Uganda: How President Museveni Planned his Succession
It has taken years of planning, recruiting, and deploying strategically, but finally, everyone, or almost everyone, of the rebel National Resistance Army old guard has been shoved to the sidelines or retired.
The old NRA bush war-dominated order has been swept away and replaced by younger Turks; first from the 1985 late Brigadier Noble Mayombo group, then the 1997 Monduli group of Brig Ddamulira Sserunjogi, the Gaddafi School of Infantry cadet group and First Son Lt. Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba group that trained at Kaweweta.
The young Turks have now taken charge of the army – completing a transformative change believed to be the sure path to the survival of the UPDF and will ultimately produce a successor to President Museveni.The planning and recruitment happened years ago but the deployment is still ongoing until a successor emerges.
The Muhoozi group is inching its way to the apex. Muhoozi, who is now the commander of Land Forces is one job away (Chief of Defence Forces) from becoming a full five-star general and taking complete charge of UPDF.
And an army of loyalists is helping to whip up the presidential ambition of the First Son, who is yet to express interest in replacing his father Yoweri Museveni as president of Uganda. The general’s loyalists have launched an aggressive social media campaign for a 2026 presidential bid for Muhoozi a year into President Museveni’s new term.
Lt. Gen Muhoozi is many things to his legion of youthful supporters – he is the next president, he is presidential material, chairman MK, Gen Muhoozi my role model. All these and many other credentials are boldly inscribed on branded T-shirts, jumpers, caps, shirts, and posters printed, distributed, and worn by his legion of supporters – loudly touting Muhoozi’s leadership prowess.
A bold poster has been printed and proclaims, “For peace, unity, transparency and supersonic development, Vote President Muhoozi Kainerugaba 2026-2031.”
The planning for the takeover from the old guard and recruitment began years ago with an eye on the future. Here is how it was done. The story below was published by The Observer on January 8, 2012 when it was too early to make these bold predictions about the current shape of the army but some have already hit the mark. It has been furnished with some edits, which reflect the current stature of the principals mentioned in the story.
New faces of the UPDF - three different groups of young turks keen to take over from ebbing old guard
Young Turks in the UPDF have recently dominated the higher echelons, underscoring a shift in the balance of power of an army that has been controlled by those who shared the trenches with President Yoweri Museveni during the Luweero bush struggle. Since bands of the ragtag guerilla outfit marched to Kampala on January 26, 1986, the UPDF leadership appeared to be held hostage by the Luweero bush-struggle camaraderie.
There has, however, been a realignment in the army, resulting in the shoving aside of the old guard by an elite younger generation that is loyal to the Commander-in-Chief. Today, old guards like Generals Salim Saleh, who is Museveni’s brother, David Tinyefuza and Elly Tumwine are in the twilight of their careers.
A military source says perhaps the last officers of this old order that are still serving but will soon retire, include: Lt Gen Katumba Wamala (commander, Land Forces), Lt Gen Kale Kayihura (Inspector General of Police), and Maj Gen Fred Mugisha (overall commander of AMISOM in Somalia).
“Any one of them could become the Chief of Defence Forces after Aronda Nyakairima,” the source added.
Katumba Wamala and Kayihura have since stepped aside at the rank of general. Katumba became the CDF in 2013 replacing Gen. Aronda Nyakairima. He was removed in 2017. He is now the minister of Works (Editor).
However, in the last decade, a latent power struggle in the army between the old guards and young Turks has burbled under the surface.
“There is the late Mayombo group, which joined the army in 1985 and has tilted the balance of power in the army,” said another military source.
The late Brig Noble Mayombo, who died of a mysterious ailment on May 1, 2007, was one of the most eloquent functionaries of the NRM regime whose rapid rise in the army rattled the old guard, especially those who had stagnated for a long time. Mayombo’s other colleagues who joined the struggle in 1985 shortly before the NRA captured power are Maj Gen James Mugira (who was recently transferred from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence [CMI] to head the UPDF Luwero ammunition industries), Brig Moses Rwakitarate (the Chief of Staff Airforce) and Brig David Muhoozi (now heading the air defense unit in Nakasongola).
