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Uganda: Presidential family ties attract attention

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Amid the quick rise of President Museveni’s son through the ranks, politicians inside and outside of the ruling party are speaking more freely about the corruption and nepotism of the 26-year-old regime.

Succession whispers rose a little louder when President Yoweri Museveni, 68, promoted his first son, [B]Muhoozi Kainerugaba[/B] [B](1)[/B], 38, to brigadier in late August. It is one of the fastest elevations in Uganda’s military history: Muhoozi has only been in the [I]Uganda People’s Defence Force[/I] (UPDF) for 15 years.

Whether the old man is daring enough to front his son for the presidency is anybody’s guess, although the current word on the street is that Museveni intends to run again in 2016.

Muhoozi, who has been in charge of his father’s presidential guard since 2008, is said to be useful in maintaining rank-and-file loyalty to the first family. While older generals may quietly complain of blatant nepotism, Muhoozi’s elevation mirrors that of his peers.

Now also in their mid- and late-thirties, many of the mid-ranking officers who joined the UPDF at the same time as him have also risen up the ranks and owe it all to the new brigadier.

The political front is more complicated for the president. His recent criticism of his prime minister, the ruling [I]National Resistance Movement[/I]’s (NRM) secretary general [B]Amama Mbabazi[/B], immediately got tongues wagging. While talk of a spat may be exaggerated, there is much speculation that Mbabazi has too much on his plate.

Since the general elections in January 2011, the NRM has lost six of eight parliamentary by-elections, and there are another two around the corner.

While the party has an overwhelming majority in parliament, it has recently been beset by a wave of dissent played out on the floor of the house.

Many attribute it to the independence of the 56-year-old speaker [B]Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga[/B] [B](2)[/B]. A long-serving cabinet minister, Kadaga has surprised many with her penchant for allowing free and open debate.

The effect has been to showcase the debating skills of a new generation of parliamentarians.

Foremost of the NRM’s new boys – the ‘trojan horses’ created during the chaotic and bitter party primaries in November 2010 – is [B]Muhammad Nsereko[/B], MP for Kampala Central.

His attacks on the government are thought to have provoked powerful forces to take drastic action. Accused some months ago of sexual impropriety, he now faces a banking fraud charge. It is widely thought that the charges are trumped up.

An even bigger headache is opposition legislator [B]Nandala Mafabi[/B], the [I]Forum for Democratic Change[/I] (FDC) representative for Budadiri West. Mafabi’s outspokenness reached new heights of daring during last year’s elections when he accused the NRM of blatant vote rigging.

While many outspoken opposition politicians fell during the 2011 elections, Mafabi appears to have become even stronger, leading the pack of those inside and outside the ruling party impatient with a culture of corruption and entitlement.

Mafabi’s ambitions to become the president of the FDC may have to wait a while.

Former Commander of the UPDF, [B]Major General Gregory Mugisha Muntuyera (3)[/B] ([I]popularly known as Mugisha Muntu[/I]), is widely considered the favourite.

Muntu, a Museveni loyalist-turned-critic, intends to run for the presidency in 2016. He enjoys support among the urban middle classes and is generally respected for his integrity.

On the business front, the July appointment of [B]Herman Kasekende (4)[/B] as managing director of Standard Chartered Uganda has made history.

He becomes the first native son to run the bank in its 100-year history. Coming from a family of bankers (his brother, Louis, is the deputy governor of the central bank) and having been promoted from Standard Chartered Nairobi, Kasekende brings years of in- house experience to his new position.

Another key business figure is Elly Karuhanga, chairman of Tullow Uganda and the Uganda Chamber of Petroleum and Mines. A former MP, a lawyer and a wealthy dealmaker behind the scenes, Karuhanga has distinguished himself as a public-private go-between in the oil sector●

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