Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba has celebrated his 48th birthday for two weeks now with a mini-marathon, football match, concerts, and dinners across the country. The party mood is still on but a lawyer, Gawaya Tegulle has jolted the Muhoozi legion of supporters with a court petition challenging the constitutionality of the active-duty general’s activities.
On May 6, 2022, Tegulle filed his petition before the Constitutional court against Lt. Gen Muhoozi, the Chief of Defence Forces, and the Attorney General. Tegulle accuses Muhoozi of making political pronouncements and participating in actions including national and district birthday celebrations that are in contravention of the Constitution. He jointly accuses the Chief of Defence Forces and the attorney general of failing to advise Muhoozi on the legality and tenable nature of his actions, character, and conduct, which contravene the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and the UPDF Act.
Article 208 (2) of the Constitution provides that UPDF shall be non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional, disciplined, productive, and subordinate to civilian authority as established under the constitution. In his prayers to court, Tegulle requested that Muhoozi be arrested for treason and that the court orders Muhoozi to cease carrying out his political activities while still a serving army officer and that an injunction is issued to that effect.
He requests the court to order the Attorney General and Chief of Defence Forces to discharge their constitutional mandate without fear or favor and with effectiveness and efficiency to the last drop. The preamble of Uganda’s 1995 Constitution recalls Uganda’s history, which has been characterized by political and constitutional instability, which in most cases has been orchestrated by men in army uniform.
Muhoozi’s aspirations and actions while still a serving military officer, are a manifestation of a creeping militarization of the state and all other arms of government. The doctrine of civil-military separation of power is a core principle enshrined within our 1995 Constitution with an entire chapter dedicated to the UPDF. Instead of what we see today, the civilian authority should always dominate the gun instead of the gun dominating the authority.
Although Muhoozi’s actions might go without punishment owing to his position as the first son, he sets a bad precedent for Uganda’s future leadership. He has pushed the civil-military divide to a breaking point.
In the future, high-ranking serving military officers may be tempted to make sweeping political statements/form factions within the army confident that a precedent has been set before and will walk scot-free. That cannot portend well for the country. General Muhoozi should lead by example. Let him retire and seek the highest office without using the army as a vehicle. He is a Ugandan who can seek any political office he wants.