A series of Twitter messages by General Muhoozi Kainerugaba on taking over Nairobi threatened to spill into a diplomatic situation, with Kenyan officials raising queries with the Ugandan authorities.
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary nominee Alfred Mutua told The Standard on telephone that the government is taking the communication seriously and had sought clarification on the tirade by the senior military official.
“Yes, we took it seriously. I met with the ambassador to get clarification on what was going on and he assured me that it was not the government position. Unless otherwise stated, that was a personal thing and not the position of the government,” said Dr Mutua. In messages Gen Muhoozi put on social media, he said it would take him and his army two weeks to take over Nairobi after which he will bring his wife to tour their new district.
“It wouldn’t take us, my army and me, two weeks to capture Nairobi,” General Muhoozi tweeted. “After our army captures Nairobi, where should I live? Westlands? Riverside?”
“To all compatriots, fellow countrymen and women, Uganda and Kenya: I say we must all conquer our fears. These colonial borders must fall!” he wrote. “I would never beat up the Kenyan army because my father told me never to attempt it! So our people in Kenya should relax!”
Interestingly, after protests and clarifications, Gen Muhoozi was on Tuesday, October 4, promoted to General from Lieutenant General. Before then, he was the commander of The Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), the land forces. According to the Daily Monitor, Muhoozi will be replaced by Kayanja Muhanga, a former Major-General, promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General.
Security expert George Musamali says the messages by Gen Muhoozi have little military threat but he could have been trying to pass a political message. Whereas in the disciplined force such communication would be unexpected, he says Gen Muhoozi is more of a politician than a general.
“If you analyse Muhoozi’s statements you will realise a lot of political nuances. It is a political mind game. Muhoozi is using military lingo to pass a political message,” says Musamali. He advises Kenyans to read the politics in the statements and not to think an invasion is in the offing.
The Kenyans On Twitter (KOT) brigade on Monday and Tuesday responded to the wayward Twitter missiles fired by Muhoozi, President Yoweri Museveni’s son.
In a flurry of tweets, Muhoozi, almost naïvely playful, hinted at willingness and determination to seize Nairobi and collapse the boundary between Kenya and Uganda.
While a faction of Twitter users considered Muhoozi’s tweets a reckless joke, others were fuming at the insistence of a man who did not back down in spite of an avalanche of ridicule directed at him.
At first, the exchange on Twitter looked like it was just another Kenya-Uganda twitter war where the side with better banter wins the duel, but as political heavyweights from the two countries threw in their sentiments, it was clear they sensed the general was not bluffing. Kizza Besigye, a Ugandan politician and former military officer in the Uganda People’s Defence Force who was the subject of torture in failed past attempts to unseat President Museveni, wrote that Gen Muhoozi was returning the region to the Idi Amin era.
“History repeats itself? Uganda’s generals seeking to control Kenyan territory: 46 years after Idi Amin, it’s now Gen Muhoozi! That’s why Kenyans can’t take it lightly!” he said.
In February 1976, Uganda’s leader Idi Amin Dada claimed to seek annexation of part of western Kenya. It was widely thought he was influenced by President Mohamed Siad Barre of Somalia, and angry protesters took to the streets of Nairobi.
President Jomo Kenyatta asked his vice president Daniel Moi to summon the ambassador of the US to Kenya where they negotiated the provision of armament and financial needs to Kenya so the country was in a position to resist a possible invasion.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei on Monday also called out the military man for his role in hurting the institution of the East African Community (EAC). “I expect by morning the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (of Kenya) to summon the Ugandan ambassador to shed light on Gen Muhoozi’s social media outbursts and subsequent apology. This is undermining the spirit of unity of EAC,” he wrote.
Lawyer Donald Kipkorir called it a “threatened invasion”, one that warranted a response from Kenya. He, however, referred to the general as the next president of Uganda. “Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba Museveni, Uganda Army Commander and next President of Uganda, says it will take his army only two weeks to take over Kenya! I am yet to hear our Army Commander denying or admitting our army’s ability to defend our borders from the threatened invasion,” he wrote. He then cheekily added, less than two hours later:
“Seeing that our Army Commander has bunkered, I called Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba and begged him not to send his tanks until my mum has harvested her crop which stands on the way of the tanks to Nairobi. The good General agreed to defer the invasion.”
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, also known as Bobi Wine, a musician and politician who ran against Museveni in the January 2021 elections, said Muhoozi’s indignant attitude in the general’s tweets was indicative of the insufferable character Uganda had to tolerate. “Dear Kenyans, you now understand what it means to live in Uganda under Museveni and his son, whom he gifted the highest military ranks and put in charge of our land forces!” he wrote.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uganda distanced itself from Gen Muhoozi’s comments, saying “the government and the people of the Republic of Uganda treasure the existing strong bilateral relations between the people and the Government of the Republic of Kenya based on our shared history, common values, mutual respect, trust and the desire to build a unified East African Community”.
It also expressed its “commitment to good neighbourliness, peaceful coexistence and cooperation”.
The ministry said that the government does not conduct its foreign policy and other official business through social media “nor does it depend on social media sources in dealing with other sovereign governments.”