The three have since been promoted and redeployed. Lt. Gen Mugira is now the managing director, National Enterprise Corporation. Major General Rwakitarate is the Defence Attache at Uganda’s embassy in Brussels, Belgium. General David Muhoozi relinquished his command of UPDF (Chief of Defence Forces) recently and is now the minister of state for Internal Affairs
Although they are greenhorns at the battlefront, Mugira and Muhoozi are lawyers, as was Mayombo. Whilst the young Turks have been growing in stature, old guards like Major Generals Jim Muhwezi and Kahinda Otafiire, Brigadiers (now Major General) Matayo Kyaligonza and (now Lt. General) Henry Tumukunde, and others who once held powerful positions in the army have less clout and leverage.
“They only have protégés in the army, but their power is increasingly diminishing,” said a source.
Mwambustya Ndebesa, a historian at Makerere University, says “purging the old guard, which has legitimacy because of a historical role, is the best tool of control.”
He adds that having been “recruited on the premise of patronage” the old guard has “expired.”
A source currently serving in the army concurs with Ndebesa, opining that, “It’s the only way to eliminate the old bush war rivalry.”
Beyond the 1985 group, the other young generation strategically placed in sensitive army positions consists of Brig Paul Lokech, who is currently heading Uganda’s AMISOM contingent in Somalia, and Brig Charles Bakahumura, the new CMI head. Others are Col Dick Olum, who is heading the Military Police; Col Godfrey Golooba, who headed the second UPDF AMISOM contingent; and Col Emmanuel Kazahura, administrative officer at the Senior Staff and Command College, Kimaka.
These too have grown in rank and stature. Lokech died a major general and Deputy Inspector General of Police in 2020.
Others are Lt Col James Birungi, head of the artillery in UPDF; Lt Col Henry Isoke, former head of counterintelligence at CMI and now AMISOM intelligence officer; Lt Col Michael Nyarwa, head of the UPDF Marine Unit; and Lt Col Godwin Karugaba, deputy chief of Logistics and Engineering. This list of other strategically placed soldiers includes; Col Dominic Twesigomwe, the CMI deputy boss who is now attending a military course at the National Defence College, Kenya; and army publicists Col Felix Kulayigye and Lieutenant Colonels Paddy Ankunda and Barigye Bahoku.
Lt. Col James Birungi has since moved two ranks to Major General and currently heads CMI; Lt Col Henry Isoke is a brigadier heading the State House Anti-Corruption Unit. Lt Col Micheal Nyarwa climbed to the rank of Brigadier and still heads the marine unit; while Lt Col Godwin Karugaba maintains his rank. Col. Dominic Twesigomwe is a brigadier and commandant of the National Counter Terrorism Defence Center. Colonel Felix Kulayigye has since become a brigadier, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda is now a Colonel and so is Colonel Barigye Bahoku (Editor).
But another army source says there are about three groups of a much younger generation compared to the ‘Mayombo 1985 group’ that will provide the future UPDF leadership. One of these groups attended a cadet course in Munduli, Tanzania.
“Intake 37 went to Munduli in 1997 and some of the soldiers in this group are: Lt Col Ddamulira Sserunjogi, director Intelligence, Land Forces; Maj CD Mukasa, intelligence officer, first division; Maj Julius Rubakuba, intelligence officer 2nd division and brother to Brig Muhoozi; and Lt Col Bob Ogik, director of the Senior Staff and Command College, Kimaka,” the source revealed.
Lt Col Ddamulira Sserunjogi is now a brigadier and director of Crime Intelligence in Police. Lt Col Bob Ogik is a Brig Gen and Chief of Staff, Land forces (Editor).
