FULL INTERVIEW: Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba Relives His Closest Contact With Death

President Yoweri Museveni’s Adviser on Special Operations has opened up on the 7 years he commanded the elite Special Forces Command, physician which he left early this year.

42 Year old Gen Muhoozi, capsule who is a very uncommon figure in media interviews, was seated down by veteran journalist Tony Owana of the National Broadcaster UBC, in an interview that aired Saturday night at 9pm.

In the interview, Muhoozi talked his inspiration to join the army, his widely discussed promotions, two of his closest contacts with death, political ambitions among other fascinating topics.

Below is the full interview.

Owana: You were Commander of the Special Forces Command. Do you think that this new appointment deprives you of your unit which you actually started?

Muhoozi: No, I don’t feel that way. We have a concept in the military called Tour of Duty, where you serve for a certain amount of time, may be two or three years in a specific position, and then you move on to another task. This is normal practice all over the world.  I have served as commander of SFC for 7 years now. That has been quite a long time now and it was high time for change; so that somebody comes in and takes over the task and I move on to something else.

Owana: Do you miss the old post though; having been there for a long time…you know that element of ‘I am going somewhere else?’

Muhoozi: No; not at all. I think I have done quite a lot for the formation that I am confident that those who are coming after me are well placed in terms of experience and preparation to continue the work, just as I would have. I am not feeling like I would miss it so much.

Owana: Take us through the history of this formation, because it is one of the newest…from PPU to SFC.

Muhoozi: It has a long history which goes back to 1981. At first it was a unit of his close bodyguards. From there it grew and by the time Kampala fell in 1986 it was called the High Command Unit. It was about a Company – Strength.  After the fall of Kampala, it changed names again to the Presidential Protection Unit (PPU) until 2003 when it became the Presidential Guard Brigade (PGB). In 2010, with the merger of PGB and The Commandos (another unit formed in 2006), it became Special Forces Group (SFG) and in 2012 it became SFC.

Owana: What do you mean when you say it was a Company Strength, because some people might think it was Owana and Company?

Muhoozi (Chuckles): A company in the UPDF is about 145 Soldiers. Different armies have different organisations; for instance I trained in the British Army where a Company is 100 soldiers. Other countries have other figures.

Owana: We hear that it was your uncle Saleh who lured you into these things of the military…that you were not interested. How true is this rumour?

Muhoozi: It is a rumour because I was already interested. I grew up with soldiers, the likes of Gen Saleh and the late Fred Rwigyema and others who were always around the President at the time he was in Tanzania and at the fall of Amin in Kampala. Those are the people that I grew up with. I was always inspired by them and they had an impact on my formation.

But when I went to school, I thought that maybe I didn’t have to do exactly what they had done. But as you remember, the situation in the country in the 1990s wasn’t good. I finished S.6 in 1994 and Uganda was in a bad situation. Western Uganda was under attack from the ADF, the security wasn’t motivated and I decided I had to serve my country.

Owana: But you could have become a politician

Muhoozi: No; at that time the urge for security was great because the country was not okay. For a young man, it was glaring that something had to be done.

Owana: Didn’t your parents object in fear that those things are risky?

Muhoozi: My father was in support, and a few other people.

Owana: Let us address the talk that you have grown very rapidly. Some say it is affirmative action, being the First Son. People say that you have been helped along by the state.

Muhoozi: In the military, the important issue is the course because courses prepare you for the next level of command. Provided you have done the prerequisite courses, you are in good standing for the next level of command and the next level of command comes with a rank. You cannot command a Brigade as a Captain. There is no way.

There is also experience and operations. All units that I have commanded, I have been in operations; not only me but also others categorised in that group who have the requisite experience.

Owana: When you went to Congo, we circulated a rumour that you went there just to be seen and that there was a huge formation looking after you. Can you throw light on some of the dark assignments that you have handled if any? Are there some hazardous situations you have been and you came out of them?

Muhoozi: I wouldn’t want to go into details because some of it is classified, but yes I have been in hazardous situations, because when you command soldiers, you have to partake in their risks, otherwise, they will not follow you. One of the reasons I have done well in command, is because I am willing to take the same risks as the soldiers. Going to Congo was not for anything else but to be close to the men.

Owana: What are the advantages of being the son of a sitting President; and also are there disadvantages, like where in your career you wish you were not a son of a sitting President?

