Janet Museveni has emerged as the preferred successor to the president, with the full backing of her husband, who is also chairman of the ruling National Resistance Movement.
President Yoweri Museveni’s recent statement in an interview with NTV Uganda that he will not be in office beyond the constitutional age limit of 75 years has kicked off a race to succeed the Ugandan leader, with frontrunners jockeying to win the big man’s backing.
But The EastAfrican understands that this race may well be already over.
Apparently, First Lady Janet Kataaha Museveni has emerged as the preferred successor to the president, with the full backing of her husband, who is also chairman of the ruling National Resistance Movement.
Senior security sources told The EastAfrican that the president dropped the name of his wife, who is also Ruhaama MP and Minister for Karamoja Affairs, a few weeks ago while meeting top army generals, who form a critical power base of the regime, and whose support will be key to whoever succeeds the incumbent.
The source added that the generals did not expect this twist in the succession saga.
“There was a loud silence in the room. Army chiefs were all in disbelief [that he could name his wife for successor]. I don’t know how it will end because they [generals] have remained quiet, instead of coming out in support of Mzee’s choice,” said the source.
Despite the army generals’ discomfort, Museveni’s long time rumoured favourite for successor, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and now, the First Lady Janet, get a head start over all the other contenders, as Museveni has in the past publicly stated that Mbabazi is presidential material.
(Read: OBBO - His prestige lost, Museveni is trapped in the presidency)
In more recent times, however, Museveni has also publicly backed Vice President Edward Ssekandi, although analysts argue that the latter’s chances of heading the party and making it to State House are slim.
It is understood that the generals want one of their own, someone who fought in the bush war that brought the regime to power in 1986, which is why the choice of Mbabazi and Janet continues to baffle them. But in the wider scheme of things, Janet could yet turn out to be the compromise choice that ticks many boxes.
She would continue to bring in the women’s vote; she cuts a motherly figure and has long been close to the centre of power, with some of her protégés well placed in security circles — in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, the police and the army’s elite Special Forces Group (SFG). Critically, the SFG is led by her son Col Muhoozi Kainerugaba, another possible heir to Museveni.
Indeed, a poll by Research World International released last week (See related story: Protests, defiance mean NRM must embark on reform) gave Janet an intriguing lead as the favoured successor above all other NRM frontrunners.
There are also opinion leaders in the party and government who would give their backing to the First Lady, notably senior presidential advisor on media and public relations John Nagenda, who has hinted in the past that of all the people in the NRM, only Janet has the guts to challenge and succeed Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for 26 years and counting.
‘It will be wise for him to leave’