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General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the large adult son of Uganda’s authoritarian president has threatened to invade Kenya, supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and even offered 100 cows as dowry to marry Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s new right-wing Prime Minister.
The tweets to his 600,000-plus followers have on occasion left Ugandan authorities playing damage control.Even now that his father, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, has intervened and told him to stop, General Kainerugaba is still tweeting at a rate that would impress Donald Trump. What gives?Since early October, Museveni has been bickering with his unpredictable 48-year-old son Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who he recently promoted to a four-star General.General Kainerugaba's controversial tweets threatening to invade neighbouring Kenya caused diplomatic tensions between the two countries, and Museveni had to offer a public apology to Kenya in an attempt to contain the fall-out.Bowing to criticism of his son, the president promised that the first son would stop using social media to make political statements in a recorded interview with a local television station on the 17th of October. “He will leave Twitter,” the president said. Museveni said he had a discussion with Kainerugaba and ordered him to stop involving himself in partisan issues. “Twitter is not a problem. The problem is what you are tweeting about.”However, less than 24 hours later, General Kainerugaba posted a defiant tweet directed at his father calling the Twitter ban a “joke.” “I hear some journalist from Kenya asked my father to ban me from Twitter? Is that some kind of joke?” Muhoozi wrote. “I am an adult and NO ONE will ban me from anything.” This has fuelled jitters about a possible row between president Museveni, who has been in power for 36 years, and his army general son, raising fears about the line of succession.
For more than four decades, President Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement party have built an increasingly militarised, authoritarian regime that answers directly to his will. Any dissent is severely punished. Analysts believe this could be why he is treating his son with such extreme caution. President Museveni has found himself in a tight spot, says Charles Onyango-Obbo, a veteran Ugandan journalist and author. “Over the years, he has emasculated his ruling party to a Museveni movement. And as he consolidated his power, he marginalised all the people who had any [chance of taking power] and so Muhoozi is his last defence,” Onyango-Obbo told VICE World News.According to Onyango-Obbo, the fact that Kainerugaba is also the first son has something to do with how lenient the president has been. “But we are quickly getting to a situation where the president must actually stop him, and I think that action will come sooner than later,” he added.
Museveni, 78, is expected to retire soon, and many Ugandans believe that Kainerugaba is being groomed to take over. The weird situation has everything to do with 2026 succession politics. “What we are witnessing is dynasty politics of succession, which is not unique to Uganda,” Ndebesa Mwambutsya, a historian and Senior Lecturer at Makerere University told VICE World News. Kainerugaba has openly stated his desire to inherit the presidency. A week ago, he tweeted a barb at the Ugandan opposition: “To the Ugandan opposition, after my father, I will defeat you badly in any election. Ugandans love me more than they'll ever love you.”
“Kainerugaba is excited by the possibility of this position but he urgently needs to calm down. He needs to sort his ideologies and what he stands for. He needs to come up with his own agenda and not remain in his fathers armpit if he is to succeed and be successful. But importantly he must not forget that he has been put in the limelight by his father and not by his own might. And so, he must show respect for his commander-in-chief as a military man,” says Mwambutsya.Some political analysts who spoke to VICE World News anonymously saw Kainerugaba’s Twitter tirades as calculated risks in his quest for leadership in the longer term. During his tenure as commander of the Special Forces, he used his power successfully to quell growing opposition popularity in the lead up to the last general election, especially after the November 2020 opposition protests against the detention of popular opposition candidate, Bobi Wine. Fifty-four people died during the brief army operation. Kainerugaba and other senior military commanders were named in a complaint at the International Criminal Court at the Hague by the victims of abductions and abuses. in that operation. His success in dealing with the opposition, and specifically Wine, meant he was given greater responsibilities. He negotiated a truce between Uganda and Rwanda over a three-year border closure. But his pact with Rwanda, and a tweet inviting Rwandan forces to join the Ugandan Army fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, quickly landed him in trouble and threatened to destabilise regional balance between the three neighbours. He also tweeted support of the Tigray Defence Forces in November 2021 who are at war with government forces in Ethiopia, which prompted Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, fly to Entebbe to protest.
“We keep seeing Muhoozi relapsing with his tweets, and those kinds of things undermine him in ways that are not necessary. He needs to reposition and he needs a lot more advisors to get him out of this mess,” said Onyango-Obbo.“He sees himself as a candidate for young Ugandans. But to fully be independent of his father’s brand, he needs to seize the moment and articulate around issues of inequalities and freedoms. If he pushes back on some of the current regime’s authoritarian rule, it would bring positive energy for his quest for leadership,” he added.