KAMPALA, Uganda – Uganda’s long-time president promoted his son to a two-star general, bolstering speculation that the son is being groomed to succeed his father.
With the promotion, President Yoweri Museveni’s son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, becomes a major general and remains the top commander of Uganda’s special forces, an elite unit within the regular army that is mainly in charge of protecting the president and top government officials.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said Tuesday that Kainerugaba is one of five army officers promoted in changes announced late Monday.
Many Ugandans believe Kainerugaba, 42, is being prepared to eventually succeed Museveni, who has ruled this East African country for 30 years. Museveni has denied he wants his son to be his political heir, saying that Uganda is not a monarchy.
Still, speculation over a secret succession plan has persisted over the years, driven in part by Kainerugaba’s meteoric rise in the army and the influence he now wields as the boss of the special services unit.
Many of Museveni’s colleagues alongside whom he fought the bush war that brought the president to power in 1986 have died or are in retirement, leaving a group of young officers holding command positions in the military. Many of those officers were recruited by Kainerugaba and are believed to be loyal to him.
“Kainerugaba is the leader of a certain band of people” around whom he is consolidating his power in the army, said Nicholas Sengoba, a political analyst and newspaper columnist in Uganda.
Although he was initially praised in the West as a reform-minded African leader, Museveni, 71, is increasingly accused by some critics of being a dictator. His main rival, Kizza Besigye, was charged last week with treason for leading protests challenging Museveni’s election victory in February.