Top Ugandan General Adds to Growing List of Pro-Russian African Military Personnel

Ugandan General Muhoozi Kainerugaba (right), meets with Rwandan President Paul Kagame (left) in Kigali, Rwanda on 22 January 2021.

Ugandan General Muhoozi Kainerugaba (right), meets with Rwandan President Paul Kagame (left) in Kigali, Rwanda on 22 January 2021.

“Call me Putinist if you want, we Uganda should send soldiers to defend Moscow if ever it was threatened by imperialists.”

Over the past several years, a notable trend has seen various francophone states in the West and Central African regions begin to reject French political and military assistance, and instead, align themselves with Russia and the Wagner Group.[i] From Mali[ii] to the Central African Republic[iii] to Burkina Faso,[iv] the most ardent African supporters of Russia have generally been francophone military commanders. However, the accompanying article from pan-African news aggregator AfricaNews illustrates how pro-Russian sentiment is now increasingly showing itself in anglophone countries, namely, in the East African state of Uganda.

As reported, Ugandan Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba made waves when he announced that if needed Uganda would send troops to help Russia defend itself. “Call me ‘Putinist’ if you want, we Uganda should send soldiers to defend Moscow if ever it was threatened by imperialists,” he tweeted. The only son of Uganda’s long-time president Yoweri Museveni, Kainerugaba is widely expected to be his father’s successor, the latter having served as the country’s president for the past 37 years. Kainerugaba, who attended the U.S. Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, previously served as the commander of land forces for the Uganda People’s Defence Force (2021-2022), and twice as the commander of Uganda’s Special Forces Command (2008-2017, 2020-2021).

The recent pro-Russian sentiments from Kainerugaba are in line with his own previous exaltations. In May 2022, he tweeted that “The majority of mankind (that are non-white) support Russia’s stand in Ukraine. Putin is absolutely right!” For its part, Uganda has abstained from the two 2022 UN Security Council resolutions condemning Russia, and in mid-2022, announced that its state broadcaster had signed a memorandum of understanding to disseminate two daily news bulletins from Russia’s state-funded RT news service. Though President Museveni has historically maintained good relations with the West, he has often been criticized for his illiberal rule. While Kainerugaba’s outlooks are officially only his personal opinions, his high-profile role in the Ugandan armed forces and Ugandan society in general, in addition to the real likelihood that he may assume the presidency of the country, suggest that an anglophone African country that was once a reliable U.S. ally may now be leaning more toward a key U.S. adversary.


Uganda will send soldiers to Moscow to defend Putin if need be – President’s son,” AfricaNews (centrist pan-African news aggregator,” 31 March 2023.

The son of Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, said he would send Ugandan troops to defend Moscow in case of an “imperialist” threat.

“Call me Putinist if you want, we Uganda should send soldiers to defend Moscow if ever it was threatened by imperialists,” he wrote on Twitter.

“The West is wasting its time with useless pro-Ukrainian propaganda,” added the president’s son, a staunch supporter of Vladimir Putin…

Uganda has abstained from UN votes on the Ukrainian conflict, including one in February on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which called on Moscow to withdraw its troops from the country…

In July, during a tour of Africa by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kainerugaba said, referring to Russia, “How can we be against someone who has never hurt us?

Russia has traditionally had strong ties to Africa because of its support for independence movements on the continent that were then struggling with colonial powers.Observers have long considered Muhoozi Kainerugaba to be a likely successor to his father Yoweri Museveni, 78.


[i] For more on Russian attempts to garner African allies, especially following its invasion of Ukraine, see: Jason Warner, “Russia Laying Groundwork Ahead of July 2023 Russia-Africa Summit,” OE Watch, 1-2023.; Jason Warner, “”African Stances on the Russia-Ukraine War Demonstrate Reliance on, Antipathy Toward West,” OE Watch, 9-2022.

[ii] For more on the relationship between Mali, France, and Russia, see: Jason Warner, “Mali Claims France Funded Terrorists: France Denies,” OE Watch, 10-2022.; Jason Warner, “Mali Defends Reliance on Russian Counterterrorism Assistance,” OE Watch, 03-2023.

