Over the last seven months, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the Commander of the Land Forces of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF), has shuttled five countries and held direct talks with their heads of state.
During these seven months, he has visited Somalia and talked to its president. He has gone to Kenya and shared three bottles of mineral water with President Uhuru Kenyatta. All this was in the fall of 2021. In January 2022, he went to Rwanda where he shared a meal with President Paul Rutagambwa Kagame. He would later on visit South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. This month, he returned to Rwanda for a three day visit. He would later fly to Egypt to meet its President and senior military officials.
From all these trips, a few diplomatic developments have emerged. One: A thaw in the Uganda- Rwanda relations. Two: A military cooperation with Egypt. Three: A peaceful campaign in Kenya. Four: A usually travel-shy Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni went to Congo on 11 February to meet Denis Sassou Nguesso. The trip, which also took him to Dakar, was aimed at setting up the African Global Security foundation. Five: A high level military engagement between Uganda and Tanzania took place. But then, South Africa keeps keenly watching and welcoming.
The UPDF Commander of Land Forces (CLF) spoke to online news outlet- mediascapenews.com and below are the excerpts.
In the past seven months, you have traversed five countries and met their heads of state. What is this diplomatic offensive about?
It should have been earlier but during the Covid-19 lockdown, I didn’t leave the country at all. I have been in Uganda for almost two years. As far as diplomacy is concerned, I am a three star General in UPDF. I am also a Senior Presidential Adviser on Special Operations. I am also a graduate of the Executive National Security Program (ENSP) in South Africa. That was in 2012. I know that what I am involved in constitutes soft power. Softpower has its place in any successful national security strategy. This is my version of diplomacy. And this is what this offensive is about.
Is this responsible for the warm talks between Uganda and Rwanda?
I would say yes.
What have you achieved then?
I think we have achieved quite a lot. The spoilers had successfully led us almost to the brink of war. It was simply the Almighty God who pulled us back from the brink. We are now talking, co-operating, the borders are open. I thank our two great leaders for creating this peace.
How are you able to fix diplomatic issues so easily?
Haha! I think it’s a question of understanding the problems. I was born in this relationship, between Uganda and Rwanda. So I think I instinctively understand the issues better than a distinguished diplomat from outside this relationship. And it’s not only me. There are many others who know our problems in a very intimate way. So I count that as an advantage.
Is this why you reduce this serious matter to just an ‘uncle-nephew talk’ between yourself and President Kagame?
No. You are getting this wrong. The fact is that I have the advantage of knowing the main players in the Uganda- Rwanda relationship. They know me in a very personal way. I called President Kagame my ‘Uncle’ and some detractors laughed at me. I don’t think they are laughing anymore.
We have read in several media spaces that your roving trips are about you getting tutorials from seniors in the region as you eye big things ahead
I laugh when I read those stories. I don’t need lessons from anyone on what my next move should be if I ever wanted ‘Big things’ as you call it. I will always trust in God at every point in my life.