‘Muhoozi Project’: By Installing Son, Gen. Museveni Hopes To Defer Prosecution

Gen. Museveni has been in power since 1985

[Global: Africa]

The underpinning reasons for the desire to choose Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba as a successor to his father is the First Family’s survival strategy in a post-Museveni era in Uganda.

To achieve that objective, Gen. Yoweri Museveni needs a poodle. A servile or obsequious person, a person trusted to a fault to guarantee Museveni’s future and protect his loot as well as prevent independent investigations into the Luwero, Teso and Northern Uganda mass murders by the regime.

A servile successor will ensure that Museveni and his cohorts will never be prosecuted for the serious crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes including crimes of massive corruption and abuse of office.

The choice of his son, Baby Museveni, otherwise known as Muhoozi, is a logical one, particularly for a desperate Commander-in-Chief of the army, NRA/UPDF, who does not want to end up like Ben Ali of Tunisia, Muammar Gadhafi of Libya or Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

The crimes Gen. Museveni has committed against the Ugandan civilian population since 1981 weighs, or should weigh, heavily on him. Similarly, the alleged crimes he committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) –the massacres of Congolese civilians and plundering of Congo’s resources– will not go away; for such crimes have no statute of limitation.

Gen. Museveni needs protection particularly when he is no longer president and exercises no executive and military power. He will be extremely vulnerable to national and international criminal prosecutions. However, the choice of Muhoozi to succeed his father, while appealing to Museveni, may not fully protect him. Papa Doc tried and imposed his son on Haitian people. After his death, such succession did not protect Baby Doc and family.

Now a Ugandan general who still reported to Museveni, Gen. David Sejusa Tinyefuza’s disclosure that there is a “Muhoozi Project” for succession, is therefore not a surprise. It is also not a surprise that persons opposed to the idea of Muhoozi replacing his father as president of Uganda may be targeted for assassination. Gen. Tinyefuza wrote a letter published in Uganda’s The Daily Monitor, asking that the rumors be investigated. He said he and prime minister Amama Mbabazi were included as some of the alleged targets.

The track record of the National Resistance Army/National Resistance Army (NRA/NRM) suggests that since its formation and throughout its existence, for a variety of reasons, the NRA/NRM has eliminated, and continues to eliminate, those it considers undesirables from within and without its rank. Those undesirables are generally known as “biological substance”. The undesirables description has since been expanded to include “cockroaches” and that is one of the reasons Gen. Tinyefuza was afraid, that on arrival at Entebbe in Uganda from London, he may have been arrested like a “cockroach”. Gen Tinyefuza is best placed to know how the NRA/NRM treats cockroaches as the presidential advisor on security matters. If in doubt, ask Daniel Omara Atubo, a former minister of State for Defense, one of Tinyefuza’s victims who were treated as a cockroach, by being publicly flogged, humiliated and thrown in detention for one year before being released.

The derogatory term “cockroach” is used by the NRA/NRM to dehumanize its “enemies” in a similar manner used against victims during the Rwanda genocide.

The NRA/NRM historical record demonstrates that it has always been careful to leave a window of opportunity for a “plausible deniability” explanation of many political killings by creating alternative versions of causes of death of persons suspected to have been murdered by the agents of the regime.

The untimely death of the young Brig. Noble Mayombo is one such recent example.  Similarly, unexplained deaths of Dr. Andrew Kayira, a former minister in the NRM government, the former Vice- President Gilbert Bukenya’s son, former Speaker of Parliament Francis Ayume and former Member of Parliament Ms. Cerinah Nebanda are examples of alleged political murders with ‘plausible deniability’. Gen. Tinyefuza’s concerns on being a target for possible assassination alongside others, coming from one who knows how the system works and is also a suspect in some of the criminals acts committed against the ‘enemies’ of the NRA/NRM, must be taken seriously. Only the wilfully blind can ignore such warnings.

What is important about Gen. Tinyefuza’s outburst is that, as Museveni’s war time accomplice, he expected Museveni to hand-over power to his contemporary bush fighter who marched with him between 1981 and 1986. Museveni’s plan to allow his son to “jump the succession queue” and pass on his Real Estate (i.e., Uganda) to Baby Museveni is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. In that context, Gen. Tinyefuza’s outbursts have nothing to do with democracy, transparency or accountability. It is an internal NRA/NRM power struggle, fought within an undemocratic and anti-democratic NRA/NRM.

