ANALYSIS: Balaam, Aber appointments confirm Museveni's worst kept secret

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ANALYSIS: Balaam, Aber appointments confirm Museveni's worst kept secret
Aber and Balaam

ANALYSIS | President Museveni on Thursday evening named his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) and his son's two most loyal backers of the last couple years as State ministers.

In a Cabinet Reshuffle that revealed some credible appoints like that of Peter Lokeris to Karamoja Affairs and Kenneth Omona to Northern Uganda, Mr Museveni named Balaam Barugahara the state minister for youth and children, and Kitgum Woman MP Lillian Aber will over the disaster preparedness.

Balaam's loyalty to Gen Muhoozi rivals that for which he has for his legendary orange Polo shirt. But the events promotion guru is not just loyal, he is also sworn to believe that the First Son has been anointed as the successor to his father.

Balaam and Aber are certainly not the only ones who have dedicated their public lives to clapping for Gen Muhoozi - businessman Andrew Mwenda, enigmatic rabble-rouser Frank Gashumba and legislator Daudi Kabanda are as deeply embedded with the new CDF.

On February 28, this reporter contacted a State House staffer to verity a tip that Mr Museveni was due to meet with his son to tie loose ends on the long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle.

"Big joke," the staffer at Plot 1 Nakasero had said.

"You'll wake up with Balaam as a minister," this reporter said.

"No problem. It will be his opportunity to serve our country."

The idea that Balaam could be in Cabinet was unthinkable to many. That loud doubt has now been replaced with the general admission that for a Muhoozi's presidential ambition, there could never have been a better mobiliser to make the young generation clap their feet for Muhoozi.

Available data shows that youth in Uganda are the youngest population in the world, with 77 percent of its population being under 25 years of age.

Balaam is certainly no youth and Gen Muhoozi makes 50 in coming weeks. But the First Son has fashioned himself as appealing to the youth.

In a way, just Mr Museveni handing over power to his son would very much look like a passage to the younger generation.

Brace yourself, it is surely happening. From Gen David Sejusa's May 2013 leaked dossier that called it a "Muhoozi Project" until Thursday evening, the denials were thunderous.

The only two persons who appeared carried themselves with the conviction of a stone Buddha in belief that Muhoozi is in the big show were Balaam and Aber.

Soon after the launch of his Patriotic League of Uganda (PLU) group last month, Muhoozi's loyalists spoke of preparing the First Son to retire from active military service and join politics.

But Thursday's appointments must have left them squinted eyes as they attempt to get to grips with what is going on.

But the truth of what is going on is that it is has been going on and has become the new normal. In a military with such strict discipline and the so-called professional army, Gen Muhoozi is probably the only military officer who freely sports the O shape beard.

He keeps it thick. The military won't utter a word. He makes political utterances, including sable-rattling about with reckless abandon.

Also nobody cares.

And the answer was delivered Thursday. Muhoozi is taking over from his father, who, despite all cotton shirts, remains a military man.

To really take over, Muhoozi has to be a military man and keep the gun close by him at all times.

To retire from the army even before he has taken over the reins would be a major plot twist. That was never going to happen and the reason is the new CDF appointment.

President Museveni with Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba.

Just last month, President Museveni delegated command authority of the military and defence forces to Gen Wilson Mbadi, with the Chief of Defence Forces now having the powers to command all elements of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces.

But Mbadi has hardly exercised that authority. He is now the State minister for trade and industry, a change that would have shocked many if not for who was replacing Mbadi.

With Gen Muhoozi now CDF, Museveni has successfully management to pass over command authority of the military and defence forces to his son without raising any eyebrows.

It would have been different if Muhoozi had been appointed as CDF and the command authority delegated to him. But now few will recall there was such a thing.

And to make the sleek move even sleeker, Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, who in 2022 declared Standby Class I, the highest state of alert, restricting troop movement, has been taken in as a senior presidential advisor.

"The ball is now in your court," Museveni must have told his son, who many believe had a hand in drawing up the Cabinet in which ministers who openly broke ranks with Museveni such as Harunah Kasolo retained their seats.

Kasolo and several NRM leadership, including Mike Mukula, the party's vice chairman for eastern region, have long been drumming support for Muhoozi without much ado.

With full control of the army and evidence that those who are willing to back him can be rewarded like it has been with Balaam and Aber, Muhoozi is on the final bend to make the sprint to the finish lane.

The last lingering question is how the four-star general will ascend to the top seat now. There is the ballot in two years and there is a general with the command authority of the defence and military forces.

And it is a giant chessboard with the father at one end, the son at the other.

A chess ends in a checkmate.

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