Uganda: Dictator Museveni’s Son, Gen. Muhoozi, Erupts in Ethnic Bigotry

Gen. Muhoozi

Gen. Muhoozi. Like father, like son–stirring up the ethnic-bigotry pot. Photo: Twitter.

It all started with these words in the Runyankore language fired at Uganda’s leading presidential candidate Bobi Wine by Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, son of Ugandan dictator Gen. Yoweri Museveni: “Ngu Musinguzi? Mbwenu ogu akasingura ki? This is not only an insult to Banyankore but against all tribes of western Uganda!” 

Gen. Muhoozi was questioning why his Banyankole ethnic population would name Bobi Wine “Musinguzi” or their “son.”

Bobi Wine fired back on twitter:  “One more thing, the Banyankore did not just give me the name Musinguzi! They gave me their daughter, my wife, and that means I am their son. They are not as hateful and as tribalistic as you are. Stop misrepresenting my in-laws! #SayNoToTribalism #WeAreRemovingADictator.”

This was, apparently, too much for Gen. Muhoozi to bear so, he replied: “This is a completely impossible act! I’m a Munyankore, born and bred but I was never consulted when the ‘Banyankore’ gave you their daughter. It seems you don’t know the Banyankore and their customs”. This meaningless war of words could point towards two historical antecedents, whose subtexts imply that, in politics, all is not what it seems. 

One, it recalls the so called Phony War in World War II. This was an eight-month period at the start of that war characterized by one limited military land operation on the Western Front, when French troops invaded Germany’s Saar district. It began with the declaration of war by the United Kingdom and France against Nazi Germany on September 3, 1939, and ended with the German invasion of France and the Low Countries on May 10, 1940. The French also call this Phony War the drôle de guerre (“funny” or “strange” war). The vacuum-brained back-and-forth between Gen. Muhoozi, who also commands the notorious Special Forces Command (SFC) and who subscribes to the military credo War, Women & Wine, versus Bobi Wine is symptomatic of what’s strange in this war in Uganda masquerading as an election. 

How did our politics degenerate to this ethnic-bigotry? 

Well, to all intents and purposes, Uganda has always teetered on the brink of becoming an ethnocracy. Thanks to Gen. Muhoozi’s tweets, our beloved country might finally be on a journey of no return to becoming one. However we should look beyond the surface of these rather shallow tweets to glimpse the iceberg that threatens to sink the government’s titanic idiocy. 

There’s a phenomenon in politics called “Wag the dog”. This is a sleight of hand to create a diversion from a damaging issue. The phrase originates in the saying “a dog is smarter than its tail, but if the tail were smarter, then it would wag the dog”. 

In 1998, U.S. president Bill Clinton wagged the dog when he was faced with impeachment during the Monica Lewinsky scandal over his sexual relations with the White House intern. He’d been accused of a felony for committing a sexual peccadillo which metastasized into his committing perjury to conceal the same. A few days after Clinton was caught with his pants at his ankles, he ordered missile strikes against Afghanistan and Sudan. Then, as the impeachment proceedings became less than peachy for him, he bombed Iraq and Yugoslavia in 1999. These were all blatant not to mention callous diversions. 

Gen. Muhoozi’s tweets are clearly his attempt at diversions from the Museveni regime’s barring of the media from covering these elections by his engineering of a social media circus. As ringmaster to this circus, Muhoozi invites us to concentrate on his presumed buffoonery while his father denies us freedom of speech, information and association. More sinisterly, he deflects unwanted attention from the war being planned against all those who reject the results of the soon-to-be-rigged Jan. 14 election.

Evidently, Gen. Muhoozi is not as dumb as he tweets. 

To be sure, his tweets are cleverly designed to launch a “Western Front” by reminding people from Western Uganda—from where Muhoozi and his father, and those who control the levers of military, political and economic power hail–that Bobi Wine is not one of them, even if he married from the west. 

We already know that President Museveni fears Bobi Wine’s appeal to the Baganda—the country’s largest ethnic community—as a bloc, with Bobi Wine being a Muganda himself. The country’s population is 45.711 million, of which 61% are registered voters. The Baganda people represent about 17% of the population and if there is a Buganda bloc voting for Bobi Wine, then Museveni is in real trouble. 

This current situation is similar to when the late Prime Minister Milton Obote married a Muganda woman, Miria, in November 1963, leaving some ethno-separists in Buganda gnashing their teeth. Obote and his Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party had formed a delicate political alliance with Kabaka Yekka (King only) party of Sir Edward Mutesa II, the Kabaka, or hereditary monarch, of Buganda. As a result, at independence in 1962 Obote became prime minister and Mutesa became president. 

The year after Obote’s marriage to Miria, largely thanks to some Buganda separatists, the misalliance between Kabaka Yekka and UPC came to an acrimonious end with both sides citing irreconcilable differences, as it were. This standoff between ultraconservative and liberal forces led to violence, the so-called Buganda crisis, when Obote used the army commanded by Idi Amin to drive Mutesa into exile. After that, Uganda was in free-fall.

Gen. Muhoozi today is playing the role of the separatists of the 1960s. Things have changed. We live in an age where the impact of such appeals to crude ethnic-bigotry are being diluted and subsumed by humanism, thanks to the melting pot of social media. 

Gen. Muhoozi is a messenger of his father. The bets that President Museveni has placed on ethnic-apartheid will work with only limited success. 

Then, like the fabled Spanish horse, which runs faster than every other horse for the first nine lengths, Museveni’s dark horse will turn around and run backwards thereby knocking this desperate regime out of its way.

The horse then gallops toward the change whose time has come. 


Columnist Matogo can be reached via [email protected] 

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