Second, it must be noted that Gen. Tinyefunza’s outburst coincided with the recent conviction of Guatemala’s military strongman Gen. Jose Efrain Rios Montt who ruled his country with a firm hand from March 1982 until August 1983. (Even though the conviction has now been overturned by that country’s supreme court). During this period, Rios Montt’s military regime used extreme terror in an effort to wipe out a Mayan minority ethnic group and the opposition in the early 1980s.

President Rios Montt was convicted, by a Guatemala national court on Friday 10 May 2013, for genocide and crimes against humanity. President Rios Montt was aged 86. He was sentenced to 50 years in jail for genocide and 30 years for crimes against humanity.

Some of the criminal acts for which he was convicted include the disappearance of 1,771 people and enforced displacement of 29,000 others. Other criminal acts for which he was convicted include use of starvation to cause the death of thousands of civilians, mass murder, rape and aerial bombardments as tactics to exterminate the Maya minority community and those opposed to him. President Rios Montt presided over “scorched earth” tactics to eradicate his enemy. Rios Montt’s soldiers used sexual violence as a tool to destroy the social fabric of the minority group and murder of babies and pregnant women to destroy the Maya minority group.

Prosecution of former dictators has become a common practice in Latin America. Chile and Argentina have, over the years, successfully prosecuted and jailed former military leaders. A few days ago, General Jorge Videla, Argentina’s dictator who was one of the key military officers who initiated the “Dirty War” and was serving a life sentence, died in jail, aged 87. Museveni is still young compared to these other despots and he knows that time for justice and accountability will come hence the urgency of the Muhoozi Project.

The criminal acts committed by Rios Montt and Jorge Videla are, in fact less serious, when compared to the serious criminal acts allegedly committed by Gen. Museveni, Gen. Tinyefunza and other senior NRA/NRM officials and members in Uganda. Museveni and his soldiers, alongside the UNLA and other armed groups, are responsible for the death of many civilians in Luwero between 1981 and 1986, and in terms of the state, the NRA is solely responsible for the atrocity crimes in Northern Uganda since 1986.

During Operation North in 1991, General Tinyefuza placed the entire Northern Uganda under security lockdown and employed scorched earth tactic on the civilian population. His soldiers detained, tortured and starved the civilian population. Many women and children were killed. Under Museveni’s orders, the entire population of Acholi, for example, were removed from their homes and re-located to the various concentration camps throughout the Acholi land, displacing more than 1.2 million civilians.

These are serious international crimes which Museveni & co fear eventual prosecution for. However, if Muhoozi were to succeed Papa Museveni, then his father expects to be protected from possible investigation and prosecution for crimes committed against the Uganda civilian population since 1981 at least for many more years. This is significant because Museveni does not want an independent investigation on what he did in Luwero, Teso and Northern Uganda. He has rejected all requests for independent or judicial investigations. On the other hand, Museveni desperately needs protection when he is no longer in office. Only Muhoozi can provide that protection. On the other hand, Tinyefuza cannot rely on Muhoozi to protect him. Tinyefuza needs to rely on himself or create his own poodle to succeed Museveni.

The discourse on the Muhoozi Project is not about the vision of Uganda in a post-Museveni era. It is about protecting Museveni from prosecution for serious violations of international humanitarian law, massive corruption and abuse of office. The prosecution of dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya set a worrying precedent for Museveni.

And, Tinyefuza’s utterances are grounded on his desire to remain relevant in a post-Museveni era. For the rest of Ugandans, in order to have a more just vision for Uganda, the Musevenis and the Tinyefuzas of this world who have looted Uganda and murdered women and children must be made to become irrelevant. An anti-democratic organization as the NRA/NRAM cannot establish democracy, transparency and accountability in a post-Museveni era. The Muhoozi Project provides an opportunity for Ugandans to discuss their future without Museveni.

Every responsible Ugandan must become engaged in the discourse. It is therefore for Ugandans not to look at the Muhoozi Project through a narrow lens. Ugandans must think, plan and act outside the NRA/NRM limited box.

To that extent, the objective must be to strive to create a society that meets the basic needs of all Ugandans and to get rid of the NRM corrupt system that caters for only 1% of the super-rich, a system the Muhoozi Project seeks to maintain.


Dr Obote Odora Consultant, International Criminal Law & Policy

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