BIG INTERVIEW: Muhoozi could lead Uganda before 2026 - Minister Aber

Big Interview
BIG INTERVIEW: Muhoozi could lead Uganda before 2026 - Minister Aber
Minister Lillian Aber

'Resignation is supposed to be within the certain period of time, so anything is possible.'

While the recent appointment of General Muhoozi Kainerugaba as the Chief of Defence Forces may seem like a strategic move by the President to engage his son in military matters ahead of 2026 general elections, some political analysts see it as a significant step in his career.

They consider it perhaps the fastest ascent of any army officer in the Great Lakes region and speculate that it could bring him closer to the presidency.

The Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness, and Refugees, Ms Lillian Aber, believes that Muhoozi's appointment as CDF will not hinder his ambition to become the president of Uganda.

In an interview with the Nile Post, Aber said if President Museveni listens to their appeal, Muhoozi could assume the presidency at any time.

Excerpts below:

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Congratulations on your appointment. How have you been adjusting to your new responsibilities?

Thank you. I am currently settling in. I haven't officially assumed my duties yet, the handover is scheduled for Tuesday. I am taking this time to familiarise with the surroundings and the responsibilities that lie ahead. Although I have been a Member of Parliament, transitioning to the executive branch brings about a shift in roles and increased responsibilities.

My initial impressions indicate that the office is bustling with activity and demands significant engagement, but as a young individual eager to contribute, I am energised and ready to tackle the challenges ahead.

As a member of the Patriotic League Uganda (PLU), what is it about?

PLU stands for Patriotic League Uganda (PLU), advocating for patriotism. Our primary objective is to promote peace, unity, and stability in the country. We envision a revitalised and progressively improving Uganda. We actively identify challenges and collaborate with relevant authorities to address them.

That's why you see ministers are part of this coalition; there are even those from the Opposition who are affiliated with the Patriotic League, along with many young people.

We remain committed to delivering services to every citizen, especially those in grassroots communities, adhering to our core principles of patriotism. Our dedication to engaging with the populace and striving for the Uganda we aspire to remains unwavering.

Is there a plan to formally register PLU as a political organisation?

Apparently, no. Unless it transforms in the future, but currently, it functions as a civic organisation.

What is the future of PLU then?

The future of PLU is evolving and expanding into a larger civic organisation, as evidenced by the continuous influx of new members each day. These individuals are eager to join PLU, and we welcome them wholeheartedly. Patriotic League Uganda is still in its infancy, but we are committed to developing it into a more robust structure. I believe PLU will play a vital role in offering solutions to our country's challenges.

What are the primary objectives of PLU?

Number one is to design, promote, and execute initiatives and programmes aimed at reviving in Ugandans a spirit of good citizenship, national pride, national service, protection of vulnerable persons, combating corruption and wastage of public resources, and protecting the environment.

Number two is to contribute in a civil and nonpartisan capacity to all programs geared towards organizing Ugandans to fulfill their civic duties as citizens for the benefit of society as a whole and to jealously guard Ugandans' natural and social harmony.

How is the membership of PLU determined?

We have recently initiated PLU, and at the helm is the Central Executive Committee (CEC) chaired by Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba. I serve as the Vice Chair for the Northern Region, Balaam Barugahara as the Vice Chair for the Western Region, and Frank Gashumba as the Vice Chair for the Central Region.

Additionally, we have made sub-regional appointments and are continuing to appoint more individuals. For instance, in Teso, we have Hon Peter Ogwang, while Cedric Babu oversees activities in Kampala. We have numerous volunteers at the district level, extending down to the village level.

It's important to note that all involvement is voluntary; individuals are appointed based on their expression of interest and voluntary basis, without any expectation of salary or {compensation}.

How has the presence of PLU impacted Northern Uganda?

We discuss it extensively on radio programmes, mobilising people and engaging with the youth, inviting anyone interested to join our structures. We have established structures across the entire country, down to every village.

What's remarkable is that people voluntarily join PLU; we don't finance or transport anyone for meetings. People believe in PLU's potential to address the transitional concerns facing Uganda. There's a prevailing question: if President Museveni is no longer in office tomorrow, who will lead next?

