Saturday, November 4, 2023

President Yoweri Museveni is taking quite a bit of flak for advising against a request from former Obongi MP Hassan Kaps Fungaroo (FDC) to establish an Idi Amin Institute at Muni University purportedly to study former president’s controversial, if not criminal eight years of terror, bloodshed, disappearances, murders, economic ruin and collapse until his ouster on 11 April 1979 by a combined military force of Tanzanians and Ugandan exiles. Fungaroo, voted out of parliament in 2021 is clearly a man on a mission to solicit funding, cheap popularity and other forms of support to glorify megalomaniac Idi Amin in the hope it could endear unsuspecting voters back to him. 

The snub is making Museveni’s usual critics ratchet their revisionist comparisons of his 37-year administration to that of Amin on economic achievements or the lack there of, human rights and other development indices in wobbly efforts to whitewash Amin while dampening Museveni’s yet unsettled legacy. In a sense, Museveni and Amin’s proxies continue the fights. Some of the critics have disingenuously accused Museveni of seeking to stereotype West Nilers and Kakwa in particular. But it’s Museveni and NRM who created the conducive atmosphere that enabled half a million people who fled to Sudan and DRC between 1979 and 1986 to return home in peace. It is also Museveni who rebuilt relations with Amin’s close associates and family members some of whom currently serve in government at the highest levels. 

It appears that in Museveni’s views such an institute could be a memento to glorify an accomplished dictator who rose through a military coup and maintained his strangulation by unrivalled terror that left hundreds of thousands dead, scattered as refugees beyond Africa, and Ugandans groaning in pains of economic collapse whose ripple effects continue to reverberate 43 years after his military defeat.

Well, Amin and Museveni are both Generals although the Field Marshal, Life President, AL Hadji, Doctor, VC DSO MC, and Conqueror of British Empire lost his Crown, and fled to Saudi Arabia where he died and was buried in the desert while the Sabbalwanyi is still on a steady move with 37 years under his belt. The remembrance of Amin in whatever form-talks, public lectures, published writings or an institute could be for the revisionists to glorify him but cannot undo his terrible deeds done in full view of many people, some still alive. A methodical understanding of Amin, Obote and Museveni can shed invaluable contributions especially to the younger and future generations to appreciate Uganda’s unforgettable and truly painful history. 

President Museveni cannot close the debate on Uganda’s past or future because it would an attempt in futility. In any case Museveni’s book “Sowing the Mustard Seed” and other speeches have already put an indelible ink on Amin’s legacy unless of course he recommends their repudiation. Asking Ugandans to forget Idi Amin Dada is like recommending that they read a book without closing the pages and chapters. Amin, Obote and Museveni, the unforgettable chapters in Uganda.

Amin’s ‘Economic War’ 1972 was the beginning of Uganda’s decay and eventual collapse while his 1975 Land Decree which vested all land in Uganda in the hands of the State, had it not been revoked by the 1995 Constitution had hugely solved huge costs on public projects and as well rampant land grabbing by the powerful against small Ugandans.

Bishop Festo Kivengere’s book “A love Idi Amin” wasn’t a tribute but an indictment of the dictator probably more than Henry Kyemba’s “The State of Blood” because the later collaborated, enabled and benefited from Amin as minister 1971 until 1977 whose writing could have been to disguise his footmarks. Dr Martin Aliker’s “The Bell is Ringing” written with a light touch of humour also an adds insights into the trails making it extremely hard to forget the horrendous killer. When Amin as president visited Kisoko Saza headquarters in 1972 soon after declaring his ‘Economic War’, I was part of Kisoko Boy’s primary school pupils together with Tanga Odoi lined up to greet him and given a brand-new pair of black prefect shoes commandeered from Bata shop so we could look smart, although I don’t remember if Tanga also got the shoes. It was my first pair of shoes in life and so I cannot forget Idi Amin Dada although my happiness was short-lived because soon after, he dismissed my father from Saza Chief.

The high profile and targeted murder of Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka, Makerere University Vice Chancellor Frank Kalimuzo, Central Bank Governor Joseph Mubiru, Ministers Alex Ojera, William Kalema, Fabian Okware, James Ochola, Joshua Wakholi, John Kakonge, Shaban Nkutu, Luyimbazi Zzake, Yokosofati Engur, Erinayo Oryema, Charles Oboth Ofumbi, Anglican Archbishop Janan Luwum, Masaka Mayor, many senior army, police, prison officers, civil servants and politicians whose corpses were never recovered cannot just be wished away. Those who know these things but want to gloat over Idi Amin’s public record under the guise of freedom ushered by NRM’s enabling environment are at liberty to do so but history is an unforgiving judge.