Let me say this upfront: if Lieutenant Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba staged a coup against his father, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the country would surely welcome him.
He will not be as welcome as if he were Dr Kizza Besigye, Asumani Basalirwa or Bobi Wine. He will surely find many open hearts. Ugandans hungry for change are ready to begin with anyone.
Sadly, for many change-lovers, under the intensity of corruption and Mzungu-comprador servitude witnessed under Museveni, the best and non-chaotic change has to come from inside the belly of the beast. This includes mostly Museveni’s close circle and family.
[We used to think this circle included co-conspirators such as Kale Kayihura, Amama Mbabazi, Sam Kutesa or Ruhakana Rugunda, but it seems nowadays, this circle only includes more prominently, brother Salim Saleh, Janet Museveni or Muhoozi Kainerugaba].
Convinced that Uncle Salim Saleh represents the old breed, and Janet Museveni has minimal presidential ambitions, courtiers convinced Museveni that his son was the better bet. Lukewarm towards the idea, Museveni has coyly gambled with his son oscillating him between seemingly strategic positions in the military.
But Museveni remains half-hearted, either because the son does not strike him as smart enough or he still believes in “I hunted my animal,” and “children only inherit estates after parents are dead.”
Let’s start from the beginning: we have all heard the rumours that Museveni’s son, Lt Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba wants the presidency – after his dad. [Or his father wants it for him?] Besides the scattered noises from his friends, and aggressive palace courtiers, the soldier remains shy to state his claim. Let’s assume he actually wants the seat, but because he is a soldier, he is going about it covertly. But what are the odds?
By the end of Museveni’s next five years, Muhoozi Kainerugaba will be 52 years of age. President Museveni will stand in 2026. He will win. Muhoozi will have to wait for another five years. He will be 57. Bowing to public pressure, his father will stand again. Muhoozi will become 63. Phew. Busy with grandchildren, he will continue waiting for his chance – which is clearly no chance.
Dear reader, because I would love to see a Muhoozi presidency, I come here to read this young soldier the prophecy of the oracle at Thebes. This prophecy has made kings and queens, turned ordinary folks into decorated generals: there comes a time when a prince has to slay the king, his father, so as to take the throne. After killing his father, the prince marries his mother as Oedipus did. [Marrying the deceased king’s concubines sounds more modest in our context].
Two things are open secrets about Uganda’s transition from Museveni to anyone else – and once they happen, a chance for a Muhoozi presidency will be gone. First, Mr Museveni is ready to die in State House. Surely, this is visible even to the blind.
But more seriously, after 36 years and counting, he has committed many crimes that a day without the impunity [often euphemised as immunity] that comes with the office he occupies, he will be in jail. Museveni has also seen how powerful, corrupting, privileged, and hypnotizing the office of the presidency can be.
And just the same way he has abused its privileges for sport—against anyone and anything—he dreads the thought of what the new holders of the same office would seek to do against him. Thus, better to die in office than be terribly humiliated in old age.
Committed to death inside State House, it thus means, Museveni is not handing over the presidency to anyone – just like that. It does not matter whether these are his children or wives. Again, for the trance the office drives one into, every time Museveni looks into the future, he does not imagine himself standing aside [not senile, not dead] and watch others take decisions about Uganda or negotiate deals with our Mzungu colonisers without him being involved at the top.
Secondly, when Museveni finally falls—which will only happen in the form of complete body and brain paralysis or death—there will be absolute pandemonium in the country.
The fluidity of this moment makes predicting the outcome terribly complex. But assuming this actually happened next month (God forbid), Muhoozi is in no position to constitutionally take the presidency. His only chance is staging a coup against the person constitutionally in line to take the interim presidency. But the stakes are even higher here with some folks in the military still seeing him as a young boy – a favoured child of the man.
But assuming the first coup were successful, Muhoozi has to beware that the people who have kept his father in office all these years – our capitalist colonisers whom he handed over the economy – are obsessive about elections. Their sense of ‘good governance’ is an election of whatever form.
Does Muhoozi Kainerugaba have the political acumen to successfully run and steal an election? No, he doesn’t. The young lieutenant has remained shy to embrace the public politics. Even NRM-ers do not know how this man sounds. [His choice for Twitter wrestling is clearly politically naïve].
What then remains of Gen. Muhoozi if he ever wanted the presidency? The prophecy: as a good soldier, he is the most qualified to coup his father. This is his only assured window. In fact, if he successfully court-martials his father, or even symbolically jails him, that would complete his transformation from villain to hero.
The author is a political theorist based at Makerere University.