Court summons Muhoozi Kainerugaba over his presidential bid

Lt-Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba.

Lt-Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba. PHOTO | AFP


  • The commander of the country’s land forces first signalled his desire to go public about his presidential ambitions when he auspiciously turned his 48th birthday celebrations towards the end of April into a national event.

Plans by the First Son of Uganda Muhoozi Kainerugaba to succeed his father are facing resistance, with the army lieutenant-general now being dragged to court.

After almost a decade of speculations, Lt-Gen Muhoozi recently expressed his interest in taking the retires in 2026.

The commander of the country’s land forces first signalled his desire to go public about his presidential ambitions when he auspiciously turned his 48th birthday celebrations towards the end of April into a national event.

With several festivities organised countrywide and the main event at State House graced by President Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, the MKAt48 birthday celebrations created quite a buzz in the media and were seen by many as an effort to make Gen Muhoozi popular as he prepares the ground for a shot at the next presidential elections.

The Muhoozi Project—which was coined by Gen David Sejusa in 2013 saying that President Museveni was grooming his son to succeed him when he retires—had been repeatedly denied by both President Museveni and Gen Muhoozi for almost a decade.

But after the much-hyped birthday celebrations, which included a marathon and a football match, Gen Muhoozi seems to have mustered enough courage to publicly express his interest in the presidency, which he did in his typical informal style on May 1 via Twitter, his preferred social media channel.

The general is a prolific Twitter user with more than half a million followers.

“When Team MK wins power in this country, which we will, our first action will be to increase the sports budget,” Gen Muhoozi said on Twitter. “Team MK will announce our political programme soon.”

During Gen Muhoozi’s birthday celebrations at State House in Entebbe on April 24, President Museveni himself hinted that his son would be taking charge when he said that Gen Muhoozi “is impatient” with the corrupt and “will fight them.”

What remains unclear though is when Gen Muhoozi is likely to contest for Uganda’s top post.

His father’s term in office ends in 2026 and Muhoozi himself is still a serving soldier in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).

The Ugandan constitution forbids serving soldiers from participating in active politics.

It’s on the basis of that section of the supreme law that a concerned lawyer, Gawaya Tegulle, on May 6 petitioned the Constitutional Court.

He is challenging what he calls “unconstitutional acts” by Gen Muhoozi of engaging in political activities.

In his petition, Mr Tegulle claims the acts of Gen Muhoozi dubbed [email protected] that, among others, included national and district birthday celebrations as well as political pronouncements in general and the manifest presidential campaigns in particular on his Twitter handle,@MK [@mkainerugaba], are inconsistent with Article 208 (2) of the Constitution that provides that UPDF shall be non-partisan, and national in character.

On Monday, the Constitutional Court summoned Gen Muhoozi to respond to a petition in which he is accused of expressing his presidential ambitions yet he is still a serving army officer.

According to court documents, the First Son has been given 10 days to file his defence upon receipt of the summons.

Also summoned is Uganda Chief of Defence Forces Wilson Mbadi (CDF) and Attorney General Kiwanuka Kiryowa, who are the co-defendants.

“Should you fail to file an answer on or before the date above mentioned, the petitioner may proceed with the petition which may be determined in your absence,” reads in part the court summons signed off by the registrar.

On March 8, Gen Muhoozi informally announced his retirement from the army on Twitter, fuelling speculations that he intended to leave the army and launch a political career. He, however, backtracked just a few hours later.

“After 28 years of service in my glorious military, the greatest military in the world, I am happy to announce my retirement,” Gen Muhoozi tweeted before “clarifying” a few hours later that he would be “leaving the army after eight years.”

However, one of the members of the “Team MK”, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said “the so-called political programme is not yet out and it’s the Commander in Chief (Yoweri Museveni) and the Promotions and Commissions Board of the UPDF that are responsible for endorsing his decision to retire from the army.”

According to local political analyst Professor Ndebesa Mwambutsya, whether Gen Muhoozi retires from the army before pursuing a political career doesn’t matter because of what he describes as the discrepancy and double standards by which the country is currently governed.

“In Uganda we operate under invisible powers, meaning that they cannot be held accountable. What works in our cassava republic is the informal, but not the formal, and the Muhoozi Project reflects that. It’s these informal spaces that will determine Uganda’s next president,” he said.

“Muhoozi himself already has an informal position – Presidential Adviser on Special Duties – so anything can be covered under that.”

Professor Ndebesa argues that even though the laws that govern soldiers and their involvement in politics are clear, they “are formal on the surface and informal underneath.”