By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda's long-serving President Yoweri Museveni promoted his son to the rank of brigadier general on Monday, fanning speculation he was grooming Muhoozi Kainerugaba for succession.
Critics say Kainerugaba, already in charge of the army's powerful elite unit, has rushed through the ranks since he joined the military in 1998. In 2001, he jumped two positions from 2nd Lieutenant to Major.
"The President and Commander in Chief has ... decided to re-organize the Special Forces Group (SFG) into Special Forces Command (SFC) which will be under the overall command of Brig (General) Muhoozi Kainerugaba who has been promoted from the rank of Col.," said a government statement.
Museveni has been in power since 1986. Western powers and opposition parties accused him of planning to stay in office for the rest of his life when the government removed presidential term limits from the constitution in 2005.
Last month, visiting U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, pressed Museveni to consider his "legacy", an apparent reference to his reluctance to cede power.
"It appears while everyone is debating Uganda's political succession, it's actually already happening in the military," said Angelo Izama, political affairs analyst at the U.S. based Open Society Foundation, on Monday.
"What's happening is that Muhoozi is being gradually put in bigger positions of responsibility ... He will be presented as the choice candidate of the ruling party and that choice will be backed by the military clout he is building now," he added.
The government statement said Kainerugaba's Special Forces Command would take charge of "VIP Protection and protection of strategic installations", in a possible reference to oil fields along the country's western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Last year security forces cracked down on a series of violent street protests in the capital and other cities against the alleged rigging of presidential elections, corruption and human rights abuses.
(Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Heavens)