Muhoozi: For me, the advantage of being my father’s son is that I have learnt a lot from him as a parent. Being in close proximity with him has been an advantage in terms of lessons for life. May be the disadvantage is that people cannot separate you. That perception can be considered a disadvantage.

Owana: I don’t know if this is classified, but what has been the best and worst experience that you have had?

Muhoozi: There are operations where personally I could have lost my life, for example in Soroti, when we were ambushed by Tabule in 2003. Actually there was a rumour that I had been killed. It was a night ambush. We lost one soldier.

My good experience was when we managed to expel the Alshabaab from Mogadishu. I went there in 2011 when Alshabaab was in control of 85% of Mogadishu.

Owana: You are a citizen of the Republic of Uganda. Do you vote?

Muhoozi: Yes.

Owana: Where do you vote from?

Muhoozi: Of course we are always on standby during elections, so you have to vote near your place of work. So I vote in Kampala.

Owana: What do you do in your free time if you have any?

Muhoozi: I like to read, mainly military history books.

Owana: You have so far authored one book

Muhoozi: Yes

Owana: Which I have read twice

Muhoozi: Did you like it?

Owana: I was trying to figure out how much of it was written by your father.

Muhoozi: (Laughs)

Owana: Are you still writing?

Muhoozi: No, there is no time now, but if I get time I would love to go back to write some more.

Owana: In 1980, you and your parents were held at a roadblock in Kireka. We heard you were going to be murdered. What do you remember about this and has it mattered in your course?

Muhoozi: I remember I was six years old. I actually joined my parents; they were leaving the house and I said I wanted to come along with them. So they put me in the back and we drove. We were going to pick a car somewhere in Kireka. He was driving, Mama Janet was in the passenger seat, and I was behind with two soldiers. One was called Kasasira and the other was called Lawrence, both I think are deceased.

We drove, and that time from the Wampeewo roundabout and that place just before joining Jinja Road, up to Kireka there was not much; It was not like now with many buildings. I remember after Lugogo, it was just a bush, there was nothing. So, we got to Kireka and there were two roadblocks. The first one was manned by Tanzanian soldiers and they let us through as soon as Mzee identified himself. The second roadblock was manned by UNLA. Those ones, when he identified himself, they started checking the car, and I remember I had a toy pistol. They said, Ah-ah, you see, even the child has a gun. So they arrested us there and then and put us on the side of the road. We were there for about 5 or 6 hours in the bush.  The way we were saved was by the late Fred Rwigyema.

Owana: How did he come to know?

Muhoozi: He was an alert soldier. Once a few hours passed and we had not returned, he started getting concerned. So he moved to all of Mzee’s friends, that he thought we must have passed by. When he didn’t find us, he went to the now Serena Conference Centre. At that time Mzee was the vice chairman of the Military Commission, so he used to have offices together with other Military Commission People there.

Still he didn’t find us, but by the grace of God, as he was leaving, a waiter came and told him that he had been serving some UNLA officers and they were celebrating that they had arrested Museveni at a roadblock in Kireka.

That’s when he went and picked up Afande Saleh and two other soldiers and they came. I remember they came in a small car. At that time, no one was moving at night and it was already 11 pm in the night. So the car came; it was first stopped at the first roadblock of the Tanzanians and then it proceeded and stopped where we were. In the darkness we heard Saleh’s voice asking they solders, who they were holding in the bush? (Because they had heard that we had already been killed and thrown in a ditch). They told him, this is Museveni we have arrested him.

Then he said, Okay, and they drove away; they went about 100 or 200 meters and then they turned the car very fast and came back full speed, and all jumped out of the car…and that is how the soldiers released us. They (Saleh’s) were about to start shooting when Mzee said Muache, Muache; don’t shoot.

Owana: Do you remember the date of the incident?

Muhoozi: I cannot remember the date. I would have to ask. But then after that, Afande Saleh got into problems because he told the commander of the roadblock that, ‘you tell whoever told you to arrest these people that Commander Salim Saleh has rescued them.’ That caused him problems. He was arrested after that.

Owana: You have heard about the Muhoozi Project…Do you think that you could at one point eye the topmost office in the country? If not; why?

Muhoozi: It is not something that I am considering, because I’d say I have been busy with the military and it’s quite a demanding job. That is why I have not had so many interviews, over the seven years that I have been commander of what we call this high-speed unit. Things are always happening. It is not something that I think of now. I don’t think of joining politics.


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