A ‘cold war’ erupted in December last year between first son Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba and Minister for Internal Affairs Rtd Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, as well as their respective camps.
The argument began when Gen. Muhoozi criticised the party led by his father, President Yoweri Museveni. The National Resistance Movement (NRM) is a reactionary organization, according to the Senior Presidential Advisor for Special Operations. Gen Kainerugaba had recently been promoted to the UPDF’s highest military rank.
On Friday evening, Muhoozi tweeted from his account, “I believe in Jesus Christ and I believe in my father, General @KagutaMuseveni.” NRM is not something I believe in. In Marxist terms, it is most likely the country’s most reactionary organisation.”
The General later tweeted that it was time for “his generation” to take over Uganda.
This did not sit well with some senior NRM members, including current Internal Affairs Minister Rtd Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire. The retired General told the media that it is up to the NRM to stick with Museveni or choose someone else.
He also stated that the remarks of the First Son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, are insignificant and “his business.” “It’s his business, and he’s entitled to his opinion.” “Those of us who are rational and understand him (Museveni) have stated that we still want him to be in charge,” Otafiire declared.
According to some NRM party leaders, the public comments made by Muhoozi and Otafiire reflected poorly on leadership and the NRM itself. This prompted President Museveni to convene a meeting between his son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, and Rtd Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, to be chaired by Museveni’s brother, Gen Salim Saleh.
Museveni told Gen Saleh over the phone, “This is not good for the NRM.”
When told about the meeting in Kapeeka, Maj Gen Otafiire appeared hesitant, though he did not express his reservations to Gen.Saleh. Otafiire is ranked second in NRA/M seniority. President Museveni’s rank has been RO/0001 since the bush war, and the officer closest to him is Rtd Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, who is RO/00014.
The rest in between are all gone. This is RO/0002. (Honorary) Brig Eriya Tukahirwa Kategeya, RO/0003 Capt. William ‘Black’ Mwesigwa, RO/0004 Capt. Valeriano Rwaheru, RO/0005 Capt. Martin Mwesiga, RO/0006 Lt. Mpima Wukwu “Kazimoto”, RO/0007 Lt. Malibo Abwooli, RO/0008 Lt.
On December 23, 2022, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba took a helicopter from Entebbe to Kapeeka, at Gen Saleh’s residence, while Maj Gen Otafiire drove. In addition to the three generals, Brig Christopher Damulira, Director of Crime Intelligence AIGP, Kwame Ruyondo and Andrew Mwenda, close friends of Gen Muhoozi, Emmy Alliyo, Deputy Director of General External Security Organisation (ESO), and Col. James Nkojo, Gen Salim Saleh’s military assistant, were present.
The letter from Museveni
The meeting was supposed to start at 11 a.m., but Maj Gen Otafiire arrived two hours late, according to some attendees. The meeting begins 13 minutes after 1 p.m. with a discussion of President Museveni’s paper on the subject.
Museveni had written a paper outlining how the meeting should go; it served as a guideline for the discussions. In the document, Museveni states that senior UPDF/NRM leaders fighting and publicly attacking each other does not look good.
He acknowledges that succession is a problem, and he goes on to say that if senior UPDF/NRM leaders quarrel publicly, it undermines public and investor confidence, making them fear that the country is too unstable to handle succession maturely. He urges the meeting attendees to discuss succession internally rather than publicly.
In the same document, Museveni states that, aside from succession, leaders should be concerned with more pressing issues such as patriotism, EAC integration, and PanAfricanism.
The meeting starts.
While all attendees are reviewing the president’s letter, Vice President Emeritus Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi arrives unannounced in Kapeka.
Former Vice President Ssekandi had come to talk to Gen Saleh about his concerns about the NRM’s loss of control in Buganda. This meeting, however, did not last long.
Gen Saleh chairs the meeting from the edge of the table facing the entrance. Gen Muhoozi, dressed in a blue shirt, black jeans, and brown boots, sits on the left side of his Uncle, Saleh. Maj Gen Otafiire, dressed in a floral shirt, a brown jacket, and sporty shoes, sits on Saleh’s right side, and the rest follow opposite Gen Muhoozi.
Otafiire acknowledges the President’s concerns expressed in the paper and goes on to tell the meeting that the first time he met Gen Muhoozi was when he was a one-year-old baby during the days of trying to build resistance against the ruling government, and thus he felt undermined by Muhoozi’s public comments about NRM. Andrew Mwenda interjects and asks Otafiire, “If Muhoozi did something wrong, why attack him publicly?” Did you make any effort as a senior leader?’
Meanwhile, the meeting devolves into accusation after accusation. To avoid controversy and clashes, Gen Saleh continues to direct the meeting to focus on the big picture, as directed by the president. He then adds his two cents.
‘Let us look forward rather than back,’ Saleh says. Maj Gen Otafiire supports Gen. Saleh’s position. ”Let’s coordinate or we’ll crash,’ says Otafiire. He then launches a scathing critique of the NRM, focusing on how it is losing its hold on young people and how it has strayed from its original plans after capturing power.
General Muhoozi has now launched a comprehensive missile of criticism on what has gone wrong in government in general. Poor infrastructure, corruption, poverty, and young people disconnected from NRM are just a few examples. Maj Gen Otafiire agrees with Muhoozi that the government has lost its ability to address young people’s concerns.
As the debate progresses, General Muhoozi and Major General Ottafiire find themselves on the same side. General Saleh becomes irritated by the criticism and ends up defending the government.
What began as a fight that needed to be resolved has evolved into an alliance of forces focused on what has gone wrong within the NRM and the government as a whole. The meeting concludes with everyone agreeing that there should be no public brawls among leaders who should be role models.
Attendees leave the meeting, but Maj Gen Otafiire refuses to pose for a photo with Gen.Muhoozi and his uncle Gen.Saleh, casting doubt on whether what was agreed upon in the meeting will be implemented.