[iii] For more on the deteriorating relationship between the Central African Republic and France, see: Jason Warner, “Following Mali, CAR Accuses France of Funding Terrorists,” OE Watch, 4-2023.

[iv] For more on the relationship between Burkina Faso, France, and Russia, see: Jason Warner, “Burkina Faso Fights Terrorism with Recruits and Russia,” OE Watch, 02-2023.

Image Information:

Image: Ugandan General Muhoozi Kainerugaba (right), meets with Rwandan President Paul Kagame (left) in Kigali, Rwanda on 22 January 2021.
Attribution: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Uganda and Rwanda Target Militants in Congo

Ugandan soldiers on parade.

Ugandan soldiers on parade.

“In order to fight them more effectively, our two countries [Uganda and DRC] have recently agreed to pool their efforts in order to carry out joint operations against this common enemy.”

The first accompanying excerpt from the Rwanda-centric media outlet discusses the continued counterterrorism collaboration of Rwanda’s neighbors, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  The cooperation is meant to combat militants loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the insurgent Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), based in the DRC.  According to the article, the two countries’ forces have opened a second axis for launching an offensive against the ADF.  The article notes that originally Uganda entered the DRC with the DRC government’s permission because the ADF conducted two bombings in Kampala, but Uganda has increased coordination with the DRC to more effectively combat the ADF.

The second accompanying excerpt from the Ugandan publication also emphasizes a retaliatory objective for Uganda’s latest troop deployment to the DRC.  Besides the ADF’s bombings in Kampala, the group also began attacking markets located near Uganda’s northern border with the DRC.  After the ADF stole food and medicine and retreated, numerous displaced people crossed into Uganda, which created an additional humanitarian crisis for Uganda.  Further, the article notes the Ugandan army suspected that ADF members were operating in Uganda by disguising themselves as refugees.  This incentivized Uganda to enter the DRC to push the ADF back from the border.

As the final excerpt from the pro-government Rwandan daily notes, there is a growing perception that the conflict in the DRC is now a regional affair.  According to the article, Rwandan President Paul Kagame is calling for collective regional military action to combat the ADF and the Rwandan government is opening lines of communication with Uganda to resolve their border issues as another means to address the ADF’s regional threat.  In addition, the article mentions Rwanda’s increasing collaboration with Burundi to target other militia groups besides the ADF, and with Mozambique to combat ISIS-loyal militants in that country.  This suggests that Rwanda is increasingly acquiring regional military influence.


“Uganda Sends More Troops To DRC,” (Rwanda-centric media outlet), 3 February 2022.

Uganda’s government says it has sent an extra number of troops into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo to bolster its fight against the Allied Democratic Forces rebels. Last year in November, thousands of [Ugandan] troops crossed into DRC on invitation by President Félix Tshisekedi to “fight against armed groups, in particular the Ugandan rebels of the ADF”. Uganda gladly accepted the invitation and responded by conducting aerial and artillery bombardment of ADF bases deep in the jungles of DRC.

The attacks in October and November [2021] prompted the Ugandan military to deploy in eastern DRC in late November to take on the Islamist fighters.

Source: “Thousands of refugees flee into Uganda after an ADF attack,” (Ugandan publication covering Ugandan affairs for a global readership), 7 February 2022.

Uganda’s Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Esther Anyakun, said that the ADF reportedly broke into pharmacies and shops as residents fled at their approach. The rebels allegedly made off with food and medicine. The refugees that crossed into Uganda were registered by Uganda Red Cross with the help of the Office of the Prime Minister and The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR. Only days before this fresh influx of refugees, residents in Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts were advised not to accommodate refugees fleeing battle in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These refugees, Ugandan authorities said, would have to be reported to the Refugees’ Reception Center and be registered.

Source: “Security problems in DR Congo affect the whole region,” (pro-government Rwandan daily), 8 February 2022.

President Paul Kagame has called for collective efforts by regional leaders towards the end of security challenges in the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly associated to armed militia groups based in the country. He said that Rwanda was ready to play her part in resolving the security challenges stemming from the neighbouring country. The head of state also weighed in on Rwanda’s ties with neighboring countries, which he said were on a promising trajectory.

