truth will be very disappointed!!!”

Museveni, 78 and in power for 37 years, hasn't said when he will leave office. Kainerugaba is at the peak of his military career as a four-star general who is a linchpin of the security apparatus supporting Museveni.

But at 48, Kainerugaba is now six years older than his father was when he became president, underscoring what some see as the root of his increasingly impatient claim to the presidency. 

Does Kainerugaba, described by some Ugandans as the "standby generator," have a legitimate path to the presidency? Or will he take matters into his own hands?

"If even the son could no longer bear his father’s endless rule, why should others tolerate it?" asked columnist Alan Tacca, writing in the Daily Monitor newspaper. “Right now, many of his supporters and professional opportunists seem unsure which way to jump."

Kainerugaba has staged rallies in the past year that he says are to introduce him to youth across the country, even though serving army officers are legally barred from engaging in partisan affairs. He also has attacked the ruling party, led by his father, as a “reactionary” group full of corrupt criminals.

The son's verbal attacks have sparked a backlash, with the vice president saying Museveni will run again in 2026 and other officials asserting their faith in the president.

The president's son could not be reached for an interview.

Kainerugaba, who is currently serving as a military adviser to his father, was born in neighboring Tanzania when Museveni was active in the clandestine struggle against Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. He attended boarding school in Uganda before receiving his military education in Britain and the U.S. He has never served in a civilian capacity.

His quick rise through the army ranks proved controversial over the years amid allegations of a secret project to groom him for the presidency. A purge in recent years of Museveni’s contemporaries in the military is widely seen as paving the path for Kainerugaba, whose perceived allies now control a wide range of military assets.

Museveni has said nothing publicly to disavow or encourage Kainerugaba’s political ambitions. But while celebrating the son’s birthday last year, he warned that while he was patient with corrupt officials, this was not the case with Kainerugaba. “He will fight corruption," said Museveni. The comment was seen as a sign that Museveni sees Kainerugaba as Uganda’s future leader.

But many have doubts about the president’s son.

Those who know him say he is impulsive, citing his comments on Twitter. Museveni once had to apologize to Kenya for a tweet that said Uganda’s forces could take its capital, Nairobi, in two weeks. Museveni then removed Kainerugaba as infantry commander even as he promoted him to the highest military rank. Despite the rare public rebuke of his son, Museveni cited “many other positive contributions the general has made and can still make.”

Yet Kainerugaba continues to tweet provocatively. “In the cannibalistic politics of NRM, let me say this, those who fight my father, fight me and those who fight me, fight my father,” he tweeted in January, speaking of the ruling party.

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