By Alex Balimwikungu
In the beginning, he was accused of having itchy fingers. The timing of his tweets never helped matters and many accused him of tweeting under the influence of exotic drinks. They recommended a social media handler. He had other ideas. Just like former US president Donald Trump, he continued unabated, ignoring the diatribe from aggrieved keyboard warriors.
Today, several months on, Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the Commander of Land Forces in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, has shaped the narrative on Twitter.
His recent tweet, where he pleaded with President Yoweri Museveni to forgive former Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura, was picked up by major dailies as front page news.
Just before that, he eulogised fallen singer Mowzey Radio. “Rest in peace, my brother Mowzey Radio. You were a true patriot and nationalist! Your musical talent could not be challenged. We miss you! Rest in peace, brother,” he wrote.
Even the cynics among his 426,300 followers liked the post and retweeted it. For a high ranking soldier and commander, the feeling was that he should be guarded in his tweets. Instead, he has turned Twitter into a stream of his unfiltered thoughts. It is these provocative tweets that have put him in contention for the award for Tweep of the Year 2021. Even UNAIDS boss Winnie Byanyima, with whom he has clashed on Twitter before, can attest to it.
Muhoozi’s tweet on the Ethiopian war earned a sharp rebuke from Winnie Byanyima. “Please delete this tweet. It is risking the lives of Ugandans working and living in Ethiopia,” Byanyima tweeted her response to Muhoozi.
In the new media age, Twitter has become an effective platform for politicians and high profile personalities to speak to their audiences and bases without the gatekeeping rules of traditional media.
Muhoozi has fully utilised it. His non-conformist style has won him favour and rebuke in equal measure. For some, he speaks his mind. For others, he needs to stay away from provocative tweets, with talk of his presidential ambitions gaining momentum.
Lt. Gen. Muhoozi’s notable tweets
In the wake of the bombings at Digida pork joint, he tweeted. “I pity those who think they can defeat Bachwezi… Uganda is a nation of descendants from Bachwezi, those who are throwing small bombs around will learn a tough lesson!” It raised dust.
Where you had the likes of Balaam Barugahara calling him “God’s gift to Uganda, others were prophetic and sarcastic. They replied, “When a kid is walking with his father, he thinks his father is a lion and none can defeat him.”
Muhoozi’s tweet expressing solidarity with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a political organisation in war with the Ethiopian government, shocked many. “Our great Tigrayan brothers and sisters cannot be defeated. They have an unconquerable spirit!” he tweeted.
Although it drew him on a collision course with Byanyima, ensuing opinions from the wider public were in support of Muhoozi’s stance. They argued that for any Ugandan, keeping quiet about the Tigray genocide is to be complicit in the heinous crime.
Ahead of the 2021 presidential elections, Muhoozi went bare knuckle on the National Unity Platform leader, Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine).
“Someone tell this young brother of mine that we are going to beat him very badly in the polls,” Muhoozi said. They responded that he was simply scared. He followed it with another tweet.
Describing Bobi Wine as his “brother” and “past friend”, Muhoozi said on his Twitter handle that he was ready to hold talks with the singer-cum politician. Bobi Wine responded by blocking him on Twitter.
In doing so, he managed to hijack the narrative with a series of tweets lashing out at Bobi.
Another of Muhoozi’s tweets that raised eyebrows was the one about the coup in Guinea. “If our Commander in Chief gave us instructions, it wouldn’t take UPDF a day to discipline mutinous troops like the ones in Guinea-Conakry.”
You should have seen the army spokesperson, Brig. Flavia Byekwaso, fidget as she answered questions about Muhoozi’s tweets on the internal matters of other countries. “He makes them in his personal capacity,” she half-pleaded in a whisper to media.
When he is not ruffling feathers, Muhoozi, an avid basketball fan, tweets about his favourite game. During the Afrobasket games in Kigali, he was focused on just that. From bailing out the team with funds, to following up on each minute detail, he won over the hearts of many. “Our great basketball players have demonstrated the hearts of warriors. We are very proud of the #SilverBacks for reaching the quarterfinals of #Afrobasketball2021. We shall continue to improve! God bless Uganda,” he tweeted and lapped in the adulation.