Understanding the Muhoozi Project and selling it to Ugandans as a viable alternative to a chaotic transition of power in Uganda
It is testament to how weak the rule of law in Uganda is that I have to start this post with a disclaimer. Obviously there is no concrete proof that the President of Uganda General Tibihaburwa Museveni intends to pass on the presidency to his son Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba. Everything contained herein is innuendo, inference, educated guesswork, hyperbole and academic speculation. It should not be taken as truth but as an attempt to analyse and predict the political environment and actions of the persons herein mentioned. It should be noted that Gen Muhoozi is a serving military leader and thus not expected to engage in partisan politics though as a Ugandan he has a constitutionally protected right to hold any such personal political views as he sees fit.
Now that we have an appropriate disclaimer to cover us from most criminal charges that can be preferred against us for engaging in constitutionally protected speech let us analyze two decades of subtle indicators that there is indeed a Muhoozi Project and why I can be convinced to buy into it. It is a poorly kept secret that African leaders treat their countries as monachies and therefore, they are usually free to do as they please with impunity. In most cases they imprison anyone who dares to disagree with them or openly dissent against the mess we are in (aka status quo). They treat the state treasury as their personal piggy bank to finance their extravagant life styles and enrich their friends and relatives. They preside over increasingly autocratic and unaccountable state agencies manned by corrupt loyalists who engage in broad daylight plunder of public resources. They rely on the military and police to suppress dissent through, torture, kidnaps, extra judicial killings, intimidation of the media and civil society organizations and exercise iron clad control over social media and information infrastructure. They concentrate executive power in themselves and a few loyalists rendering public service and other institutions useless shales to rubber stamp the decisions of a few individuals. There is a fusion of judicial, executive and legislative powers of the state such that there is no real check and balances between the three organs of the state. The judiciary is weakened by intimidation, corruption and incompetent manpower loyal to the ruling Government to the point that it becomes impossible for citizens to access Justice. Furthermore, in most African countries and other autocratic regimes, the leaders choose their own successors who are usually either loyalists or their children. In Europe and china the successor is usually a loyalist handpicked by the autocratic ruler but in Africa, the successor is usually a child of the dictator positioned as a presumptive heir but sometimes it is a loyalist. We do not intend to criticize the government of Uganda by listing the characteristics of autocratic and corrupt regimes in Africa and elsewhere, we are merely tracing for Ugandans the signs and basis of our belief in the existence of the Muhoozi Project.
We have painted for you the general trajectory of African Presidents and our own president has amended the Constitution of Uganda twice to remain in power. President Museveni is few steps away from transforming Uganda into an African monarch. The first obstacle he removed was the presidential term limits and the second obstacle was the presidential age limit leading to forty years of presidency (1986 to 2026). So if forty years of one person rule is not a monarch it is because there is one element missing. In monarchies the eldest son of the king or queen is usually the apparent hire but Uganda is a country and each of us, including myself wants to pretend that we are a Constitutional democracy because then we can maintain the delusional dream of a peaceful transfer of power. Everything that other African leaders have taught us have happened in Uganda including the strategic positioning of a presumptive heir. You would think that in the unfortunate event that our president was recalled to heaven or hell, the vice president will takeover as envisioned by the Constitution of Uganda but if you have been observing the Ssekandi years as vice president then you should be knowing that our vice Presidents are not Presidential material. Gen. Muhoozi has had a remarkable and seemingly staged assent to the highest ranks of the military. I am not qualified to assess whether he merits the military honours and promotions but let us face it, he is the first son. He can not be expected to have the same career trajectory as a normal Ugandan soldier. Some how or somewhere each of us has benefited from the patronage of our parents and the opportunities that they have created for us. We should not be questioning the advantages that Gen Muhoozi has enjoyed from the sweat and struggles of his parents. He deserves the same benefit of his heritage and circumstances as any of us. In the circumstances, I want to give General Muhoozi the benefit of the doubt and buy into the Muhoozi Project for five reasons.
Maybe General Muhoozi has learnt a thing or two from the patronage, upbringing and education of president Tibihaburwa. Regardless of his imperfections and mistakes President Museveni has been a good president. He stabilized a country that was chaotic and oppressive and is responsible for many positive outcomes in Uganda. Many of us aspire for a better Uganda because we are either no longer content with the good things that president Tibihaburwa has shown us or because we are afraid of the inevitable regression if we don’t stop the decline soon enough or both. After all these years of learning from the master, I hope that General Muhoozi has learned a few tricks from him. For example, president Tibihaburwa taught us that you don’t have to kill your political opponents, you can torture them a little bit but later release them and let them operate freely. He also taught us that in the midst of the plunder and oppression of the opposition, you can build a few roads and make a few improvements in the lives of your countrymen. Maybe General Muhoozi has learnt the same lessons as some of us have learnt under the stewardship of president Tibihaburwa. Maybe he has learnt a distain for corruption and secretly deeply cares about Ugandans.
