While addressing a meeting of religious leaders of the Inter Religious Leaders Council of Uganda who met recently in Kampala, President Museveni described former President Idi Amin as an “idiot”.
The President said: “Amin was an idiot. If he had kept his idiocy to his family, we would have kept quiet. But he wanted to impose it on all of us”. (Daily Monitor Wednesday, July 2, 2014).
He described Amin as an “idiot” because of “bad rule” and he justified his participation in the war to remove Amin. President Museveni participated in the Tanzanian army-led 1978/79 war that led to the fall of Idi Amin who died in exile in Saudi Arabia on August 16, 2003.
However, we need to look at the other side of the coin. When I read that statement by President Museveni, definitely I was shocked but I tried to figure out why the Ugandan head of state described Amin as an “idiot”.
It is difficult to understand but I think it is because Amin had no what we call “formal education” or had no university degree or its equivalent ‘from Makerere University’.
I have mentioned Makerere because when I lived in Kenya, I found out that the Kenyans who were educated at Makerere during the years of former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki had a general belief that “if you were not educated at Makerere then you are not educated”!! Some years back many Ugandans had the same belief but it has died down because we have many universities now.
One factor which I know about Amin is that although he was not highly educated, whatever he did for Uganda in form of development, he was using “natural intelligence and political smartness”.
I also know of another remarkable factor that Great Britain, which boasts of having the first university (Oxford University) in the world, has in the last 70 years, been ruled by three prime ministers who had no university degrees.
The first one was Britain’s war-time leader Sir Winston Churchill, the second was Mr James Callaghan, and the third was Mr John Major.
In Uganda, I remember we had three great Baganda who made the 1900 Uganda Agreement with Britain establishing this nation Uganda.
They were Sir Apolo Kaggwa, the Katikkiro, Stanslus Mugwanya, Omulamuzi (judge) and Zakaliya Kitaka Kisingiri, Omuwanika (secretary). These men had no “formal education” (except the education they received from Bishop Hanlon of the Mill Hill Fathers) but with their “natural intelligence and political smartness” they made the 1900 Uganda Agreement on which Uganda stands until today and forever.
Remember at that time there was no Makerere University, King’s College Budo, Namilyango College, St Mary’s College, Kisubi, St Henry’s College, Kitovu, Gayaza High School or Bishop School, Mukono.
As soon as the Agreement was made, these men embarked on laying the firm foundation for Uganda’s development and building schools and hospitals.
With his “natural intelligence and political smartness” what did Amin exactly do for Uganda?
During the nine years he was president of Uganda, Amin declared the “Economic War” which he called “mafuta mingi” meaning that everybody should be rich.
The “Economic War” put the economy of this country in the hands of the indigenous black. God brought a “mad military man” to do it otherwise the ordinary politicians could not do it. People are getting rich and economically powerful day and night in Uganda because of Amin’s Economic war.
Amin established Uganda Airlines in February 1977 when former President Nyerere of Tanzania and Mr Charles Njonjo, who was the Attorney General at that time in Kenya, broke the East African Community which was established in 1967 from the East African High Commission which the British had set up in 1948 to develop the common services of East Africa.
Amin built the current Earth Satellite Station at Mpoma in Kyaggwe, Mukono District on Bugerere Road. If he had not done it we would still be depending on the Kenya satellite station in the Rift Valley.
Amin built the Uganda International Conference Centre and Nile Hotel (which is now Serena) in 1975 for the meeting of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). It was built in nine months only.
Amin also established the Army shop where soldiers would buy goods at cheaper prices and he built many military barracks all over the country including the one in Masaka.
Amin completed Uganda House on Kampala Road. He enlarged Entebbe airport and built Gulu airstrip which is more or less abandoned now.
Amin established Uganda House in New York and London. He extended the Bank of Uganda building in Kampala. During the time of Amin, Busia Market and Border were established and now the whole area is a big commercial centre where business with Kenya is transacted by all kinds of people, among others.
Amin maintained and kept intact the Coffee industry in Buganda and during his time, we did not have the “coffee wilt or virus” or coffee disease which we have today.
Amin kept the Co-operative Movement and the Co-operation Bank fully functional and the monetary exchange rate was seven shillings to one US dollar. Today we have four monetary units 2500 shillings to one US dollar!!
Amin kept the Uganda Electricity Board (UEB) intact and other Government corporations including the huge and modern Coffee processing plant at Bugolobi. Today it is a different story altogether.
Amin had one good quality. He was practical and pragmatic and the “do it now man”. To him there was no question of “we are waiting for the top leadership to tell us what to do and when to do it”. The moment he decided to do something he would do it straight away.
The author is an elder from Kyaggwe, Mukono District