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BIG STORY: Inside Uganda Army Chiefs’ Promotions

Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the Senior Presidential Adviser for Special Operations, was this past week among hundreds of army officer elevated to higher military ranks.

Muhoozi was promoted from the rank of Major General to Lieutenant General.

The promotion immediately sparked debate on social media platforms with some saying it was part of President Museveni’s strategy to have Muhoozi succeed him as Uganda’s leader.

Muhoozi a few years ago said he was not interested in politics but that he was happy with those who saw in him potential to lead Uganda.

Notably, some commentators wondered how one could rise to the rank of Lieutenant General after only 20 years of service in the armed forces.

“The people who give those comments are misguided. They think they are experts in everything but not in military affairs,” said Maj Chris Magezi, the spokesperson of the Office of Presidential Advisor in charge of Special Operations.

“Lt Gen Muhoozi has all the qualifications of a professional military officer backed up by combat experience. He participated in counter insurgency operations against LRA both in Uganda and DRC and also against Al Shabaab in Somalia,” he added.

Muhoozi took over the new position for which he was assigned by President Museveni in January 2017.

His job is providing timely counsel to the President on Special Operations Forces in the UPDF and the Uganda Police Force, as well as other operational and strategic national security issues.

He previously served as the Commander of the Special Forces Command (CSFC) of the UPDF for a period spanning seven years from 2010 until his redeployment to the current position.

As CSFC, Muhoozi was responsible for the command, control and administration of UPDF Special Forces.

He reports directly to the Chief of Defense Forces (CDF) and to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Museveni.

Magezi explained that the army has specialties.

Muhoozi is a “Special Forces Operator. It is a unique field that needs specialized training and other skills. Just like you will find scientists and artists are not facing same fortunes. You can’t blame anyone for that.”

Other army officers promoted from the rank of Major General to Lieutenant General include NRA’s battle-hardened combatants, Pecos Kuteesa and John Mugume; Museveni’s long-serving aide, Prossy Nalweyiso, Charles Awany Otema, James Nakibus Lakara, Peter Elwelu, James Mugira, Joseph B Musanyufu, Paul Lokech and Charles Lutaaya among others.


Today, we take you through the journeys of the prominent army officers promoted by President Museveni last week.

Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba

Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba

Muhoozi started military training in 1994 after he left high school. He formally joined the UPDF in 1999.

He was admitted to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, graduating in 2000. In 2002 he went to train at the Egyptian Infantry School where he attended both the Company and Battalion Commanders courses.

He later attended the Kalama Armored Warfare Training School (in 2001 and again in 2005) in the Kabamba Cantonment, Mubende District. In 2007, he was admitted to a one-year course at the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He graduated in June of 2008.

He then went to undergo the US Army’s grueling Airborne course at Fort Benning, Georgia, which he successfully completed. In 2012, he attended and successfully completed the six months Executive National Security Program (ENSP) at the South African National Defense College, located in Thaba Tshwane near Pretoria.

Upon his completion of the Officer Cadet Course at Sandhurst in 2000, Muhoozi was commissioned to the rank of Second Lieutenant and assigned to the Presidential Protection Unit.

In 2003, he was promoted to the rank of Major. As a Major, he became a Commanding Officer of the Motorized Infantry Unit within the Presidential Guard Brigade. Following his graduation from Fort Leavenworth in 2008, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and tasked by the UPDF High Command to study the organization, training and equipping of modern Special Forces.

This was in order to avail the Commander-in-Chief and other senior decision makers in the UPDF with the necessary information they would need to set up such an organization.

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In February of 2010, he was appointed the Commander of the Special Forces Group (which was formed out of the former Presidential Guard Brigade and 1 Commando Battalion). In 2012, the Special Forces Group was expanded into a Special Forces Command.

Major General Kainerugaba has participated in and led a whole host of operations from counter-insurgency actions against the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda and Teso in the early 2000s to Peace Support Operations in Somalia. He was one of the key commanders involved in the planning and execution of Operation Kalongero (the UPDF’s effort to stabilize the volatile situation in South Sudan after fighting broke out in Juba on December 15th -16th 2013).

John Mugume

John Mugume

Lt Gen John Mugume served as an intelligence officer in the bush war, conducting reconnaissance missions which helped NRA succeed in decisive battles in Masindi and Kabamba. He also served as Brigade commander in the late 1980s.

In 2002, at the height of military operations against Joseph Kony’s LRA rebels, Museveni ordered the formation of 5th Division in Padel.

The Northern Region was initially covered by the 4th Division in Gulu. The 5th division was commanded by Mugume.

Previously, he served as Military police commander.

Mugume has been serving as General Manager of the army shop, also known as Defence Forces Shop.

He was supposed to go to Monduli in Tanzania for a cadet course with the likes of Elly Tumwiine, Katumba Wamala, Jeje Odong but was unsuccessful due to inadequate academic qualifications at the time.

Instead, he was sent for a non-commissioned course in Jinja.

Lt Gen

Gen. Otema Awany


Otema was in UNLA before crossing to NRA. He served as Director Logistics at General army headquarters in Bombo in 1999.

