KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Breaking ranks with the military high command, a general is accusing President Yoweri Museveni of trying to ensure his son replaces him, the first top official to raise concerns about the purported succession plan.
David Sejusa, one of only six generals in the Ugandan military and a member of its high command, said in a recent letter to the head of the internal security service that he wants an investigation into allegations that those opposed to Museveni’s son as a future leader could be targeted for assassination.
The allegations by a military official believed to be near the center of power have shocked many in Uganda. The army’s top commander ruled Sejusa “out of order” and accused him of subverting the country’s military laws. Some analysts now believe the apparent division among the military’s top brass suggests a power struggle amid uncertainty over when Museveni, in power for almost three decades, will retire and who might replace him.
Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the army’s top commander, issued a statement Tuesday saying the military was offended by Sejusa’s letter, in which Sejusa alleged that the idea of Museveni’s son taking over as president when his father retires “is becoming divisive and creating fertile ground for causing intrigue” in the armed forces.
“The (Ugandan military) takes exception to the fact that the spirit of the general’s letter simply champions the agenda of the radical and anarchic political opposition, hence rendering him partisan,” Nyakairima’s statement said. “I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the general public that the (Ugandan military) is a cohesive, effective, efficient and pro-people force … loyal to the people, the commander-in-chief and the constitution of Uganda.”
Museveni’s son, a senior army officer named Muhoozi Kainerugaba, has been rapidly promoted over the years, leading some to believe he’s being groomed to succeed his father. Last year he was made an army brigadier in changes that also saw him become the top commander of the country’s special forces, an elite unit widely seen as the most powerful in the military. The special forces guard the country’s oil installations and are also in charge of the president’s security. In this position Kainerugaba answers to his father.
Museveni, himself a serving army general, has never publicly said he wants his son to succeed him. But rumors to the contrary have persisted, fuelled in part by the son’s strong position in a military institution that wields substantial power in this East African country.
Angelo Izama, a Ugandan analyst who runs a security think tank called Fanaka Kwawote, said there was likely a power struggle within the army ranks as the older generation of army officers gradually loses power to the new guard, of which Kainerugaba is the most prominent member. Sejusa is one of the original bush-war fighters at the side of Museveni when his rebels took Kampala in 1986.
“The younger officers are now effectively in charge,” Izama said. “Some of these things reflect the older officers’ disenchantment with this state of affairs. Succession has already begun in the military, and it has proceeded apace.”
It remains unclear if Museveni will seek another term in office when his current one expires in 2016.
Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, a prominent Ugandan lawyer and political analyst, said Sejusa had given voice to an issue that few in the military have the courage to speak of.
“It’s a fact that he’s not alone in thinking this way about Museveni’s son,” Rwakafuuzi said. “Many of the army officers haven’t spoken their mind, but they know that Muhoozi’s meteoric rise does not augur well for politics in this country.”