PLU asserts that we have a patriotic figure capable of offering mentorship and continuity and that is Gen Muhoozi. As someone who has served with a clear track record, and considering Uganda's tumultuous history marked by warfare and conflict, it's imperative not to jeopardize the stability and progress of the nation and its thriving businesses.

We cannot afford to entrust the future of Uganda to just anyone who emerges. That's why I staunchly support Gen Muhoozi. With his military background and close association with our esteemed President, who has tirelessly worked to unify and rebuild our nation, he embodies the continuity and stability necessary for our collective prosperity.

The thought of Uganda regressing into chaos, with coups and subsequent loss of property and exodus of citizens, is something I refuse to entertain.

Why is PLU perceived as a threat to NRM?

Yeah, because they don't understand how PLU is formed and how it started. We initiated it as the MK Movement. How did it start? These are Ugandans who identified Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba and believe in him.

Even as we discuss the potential transition with President Museveni eventually leaving leadership, Ugandans should contemplate alternatives. The alternatives they considered were the personality and character of Gen Muhoozi; his humanity, dedication to serving the people, and his passion on certain issues. He has shown openness in addressing problems when they arise.

We, including myself, felt inclined to support and encourage him to consider offering himself when the time is right for transition discussions.

Why? Because none of the opposition parties seem to offer viable alternatives. Yes, we acknowledge there are challenges in the government, including corruption and mismanagement of public funds. However, other political parties fail to propose concrete solutions.

Instead, they focus on mobilisation, protests, and personal attacks, particularly targeting President Museveni. If they cannot respect him as a President, they should at least respect him as an adult. Resorting to abuse and character assassination only tarnishes the country's image internationally.

The future of the country is not solely about President Museveni. While acknowledging his efforts and achievements, we also recognise the need to address existing challenges. President Museveni has worked tirelessly to elevate Uganda to another level, often hindered by others who fail to implement his agenda. His manifestos consistently aim at propelling Ugandans towards middle-income status.

There's speculation that the appointment of Gen Muhoozi as CDF and some members to the cabinet is intended to curb his political ambitions. What are your thoughts on this?

I want to express my gratitude to the Ugandans for their love and unwavering support towards Gen Muhoozi. Their faith in him is truly overwhelming, and I urge them not to lose hope. The inclusion of Lillian Aber in a ministerial role, alongside Balaam as a minister and our PLU chairman serving as CDF, indeed enhances the significance of our vision.

The call for Gen Muhoozi to assume the presidency is inevitable and unchanging. This call originates from the people themselves, who have expressed their wishes for him to lead.

Gen Muhoozi has never spoken directly on this matter, but it's evident that he remains open to the possibility when the timing aligns, after his retirement from the army. He will contest but for now, he serves dutifully as the CDF, and I am confident he will continue to uphold the objectives of the Patriotic League.

Your vote now, is it Gen Muhoozi or President Museveni?

The two are not running for office together. So, asking any Ugandan to choose between them is quite amusing. The fact is, they are not on the same ballot. President Museveni remains the flag bearer of the NRM.

As a member of the NRM, if President Museveni runs again, I will certainly support and vote for him. However, if he retires and General Muhoozi enters the race for presidency, I would also offer him my support.

Aren't you concerned about the possibility of establishing a family dynasty if Muhoozi were to become president?

It's incredibly short-sighted for anyone to dismiss Gen Muhoozi's potential presidency solely because he happens to be President Museveni's son. When we, as Ugandans, express our support for him, it transcends tribal affiliations or family ties. It's about recognising his capabilities and what he can offer to Uganda's future.

No one should be disqualified from contributing to our nation's progress simply because of their lineage. We must look at Gen Muhoozi as an individual leader, evaluating his merits, accomplishments, and the contributions he has made to our country. That's the fair and rational way to assess his candidacy for the presidency.

Will Muhoozi's appointment as CDF diminish his presidential ambition?