He was later appointed intelligence coordinator of northern Uganda at the height of LRA war. Otema, who hails from a staunch NRM family, would coordinate intelligence between 4th and 5th divisions in Northern Uganda as Ugandan troops fought battles with LRA. For the better part of the time, he was based in Gulu.

Otema is the elder brother of NRM Deputy Secretary General, Richard Todwong. Their mother was a stronger supporter of president Museveni when the Movement was struggling to obtain support in northern Uganda during the insurgency.

When the army launched Operation Lightening Thunder, Otema commanded 4th Division and also participated in military operations aimed at hunting down rebels in Central African Republic (CAR).

He was then promoted to Brigadier and appointed Chief of Logistics and Engineering in Mbuya where he stayed for many years.

It was not until 2017 when Museveni reshuffled the top military command, transferring CMI boss Charles Bakahumura to the logistics department that Otema moved to command the reserve force.

Otema’s promotion is to align him with his office as commander reserve force which considered a service.

Lt Gen Charles Lutaaya

The new Air Force commander Brig. Charles Lutaaya after being decorated in 2017

Lutaaya is a helicopter pilot. He used to fly M17 transport helicopters which were armed with machine guns and rockets in anti-LRA operations. The Ugandan army used these attack helicopter for a very long time. Having joined the NRA in the 1990s, Lutaaya also flew war choppers during operation lightening thunder against LRA in Garamba forest in 2008.

Impressed with this record, Museveni took on Lutaaya as his chopper pilot.

Both flew together for a long time until there was a leadership crisis in airforce after the UPDF chopper crash in Mt Kenya in 2016.

A committee chaired by Gen Salim Saleh discovered that airforce commanders ignored technical advice leading to the fatal crash in which the army’s pilots died.

Museveni responded by firing airforce chief Jim oweyesigire and airforce Chief Of Staff Moses Rwakitarate.

Museveni decided that leaders of airforce should be technical people themselves.

He appointed Major General Samuel Turyagyenda as airforce commander and Lutaaya as Chief of Staff. However, Turyagenda was dogged by ill health.

That’s how Col James Birungi Mugabe, a pilot, was transferred from Special Forces Command to serve as Airforce Chief of Staff. Lutaaya was promoted to head the Airforce.

Officials said both Birungi and Lutaaya were elevated to Major General and Lieutenant General respectively to align their rank with the positions they hold.

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The development also shows how the youthful army officers are taking charge of the top positions in the armed forces.

Leopold Kyanda who has been a Brigadier, had to be elevated to Major General to match his position of Chief of Staff Land Forces. He, however, recently completed the National Security and Strategic Study course in India.

Other officers promoted to align with their positions are Peter Elweru who is the commander of the Land Forces and Joseph B Musanyufu, the Joint Chief of Staff (JCOS) of the UPDF.

Research conducted by ChimpReports shows that UPDF nowadays ensures all Directors in the arm responsible for intelligence, finance, personnel, logistics, medical and music etc have to be at the rank of Colonel.

Brig Burundi Nyamunywanisa, an amiable officer, who previously served as Uganda’s defence attaché to Rwanda, was elevated to the rank of Major General. Nyamunywanisa, who has served as military attaché to Washington, is due for retirement. He also served as 3rd division commander before being replaced by Elweru in 2012.

Maj Gen Don William Nabasa

Sabiiti (L) in a chat with Nabasa at the handover ceremony in 2017

He was Lieutenant Colonel in February 2017. When Muhoozi was transferred from commanding Special Forces, Sabiiti Museveni literally took over the docket.

But Sabiiti would later leave for a course.

When both Muhoozi and Sabiiti left SFC, there was a vacuum. Museveni decided to appoint Nabasa, an experienced battlefield commander to lead the specialized force.

Nabasa joined the Forces in 1998 and has undertaken several military courses in commanding tanks. He attended the Junior Command Course, India in 2006; Motorized Battalion Commanders’ Course in 2008; Junior Staff Course in 2009; Strategic Maritime Combating Terrorism Course, U.S. in 2010; and Senior Command and Staff Course (SCSC) in 2012.

Brig Nabasa would later serve as Infantry Platoon Commander, Brigade Operations Officer, Tank Squadron Commander (2000-2007), Battalion Operations and Training Officer (2007-2008), Battalion Commanding Officer (2008-2012), Group Commander (2012-2016).

Between 2016 to 2017, Nabasa served as Deputy Commander Special Forces Command.

He also commanded Combat Operations in Somalia in 2014, at the height of Insurgency and Terrorism by the Al Shabaab.

Since he was a Colonel, low rank for someone to command SFC, Museveni in 2017 promoted Nabasa to Brigadier.

Interestingly, in February 2019, he was further elevated to Major General. Yet SFC Commander is supposed to be at the rank of Lieutenant General.

“If he is still in that office, don’t be surprised to see him promoted in the next one or two years,” said an officer.

Maj Paul Gen Lokech

Maj Paul Gen Lokech was deployed in Somalia in 2011-12. He led Ugandan troops in decisive battles that broke Al Shabaab’s back.

