For some time until last week when President Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni reappointed his son Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba commandant of the Special Forces Command (SFC), there was less talk about the Muhoozi project.
For months now, the first son had been largely out of the news, save for the few times he was involved in some war of words with main opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye and political newcomer Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.
Besides these exchanges, Kainerugaba went about his father’s duties in his capacity as the president’s senior advisor on special operations – most of them on security.
But with Museveni returning his son to the SFC, a unit responsible for his security, the president made some think he was now more than ever before determined to execute the Muhoozi project.
For starters, Muhoozi Project talks takes as far as 2013.
That year, Gen David Tinyefuza aka Sejusa penned a letter calling for an investigation into claims that Museveni was planning to use state systems to help his son ascend to the highest office in the land.
Sejusa claimed the plot involved deliberate efforts to kill top security and political officers opposed to the Muhoozi Project.
Sejusa called the plan a “Muhoozi project of Mr Museveni to subvert the existing political system in order to perpetuate himself.”
With Sejusa fleeing to the UK and Daily Monitor closed for over a week after it published Museven’s bush war comrade’s letter, the ‘Muhoozi Project’ caught the attention of the public, locally and internationally.
Then, Museveni was in power for 27 years – and many thought he was close to retirement, and his son, a military officer would take over.
But now in power for almost 35 years and seeking to extend his rule to four decades, Museveni’s reappointment of his son to head SFC seemed to point back to Sejusa’s 2013 warning.
Denied by both Museveni and Kainerugaba, the Muhoozi Project has been gaining traction with some people in government and the private sector aligning themselves closer to the lieutenant general that they believe could one day become the country’s head-of-state.
“Uganda is not a monarchy where leadership is passed on from father to son. This so-called [Muhoozi] project is a people’s creation,” Kainerugaba said seven years ago.
Both Museveni’s and Kainerugaba’s responses over the years have, beyond denying presence of any such plot as alleged by Sejusa, hinted on the right of Ugandans to choose their leaders and the first son’s freedom to seek the people’s votes if he so wishes.
In March 2020, Kainerugaba seemed to reignite talk on the Muhoozi Project when he termed it a blessing.
“Some evil people coined this phrase to try and destroy us! But trust my generation to convert every curse into a blessing! Thank you Ugandans!” Kainerugaba tweeted alongside a photo of himself in a yellow hooded jumper written on ‘Muhoozi Project.’
And some campaign of sorts seems to be going on, with some supporters of the NRM government, like events promoter Balaam Barugahara selling the first son as a role model, generational leader and potential Museveni successor.
In 2014, two years to the 2016 presidential election, Why Not Youth Pressure Group (WNPG), a youth group started marketing Muhoozi’s credentials for the 2021 poll.
Yet, even with all these pro-Muhoozi marketing campaigns ongoing, the reappointment of the first son seems to have reignited succession talk and whether Kainerugaba is indeed in the picture.
According to main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate Patrick Oboi Amuriat (POA), Museveni returned his son to the SFC’s helm in preparation for a palace coup.
Museveni recently revealed he would only retire once he has found someone with potential to lead Uganda.
His other opponent Maj Gen (Rtd) Gregg Mugisha Muntu reminded him it was not his responsibility to appoint a successor.
So, are those thinking Kainerugaba’s return to SFC could be part of the Muhoozi Project reading too much more than there is between the lines?
According to Amuriat, Museveni cannot win the 2021 presidential election, so he might stage a palace coup to help SFC commandant Kainerugaba switch to Commander-in-Chief.
For as long as talk of Muhoozi Project has surfaced, that seems to have always been the suspicion.
But could this be the time this prediction might turn true – or is Museveni still keen on having some more beyond 2021, and not planning to entertain any ‘Muhoozi Project’ talk?