Friday, August 31, 2007


What Idi Amin’s image tells us about the world thinking
September 1, 2007
This week, two fellow Daily Monitor columnists, Nicholas Sengoba and Charles Onyango-Obbo addressed what is being viewed these days as my supposed effort to whitewash Idi Amin’s image.

Last week, a rejoinder by Brig. George Nyero, the former Commanding Officer of the Military Police criticised my consistent defence of Amin. Onyango-Obbo casts this emerging second look at Uganda’s history as “revisionism.” He assumes, to begin with, that what he and millions of others regard as history was ever accurate in the first place. To me, this is the start of a long overdue, more balanced interpretation of what happened in Uganda.

The reason many people react strongly to my defence of Amin is because it makes them feel foolish. My challenge makes many realise that all these years, they had never thought through what they believe.

Amin has become one of the most recognisable Africans in history. This international standing, of course, is centred on Amin’s notoriety, at the heart of which is the widely accepted view that he was responsible for the deaths of between 300,000 and 500,000 Ugandans during his eight- year rule.

Never did it occur to the world that this image of Amin is largely and overwhelmingly false. This has taught me that the world is largely a gullible place. That is why I find it increasingly hard to take people seriously, no matter how “brilliant.” I would not be surprised, had he been alive, that even the great Albert Einstein would have believed that Amin killed 500,000 people.

I meant what I said earlier this year when I have challenged the senior Presidential Media Advisor John Nagenda and other Ugandans to give us a list of only 600 names of Amin’s victims. As I expected, not a single Ugandan here or overseas has forwarded as few as 20 names.

I disagree with Onyango-Obbo’s view that some families are either still too traumatised to delve into this matter or have simply decided to maintain a “dignified silence” in the face of my ridiculous defence of Amin.

It is just what I have been writing about Ugandan and African society for many years now: a mediocre and lacklustre people whose intellectual bandwidth is just not given to thinking, probing, inquiry, researching, sceptical questioning, no matter how educated, well-paid, well-travelled or “sophisticated” they might be.

I also don’t take seriously the claim that somehow Africans don’t generally keep records and so it is unfair to expect them to produce a list of 600 names of Amin’s victims.
We have to ask: if it is said that Amin killed 300,000 or 500,000 Ugandans, how did we arrive at that number? Whoever arrived at that staggering figure of 500,000 must have been doing some counting. They must have kept track of the victims. They should forward that list, if not the entire 500,000, then at least 600 names.

Four months ago I wrote to the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva. That organisation published a report in May 1977 claiming that between 80,000 and 90,000 Ugandans had been killed by Amin.

If Ugandans are poor at keeping records, then we can at least count on the meticulous Swiss to keep files of all their published material. And yet to this day, I have not got a reply from Geneva. Many people have argued that it does not matter whether 20 people are murdered by a regime or 500,000 even one life is precious.

However, we know that numbers matter by the way the world reacts to the figure of 500,000 supposedly killed by Amin. If we are to be sensitive to the families of those that lost loved ones, let us be sensitive to all.

In July when I visited Luzira Upper Prison, I learnt about an inmate named Mohammed Birikadde, who was a Sergeant in the 1970s Uganda Army and was arrested in 1979 when Amin’s government was overthrown.

For 28 years, he has been pleading his innocence but has watched his life waste away in Luzira, now the longest serving inmate in the condemned section. What does one do with a case like that, if we are content to settle for the generalisation that Amin killed 500,000 people or that it doesn’t matter whether 600 or half a million people died?

Last Saturday I asked why Amin’s enemies, the Israelis, in books written shortly after the raid on Entebbe in 1976, far from painting Amin as a murderer, speak well of him and even defend him over the murder of Brig. Pierino Okoya.

I am surprised that Uganda’s leading newspapers have not taken up my challenge. If world history that casts Amin as the murderer of 300,000 people has, all along been false, this is a major tragedy. Accuracy and truth matter. They matter, for the sake of history and for justice. I stand in defence of Amin.

Did you like this article? Email it to a friend | Get printer-friendly version | Email the article Mr. timothy Kalyegira Forwarded to all ugandan communities and billions of people around the globe via my weblogs. stand up for the truth Mr. Kalyegira. I urg you to read what is in our weblogs About Al-Haji Idi Amin Dada Alemi. [ I give you A-PLUS.] Alemi Junior& Family, in Vancouver, Western Canada. Peace.

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