He would later earn the nickname, “Lion of Mogadishu”.

Lokech recently served as Uganda’s Defence Attaché to Russia and also as Commander of the UPDF Second Division, a post he held until recently, when he was appointed Contingent Commander for the second time.

He nearly fell in trouble after trumped-up charges were leveled against him only to be saved by a close associate of president Museveni.

Lt Gen Peter Elwelu

Peter Elwelu addressing AMISOM troops in Somalia

Many say he has had a distinguished military career.

He joined NRA in 1987 and was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant. For many years, he was an instructor at the school of infantry in Jinja.

He has trained many officers.

But around 1998, he was sent to DRC where he served as battalion commander till the early 2000s. Elwelu was Brigade commander in Padel under 5th division.

In 2007 he was sent as the first UPDF commandant in Somalia for a year.

His planes carrying UPDF soldiers would land under a hail storm of bullets from Al Shabaab. He is credited for creating a safe haven for UPDF in Somalia which would later be used to drive the insurgents from the capital.

He was later appointed 2nd Division Commander in Mbarara before being named Land Forces commander.

Elwelu was criticized for using force against Rwenzururu militia which had camped at the King’s palace in Kasese, killing several people. He defended his decision, saying the militia had not only killed UPDF soldiers but had refused to vacate the palace where they were holding people hostage.

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James Nakibus Lakara

Lt Gen Nakibus Lakara

Lakara, who served as Chief of Staff under Maj General James Kazini, is due for retirement.

He was not deployed for a long time until 2013 when he was appointed 3rd division commander in Moroto, Karamoja.

The Karamajong welcomed the appointment of their own after 8-years on ‘katebe’ (being undeployed).

He was later sent to Uganda Rapid Deployment Capability Centre in Jinja and also served as Deputy UPDF Force commander in Somalia.

Other senior officers from Karamoja include Lt Gen Andrew Gutti and John Lorot who has been promoted from Brigadier to Major General.

Maj General Leopold Kyanda

Kyanda was a commander at the Presidential Protection Unit. He served in Congo where he led a battalion and even headed the UPDF Military Intelligence docket. He originated from Hoima Western Uganda.

Brigadier Johnson Namanya

Namanya studied Mass Communication at Makerere University and briefly worked with Daily Monitor before joining the army in 1998. Joined almost at the same time with the likes of Muhoozi and Sabiiti.

Upon completing Cadet, Namanya was deployed in PPU where he later served as commander when Kyanda was away.

Museveni later sent Namanya to deputise James Mugira who was the Chief Executive Officer, Luweero industries. Namanya was recently appointed as Director at Immigration Department.

Lt Gen Mugira

Gen James Mugira

He is a lawyer by profession with First Class honours Degree-LLB (Makerere); Master of Laws in International Business Law-LLM (University of Manchester) and Master of Arts in International Affairs (Legon University Ghana).

Having joined NRA in its early stages of its struggle from Kasese, Mugira is a graduate of the prestigious Monduli Military Academy, Tanzania and the Ghana Senior Command and Staff College in addition to a number of military intelligence academies in U.K and US..

Those who have worked closely under him say Mugira is a no-nonsense officer.

“He is said to be a strict disciplinarian and strict time keeper. He is a reserved down to earth officer who prefers to keep a low profile,” the source notes.

He previously worked as Private Secretary to the President and Commander of the Armoured Brigade based in Masaka among others.

As CMI boss, Mugira played a key role in the arrest in record time of the 7/11 terror suspects although this almost brought him on a collision path with Lt Gen Kale Kayihura.

Shortly after arresting and interrogating all the terrorists, Mugira telephoned Kayihura, saying he would parade them before the media to tell Ugandans how they masterminded the attacks at Kyaddondo and Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kampala.

However, Kayihura was attending a security meeting and could therefore not pick the phone call.

Mugira then sent a text message. Because of his tight schedule, Kayihura did not read the message concerning the planned parading of terror suspects at then CMI headquarters in Kitante.

Considering that police and CMI were both under pressure by human rights organizations to parade the suspects in court, the heads of these institutions ended up holding parallel press conferences on the same day.

Mugira coordinated efforts for the establishment of the Joint Intelligence Centre at Beni and East African Defence Counter terrorism Centre in Nairobi where Jamil Mukulu, the leader of ADF, was planning all his activities.

In the early 2000s, Mugira worked hard to restore Uganda/ Rwanda relations right from the time he headed the Uganda team on the Joint Uganda/Rwanda Investigations and Verification Committee brokered by Hon Claire Short.

His counterpart on the Rwanda side was Colonel now Lt Gen Charles Kayonga.

Mugira used both his official position and his personal relationship with a number of senior officers both in Government and the Rwanda Defence Forces to restore relations between the two countries after the Kisangani clashes.

He was at school with many of the senior officers in the Rwanda Army and worked with them, including President Kagame at Basiima House headquarters of NRA Directorate of Military Intelligence.

At the head of NEC, Mugira oversees the business arm of UPDF which manufactures bullets, rifles, armoured vehicles, pharmaceuticals, dairy products among others.


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