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Uganda President Museveni Appoints His Son as Top Army Commander

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Uganda’s president, who has been in office for nearly four decades, has appointed his son as the head of the country’s military, fueling long-held suspicions in the East African nation that the leader is preparing his son to one day succeed him.

The president, Yoweri Museveni, said late Thursday that he had named his son, Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, 49, as the nation’s top army commander. General Kainerugaba had been serving as a senior adviser to his father, and had been participating in large rallies across the country to help position himself as heir apparent — even as experts say that Mr. Museveni, who is 79, is unlikely to relinquish power during his lifetime.

General Kainerugaba had burst into the global limelight in recent years for his erratic, late-night tweets. At least one of the general’s closest confidants was also named to a top cabinet position.

Mr. Museveni, a six-term president, is expected to run in Uganda’s next elections, in 2026, and to continue tightening his grip over the lush, landlocked nation. But his advancing age and tensions among his close associates in the military and governing party have rekindled talk about an alleged plan from a decade ago in which it was claimed that he was grooming his son for power.

Mr. Museveni has repeatedly denied such a plan, which is commonly referred to as the “Muhoozi Project.”

Since coming to power in 1986, Mr. Museveni, a key Western ally, has ruled Uganda with an iron fist, cracking down on press freedom, jailing opposition leaders and having his critics tortured. Mr. Museveni, his son and other top Ugandan officials were accused of crimes against humanity in a submission filed last year at the International Criminal Court.

Mr. Museveni also signed a widely condemned anti-gay law last year that included a life sentence for anyone engaging in gay sex and was considered among the harshest in the world. In August, the United Nations human rights office in Uganda closed after the government declined to renew an agreement allowing it to function in the country.

General Kainerugaba is the eldest child and only son of Mr. Museveni, who also has three daughters. His first name, Muhoozi, means “the avenger,” the president has said. The son, who attended military schools in the United States and Britain, has also served as the commander of the Ugandan military’s land forces and as the head of an elite unit of special forces responsible for protecting Mr. Museveni and his interests.

In recent months, General Kainerugaba has been trying to polish his image and consolidate his support nationwide. He has been meeting politicians and attending rallies, actions that critics say violate rules barring active-duty army officers in Uganda from participating in politics.

For months now, he has refrained from sharing provocative tweets, which in the past have sometimes angered his father. He has also assumed the chairmanship of the Patriotic League of Uganda, a nonpartisan group that he says aims to foster national pride.

On Friday, some Ugandan observers said that General Kainerugaba’s appointment allowed Mr. Museveni not only to monitor the army closely but also to keep everyone guessing as succession politics brew and the election draws nearer.

“It seems to position the son in a way that is strategic so that he can run the family estate in case the father was to pass on,” Michael Mutyaba, a Ugandan researcher and political analyst, said in a telephone interview.

The president, Mr. Mutyaba added, “likes to stay unpredictable, which is one way he keeps power.”

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