A primary five boy asked me recently if I was born by the time Idd Amin was President of Uganda. When I told him that I was born during Amin’s regime and I was a young boy by the time he left power the boy went ahead to ask me another surprising question:
How come that you didn’t die? I also asked this boy why he thinks I had to die. The boy said that his Social studies (SST) teacher told him Amin was a dictator and a very bad president who enjoyed killing people. This is just one of the cases where educators, the media and people who have witnessed historical events unfold have polluted minds of young people with negative and biased information.
The western media has never retired from demonizing the African continent and its people. The irony is that these people have even used Africans to cut out a poor picture of their own continent and people.
For a long time Africa has been characterized by famine, ignorance, poverty, wars, witchcraft and all barbaric things. Little or nothing is being done to correct this false presentation of the African society in the eyes of the rest of the world because the hired agents on the destruction mission include the African’s themselves.
The generation that never saw Idd Amin has been made to believe that he was the devil incarnate, a barbaric and subhuman chap, very insensitive about people’s pain and a blood sucking sadist who never did anything positive while president of this country.
The present leaders have also taken this advantage to present themselves as saints by demonizing Amin, who did his part and now only deserves a peaceful eternal rest in his grave. Even the 40th anniversary celebrations, on 4th July this week, remembering the Israelites raids at Entebbe Airport to rescue hostages during Amin’s regime would not smoothly continue without talking about the tyrant who messed up this country.
One thing I have learnt about African leaders in history is that those that the white man portrays as evil and bad are usually the patriotic. In Amin’s, case apart from the outrageous unproven claims of him being a mass murderer and drinking human blood, the hard facts remains that he looked after the interests of his people.
He was an African nationalist. When he hosted OAU he made a very pro-Africa and anti-imperialist opening speech – no wonder the white man has been trying to discredit him since 1971. But the truth is a stubborn thing will always keep popping up. Some of these negatively painted leaders were patriotic and could not be the stooges of their former colonial masters.
Idd Amin, was the third President of Uganda, ruling from 1971 to 1979. He joined the British colonial regiment the King’s African Rifles in 1946, serving in Kenya and Uganda. Eventually, Amin held the rank of major general in the post-colonial Ugandan Army, and became its commander before seizing power in the military coup of January 1971, deposing Milton Obote.
He later promoted himself to field marshal while he was the head of state. It is true Amin received only a rudimentary education but excelled at sports and reportedly converted to Islam at an early age. His interest in sports as president was not by accident because in 1951 he had become the heavyweight boxing champion of Uganda, holding the title until 1960.
There are honest and objective Ugandans who cannot be blinded to speak only about the negative but will go the extra mile to open the other side of the coin and also speak about the positive things about Amin’s regime. Though Amin had been a character that intrigued and horrified the people who lived close to the events, a few positive attributes about him should also be said.
His decision to expel Asians may have been a mistake but what was niggling at the back of his heart was the nationalistic spirit and most Ugandans realized this. In the eyes of some people, he was their hero, one of their own who had made good and given unpopular traders who kept to themselves and despised Africans “what they deserved”.
This was a man who fought for society on the battlefield. Qualities such as courage, endurance, even ruthlessness, were regarded as hard masculine virtues. If we relate charisma to the warrior tradition in Africa, there is one quality which demands particular attention. We call it political masculinity. There is no doubt that Amin had that quality.
One journalist wrote a story under the title “Amin the fool who built Mpoma satellite”. It is indeed challenging for a fool to make such an achievement. This may not be the forum to list achievements made under a demonized regime but conscious should remind us to speak justly about people and Africans should not be the agents of the west in demonizing their own leaders both present and past.