Later, another cadet group attended the Gaddafi School of Infantry, including Maj Stuart Agaba, former Aide de Camp to the president, now in Somalia; Maj Felix Bishorozi, OC. Special Coy Special Forces Group; and Capt Napoleon Namanya, head of Museveni’s inner-security circle. Others are: Lt Col Emmanuel Ankunda, political commissar fifth division; Lt Col Chris Ogumiraki, Somalia contingent political commissar; Maj Ephraim Mugume, the military assistant to the Joint Chief of Staff, Maj Gen Robert Rusoke.
Others are Maj Tanturano Tumuryanze, the chief instructor at Kabamba; Col Tumusiime Katsigazi, a lawyer who heads the Moi Brigade in Nakasongala; and Lt Col Johnson Namanya, a former journalist with The Monitor (now Daily Monitor), who is the administrative officer in charge of the UPDF industries in Luweero.
Maj Stuart Agaba is now a colonel attached to SFC; Maj Felix Busizoori is now a brigadier and commander, SFC; Capt Napoleon Namanya is a colonel now and director of operations in Military Police; Lt Col Chris Ogumiraki is now Vice Chairperson of the Board of Directors Wazalendo SACCO, and Maj Ephraim Mugume is now a brigadier. Col Tumusiime Katsigazi, is a Major General now and Deputy Inspector General of Police; Lt Col Johnson Namanya, is a brigadier and Commissioner for Citizenship and Passport Control (Editor).
Lastly, there is the group that trained and graduated alongside First Son, Col Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who heads the Special Forces Group (SFG). These soldiers, most of them fresh and effervescent Makerere University graduates, trained at Kaweweta and Kabamba and completed their cadet course at the Gaddafi School of Infantry.
They include Muhoozi’s deputy, Lt Col Sabiiti Magyenyi; Lt Col Dan Kakono, the commanding officer of the tank battalion in SFG; and Maj Charity Bainababo, who is the ADC to the First Lady.
Others are Capt Allan Matsiko, in charge of Counterintelligence, SFG; Capt Nabimanya, an intelligence officer in SFG; and Capt Michael Kanyamunyu, in charge of the Special Investigations Bureau, SFG.
Lt Col Sabiiti Magyenyi is now a major general currently managing Luweero Industries; Lt Col Dan Kakono, is now a brigadier and commander of the Artillery 101 Brigade; Maj Charity Bainababo is a colonel now and an army representative in the 10th parliament (Editor).
It is this closely-knit group that holds a semblance of loyalty to Muhoozi. However, asked whether Muhoozi is the de facto Chief of Defence Forces, an army officer who graduated alongside the First Son said: “Muhoozi, like any other soldier, follows the chain of command and takes orders from above.”
Another source said Muhoozi “is disciplined and does not engage in intrigue.” Nonetheless, controversy continues to swirl over Muhoozi’s military career, with critics arguing that he is poised to succeed his father and that just like the archetypal father-son military regimes, Muhoozi’s role in the army will one day catapult him to the presidency when Museveni retires. But other critics claim regional imbalance remains the Achilles’ heel of the army.
Most officers of the army’s top and middle ranks hail from western Uganda, Museveni’s home area. A soldier who requested not to be named says: “Many of us are unhappy, but we cannot
freely speak out on this subject”.
Ndebesa argues that unless the army adopts the identity of a national character, the UPDF largely looks like a personal army.
“A professional army should be loyal to a country rather than an individual. The fundamental question is; if Museveni leaves, will they accept another Commander-in-Chief — because this appears to be a personal army,” Ndebesa says.
However, a serving officer says: “In the dynamics of Uganda’s military struggle, loyalty, like religion, is absolute and it supersedes any other element.”
Army spokesperson Col Felix Kulayigye scoffed at these claims, insisting that the tribal card does not exist in the army. Labeling it “an old, stale story”, Kulayigye cited Gen Jeje Odongo, Maj Gen Guti, and Brig Otema who are all high-ranking non-western army officials.