KAMPALA, Uganda – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni made his son a one-star general and appointed him overall commander of the country's special forces, leading some Ugandans to conclude that the son is being groomed to succeed his father.
In changes announced on Monday, Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba was made a brigadier-general, the latest promotion in the 38-year-old's quick rise through the ranks. Some Ugandans have long believed that Museveni, who took power by force in 1986, is nurturing his son to eventually take over from him when he retires.
Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a political historian at Uganda's Makerere University, said the promotion gives that credence.
"Museveni might now be confirming the rumors that he is preparing his son for succession," Ndebesa said. "It's just unimaginable that this is happening."
In his new role Kainerugaba, who received some military training at the elite Sandhurst British academy, will be the chief protector of his father and resources such as oil wells. While he previously reported to the chief army commander, it appears that now he will answer directly to his father.
Some analysts say that Kainerugaba's rise through the army has been a source of resentment for the more senior army officers who see the first son as being shamelessly fast-tracked toward the point when he will assume firm control of the Ugandan military. Uganda's most senior army officers are veterans of the bush war that brought Museveni to power in January 1986, when Kainerugaba was not yet a teenager.
Nicholas Sengoba, a political analyst based in Kampala, said Kainerugaba's promotion had made it clearer that Museveni wants his son to have more say in the military going forward.
"It's been quite obvious that Muhoozi is headed for big things," Sengoba said. "This vindicates those who have been critical of Museveni. The doubts are being removed slowly."
Throughout his political career Museveni has been dogged by accusations that he practices nepotism. His wife is a Cabinet minister and his brother used to be one.
Museveni, who was reelected last year, has not said if he will run again when his current term expires in 2016. But he faces pressure within and outside the ruling party to quit and preside over what would be the first peaceful transfer of power in Uganda's history.