Image Information:

Image: Ugandan soldiers on parade.
Photographer: Master Sergeant Carlotta Holley
Attribution: CC x 2.0

East African Special Forces Commit to Cross-Border Counterterrorism Operations

Rwandan Defense Force combat lifesaver training.

Rwandan Defense Force combat lifesaver training.

“In order to allow the state of siege to quickly restore peace in Ituri and North Kivu, the deputies supported during the debate the pooling of the Ugandan and DRC armed forces to hunt down the ADF and other negative forces.”

On 1 December, the Rwanda-based website Taarifa Rwanda reported on Uganda and Congo’s joint special forces operations against Allied Defense Forces (ADF) militants in Congo.  ADF is loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  The article noted that Uganda and Congo believe they are preempting the siege of towns in Ituri and North Kivu, Congo by the militants.  It was also noted that the Congolese National Assembly unanimously voted to support joint special forces operations and that there would be a long and protracted hunt by the two countries’ special forces in the jungle to root out the militants. 

In August, Rwanda itself deployed soldiers to Mozambique to combat ISIS-loyal militants in that country.  This was the first-ever foreign military excursion for Rwanda to coastal East Africa.  More than one month later, according to the excerpted 25 September article in Kenya-based The East African, Rwandan president Paul Kagame pledged to continue counterterrorism operations in Mozambique.  The article noted that Kagame traveled to the epicenter of the insurgency in Cabo Delgado province to address the joint forces of the Mozambique Armed Defence Force and Rwanda Defence Force, stating that Rwandan troops would not leave Mozambique until the security situation was stable.

According to the The East African, Rwanda’s contingent in Mozambique includes 1,000 soldiers, who Mozambican president Filipe Nyusi regards as heroes.  Both Nyusi and Kagame justified the Rwandan troop deployment as necessary to fight the ADF and other ISIS-loyal militants, who Kagame described as a regional threat.  Kagame, for example, noted that the militants included Kenyans, Tanzanians, Congolese, Somalis, and Rwandans.  The two articles demonstrate how East African states are increasingly viewing counterterrorism through a regional lens and how cross-border counterterrorism operations, such as Uganda in Congo or Rwanda in Mozambique, will likely become more common in the region.


“Uganda-DRC Special Forces Search Bombed ADF Areas,” (Rwandan based news website), 1 December 2021.

Members of the Congolese national assembly unanimously voted to support joint Ugandan and DRC operations to be more effective in tracking down the ADF, because, according to them, “before the state of siege is equal to during the state of siege.” In order to quickly restore peace in Ituri and North Kivu, the deputies supported during the debate the pooling of the Ugandan and DRC armed forces to hunt down the ADF and other negative forces.

Source: “Kagame says troops will stay put in Cabo Delgado to ensure stability, (Kenya based publication covering regional developments), 25 September 2021.

President Paul Kagame has praised the Rwandan troops deployed to fight insurgents in Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique for their good work fighting insurgents. While addressing the joint force of Mozambican Armed Defence and Rwanda Defence Force on Friday at Cabo Delgado, he also said the soldiers will stay put to stabilize and facilitate the return of displaced civilians to their homes. He was accompanied by his Mozambican counterpart Filipe Nyusi.

The Rwandan contingent is 1,000-soldier strong, made up of the army and the police who recently launched offensives against the insurgents in Cabo Delgado province. Botswana later sent a contingent of 296 and South Africa deployed 1,500 soldiers. President Kagame has defended the deployment, and said his country is footing the deployment bill for now, and the mission will stay on to train the Mozambican army, pointing out that the nature of the threat was regional given that the insurgents not only included Mozambicans, but also Tanzanians, Ugandans, Kenyans, Somalis, Yemenis, Congolese and Rwandan fighters.

Image Information:

Image: Rwandan Defense Force combat lifesaver training.
Source: US Army Africa from Vicenza, Italy,_March_2011_-_Flickr_-_US_Army_Africa.jpg
Attribution: CC x 2.0