General Muhoozi as a military man must have learnt the importance of duty to country and fellow human beings. He might have learnt the meaning of putting your life in the hands of a fellow man and trusting him to have your back no matter what. Maybe those years of military service have taught General Muhoozi that there are higher aspirations than just power and money. Maybe the esteemed position and privileges that General Muhoozi is accustomed to have opened his eyes to the plight of poor Ugandans and their acute suffering. We know that many previledged people learn to care about those that are less fortunate than them and learn to be more generous and thoughtful that we ever imagined. I am choosing to believe Disney and it’s fairy tale stories.
General Muhoozi has kept his hands generally clean and discreet. Maybe he is involved in atrocities that I am not privy too but we have no criminal record on him. I choosing to believe the clean narrative that has been curated for him. Some might argue that if he actually deplores the impunity and plunder that characterizes his father’s regime, he should have taken a stand but we are forgetting that standing against your father and family is not an easy feat. Maybe behind that militaristic exterior, there is an articulate and intelligent man that can build on the legacy of his father.
The Muhoozi Project might be a better alternative to a Bobi Wine presidency just because it is more probable. Yes there are other Ugandans that are better for Uganda than either choice but none of them stand a chance of becoming president in the current climate. Many of them wouldn’t event stand for public office anyway and therefore we are stuck with the Muhoozi Project, Bobi Wine and other Ugandans we don’t fully believe can create the change that we desire. I genuinely appreciate the courage and strength that Mr. Kyagulanyi manifested in the 2021 elections and I hoped that he could beat the odds and lead to a peaceful transition of power but the cards were always stacked against him and he failed to innovate a way to unite Ugandans around him. Truth be told, Ugandans are tribalistic and they will always be, and they do not trust Buganda and it’s sessionist tendencies. I am sorry Mr. Kyagulanyi but you are unlikely to beat the odds in 2026 even if you are not running against President Tibihaburwa. However much I would prefer a change in leadership in terms of tribe and language maybe General Muhoozi is the most palatable of the available choices. There are just too many questions surrounding Mr. Kyagulanyi and the viability of his presidency. General Muhoozi would probably continue the oppressive and corrupt trajectory of his father’s regime but at least we can expect the continuation of the relative peace and the few democratic elements that exist. Some scholars have suggested that we should burn everything down and start a fresh from scratch. Whereas a clean slate might be attractive to some people, it would take us back to the Stone age. I believe that we are better off building our nation on top of the shaky but strong foundation of the Tibihaburwa regime instead of starting from scratch. I believe that we can erase and remedy the plunder of public resources, we can reinstate the Constitutional safeguards and correct the errors and shortcomings of the Tibihaburwa regime. Maybe with some continuity and a bit of change we can create a new Uganda without devolving into chaos and military dictatorship.
I see hope in the possibility that a Muhoozi president could prevent the devolution into a brutal military dictatorship and civil war. Uganda is home to more than one million refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Burundi and Rwanda. The intersection between these countries is civil War and brutal dictatorship that lead to tribal and religious warfare. I am not interested in Ugandans being refugees in any country not only because the Kenyans and Tanzanians hate us but also because it is something we can avoid. If what is required to maintain the peace and coexistence is a General Muhoozi presidency so be it. What we need to do is embrace a Muhoozi presidency in exchange for some structural changes that strengthen our democracy, remedy decades of plunder of public resources and reinstate and strengthen the Constitutional safeguards against abuse of executive power and dictatorship.
For the reasons above, I think that we can successfully sell the Muhoozi Project to Ugandans as a viable alternative to a chaotic transition of power in Uganda. If the price to be paid for a peaceful transition of power, reinstatement and strengthening the Constitutional safeguards against abuse of executive power and dictatorship and preventing civil war and a brutal military dictatorship is ten years of a Muhoozi presidency, I do not need any convincing. I am completely sold on the Muhoozi presidency if it can achieve only four requirements:
- Reinstate and strengthen the Constitutional safeguards against dictatorship and abuse of power.
- Remedy three decades of plunder of public resources in Uganda.
- Ensure a peaceful transition of power.
- Investment in job creation.
Even if we manage to achieve substantial investment in job Creation and effectively combat corruption and fail to achieve the rest, I am sold on the Muhoozi presidency. Many opposition supporters may not see the writing on the wall but truthfully Ugandans have not yet politically matured to the point of voting for fundamental change. Most Ugandans are content with the peace, security and stability provided by the NRM government and President Tibihaburwa. We need to accept this reality and work with President Tibihaburwa to build a better Uganda because for better or worse most Ugandans still adore the president whether genuinely or for lack of a better alternative. So, I am willing to buy into the Muhoozi presidency.
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