Lt. General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Commander of Land Forces and son to President Yoweri Museveni has announced his retirement from the army, fueling speculation that Uganda’s ruling family might be working on some form of political transition.
Since 1986 when President Museveni first came to power, senior army officers retiring from the army has always been a big deal, as some are stopped for fear of helping to strengthen the opposition. As such several analysts believe Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s retirement is a tacit sign showing the house of Museveni, is working on a transition that would see the presidency handed to a younger member of the family.
Muhoozi Kaineruba who made the announcement via Twitter didn’t talk about future plans, but most analysts are pointing to politics, as the next step.
“After 28 years of service in my glorious military, the greatest military in the world, I am happy to announce my retirement,” Muhoozi announced via his Twitter handle.
He also spoke about the so much, he has achieved with his soldiers, an interesting phrase for analysts and politicians that have always viewed Lt. Gen Muhoozi’s rapid rise in the army as a way to strengthen President Museveni’s and his family’s power.
“Me and my soldiers have achieved so much! I have only love and respect for all those great men and women that achieve greatness for Uganda every day,” he said.
The tweet prompted questions around the 28-year service period mentioned in the tweet when records available to the public show Muhoozi possibly joined the army in 1997, but the official record reflected 1999.
His official record suggests 24 years, but analysts are focusing on the politics of this retirement, as influencers allied to the Museveni family have been sharing a hashtag, campaigning for a Muhoozi presidency in 2026.
He is now trying to become a politician,” says Yusuf Serunkuma a scholar at Makerere Institute of Social Research.
Dr. Fredrick Golooba-Mutebi a political and governance researcher agrees this retirement could be political in nature.
“It has been discussed variously that for him to have a shot at succeeding his father, he would have to leave the army,” says Mutebi.
Dr. Mutebi adds that leaving the army opens the way for Muhoozi to vie for the chairmanship of the ruling National Resistance Movement. As Chairman of the NRM, the way would have been opened for Muhoozi to become a presidential candidate.
“The question would then become how the party and his various supporters go about getting him (Muhoozi) to win an election,” says Mutebi.
While Muhoozi’s possible ascendance to the Presidency has been discussed since the 1990s when it emerged that Museveni’s son had recruited about 100 fresh graduates to accompany him in the army, the fear by politicians then, was that the President was trying to create a part of the army that would be controlled by his son. Since for a long time, Muhoozi Kainerugaba oversaw the Presidential protection unit, many of Museveni’s opponents consider that this has come to pass.
Another issue that has been raised previously, is an alleged attempt to purge anyone against, what is colloquially known in Uganda as the Muhoozi project.
In 2013, General David Sejusa, formerly known as Tinyefuza and President Museveni’s bush war comrade headed into exile in the United Kingdom, after he leaked a memo to a local newspaper, in which he as the coordinator of intelligence services requested the director of the internal security organization to investigate a rumour alleging a plot to assassinate Ugandan government officials opposed to the Muhoozi project.
The local newspaper that published the letter was closed for a while, and the government banned discussion of the subject, which according to some analysts was an acknowledgment of Lt. Gen Muhoozi’s lack of popularity.
“There is a view that he (Muhoozi) couldn’t possibly win a free and fair election,” observes Dr. Mutebi.
But both Dr. Mutebi and Serunkuma suggest this lack of popularity has been prepared for.
Serunkuma talks about information Muhoozi Kaineruga sponsored over 100 people that made it to Uganda’s Parliament. There are also rumblings around Parliament suggesting the leadership of this second arm of government has been recruited into the Muhoozi project.
According to experts, Parliament is important because it is the other way that the Muhoozi project can be implemented.
“His father has been rigging so how could he (Muhoozi) win?” asks Dr. Mutebi.
“That seems to take us straight to the idea mooted recently, of MPs choosing the President. Museveni claimed that he does not support that idea,” says Dr. Mutebi.
Dr. Mutebi adds that Museveni tends to hide his true feelings when it comes to manipulation of the laws governing how and who to choose Uganda’s President. As such Dr. Mutebi observes that few people would believe President Museveni if he said he wasn’t setting up Uganda for his son to rule, through this amendment of the laws governing elections.
Serunkuma adds that Muhoozi also has another pathway. Serunkuma who has routinely campaigned for a Muhoozi coup against Museveni says the retirement suggests the father is pleased with his son.
Since Museveni still has firm control over the armed forces, which are accused of being the reason Museveni will have ruled Uganda for 40 years at the end of his current term in 2026, Muhoozi can get the Presidency with the help of the UPDF.
“His being retired means Museveni is satisfied the army is firmly in his control. Since the line between retirement and active service is not there for members of Museveni’s family, they will still have the ability to control soldiers,” says Serunkuma.
Serunkuma highlights the case of President Museveni and his brother Salim Saleh both of whom are retired but firmly control the army to illustrate his point. He also highlights the fact that retirement from the army is controlled to keep Museveni’s opposition weak, highlighting the case of long-time opposition activist Kiza Besigye who had to use subterfuge to leave the army.
Kiiza Besigye, who was the President’s doctor during the 1980-1986 guerilla war that brought Museveni to power tricked the army into retiring him, without the political leadership’s knowledge.
Dr. Besigye who has also been President Museveni’s closest challenger in the four elections he participated in faced harassment, after retiring and launching his political career. Other senior officials including the now-deceased army commander, Gen. Aronda Nyakirima never got retired. Gen. Sejusa, another bush war comrade of President Museveni’s has been trying to retire since 1996 but without success.