Unfortunately, I may not have precise insight into the specific reasons for his appointment. However, the selection of someone to such a crucial position as Chief of Defense Forces (CDF) is undoubtedly strategic, and only the best candidates from within the military ranks would be considered.

A president or commander in chief wouldn't take the risk of appointing just anyone. There are numerous methods he could employ if he wished to tame him. Interestingly, many people are unaware of Gen Muhoozi's personality. He presents himself as remarkably humble. You may have observed his respectful salutes to ministers, showcasing his humility.

Gen Muhoozi has been accused multiple times of violating military code of conduct. Why does he enjoy unrestricted movement while his adversaries, such as the National Unity Platform, do not?

He has not violated any rules. I can invite even a lieutenant to attend a meeting. Why would they refuse? They shouldn't refuse. These barazas, people write invitations and he attends upon receiving them. I've told you, Ugandans naturally love and believe in him.

I challenge you to provide evidence that when he attends these gatherings, he explicitly says, "Vote for me in the next election." As a politician myself, I know that during rallies and campaigns, I would repeatedly remind people to vote for me. However, when he attends these barazas, he focuses on addressing the issues affecting the local area.

When you conduct activities in an orderly manner, you're less likely to face disturbances. The role of the police is to uphold law and order. You can't expect to freely do anything, anytime, anywhere without security guidance. In our organisation, PLU, we adhere to rules and collaborate with security personnel who advise us even on venue selection. Have you ever seen us organise a rally in a marketplace?

We avoid it because we understand it's a busy place. However, if rules are broken and then someone tries to use propaganda claiming they've been blocked, that's not a sustainable approach.

In what ways might Gen Muhoozi differ from his father?

Even if I had a twin, they could never be the same. It is naïve to assume that Lillian Aber could be identical to another Lillian Aber. That notion is fundamentally flawed. While it's not necessary for someone to be completely different from their father, there are many positive contributions that the father made.

I can confidently say that we have had the best president in this country since Uganda gained independence; that's a fact. The achievements are evident, we know where Uganda was, where it stands now, and can reasonably predict its future trajectory.

However, certain factors remain constant. We are fortunate that the president is in good health and still vigorously working. Nevertheless, the issue of transition needs to be addressed. I believe Ugandans should strongly support Gen Muhoozi in this regard.

Will Gen Muhoozi run for president in 2026 or 2031?

No, we cannot give a timeline but if the President listens to our appeal, even tomorrow is well and good (he can become the President of Uganda). Resignation is supposed to be within the certain period of time, so anything is possible.

President Museveni has referred to some individuals around Gen Muhoozi as self-seekers...

My priority and focus lie in whether someone is willing to embrace our objectives, which is our foremost principle. It's not about personal or hidden agendas, nor about self-seeking individuals. I don't have the capacity to diagnose and weed out such intentions.

What matters is that whoever aligns with our principles and objectives and desires to contribute positively is welcome to join us.

Human nature tends towards selfishness, but there's no cause for alarm. When starting a civic organization like ours, we invite people to come on board. We have a committee tasked with identifying and addressing any inappropriate behavior. For instance, anyone caught soliciting funds in the name of PLU is dealt with accordingly.

Similarly, if someone unlawfully uses Gen Kainerugaba's name for any purpose, they will face the disciplinary committee chaired by Hon Michael Mawanda, Member of Parliament for Igara East in Bushenyi District. We have systems in place to regulate our operations.

Have you experienced any remorse or guilt in response to viral social media content showing you wearing military uniform?

I preferred not to delve into the topic of military uniform. I wore that uniform not with the intent to deceive or commit any wrongdoing. It was Tarehe Sita Day, a day when Ugandans honour the men and women in uniform for their sacrifices for the country.

There was a cleaning exercise organised by the army, and I requested to wear the uniform for that specific event, which was approved by the authority.

Immediately after the event, I returned it. My intention was not to flaunt it or misuse it like some individuals do. Unfortunately, when a photo was taken and shared, it was blown out of proportion. I felt compelled to apologise because it was never my intention to cause any harm. It was simply a misunderstanding, and it shouldn't be blown out of proportion.

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