No medal for Amin? Never mind; he’ll get one in 2030
Posted Tuesday, February 5 2013 at 02:00
I would wager that, by 2030, when Field Marshal Al-Haj Dr Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, CBE, would have been 50 years out of power, and Tumwine would have long retired, kijambiya Amin would have been found worthy of a post-humous award.
I half-expected to get a medal, for being a Ugandan, when a clutch of honours was dished out at the NRM celebrations last week. Any half-decent citizen was entitled to expect.
In the event, I was not cited, but some 3,500 of my compatriots were given honours ranging from the one-off 50th Uganda Independence (Golden Jubilee) Medal to the more regular Nalubaale Medal. Recipients of the Jubilee included Presidents Edward Muteesa, Milton Obote, Yusuf Lule, Godfrey Binaisa, Tito Okello, and Yoweri Museveni. It was truly magnanimous of President Museveni to award his predecessors, who otherwise he memorably referred to as ‘swine’ back in the 1990s. It is quite a swing, from swine to wine, for surely he would have wined and dined with them, had they been around to receive the honours. Or maybe not, for it was probably easier to award them now that they are safely tucked away in their graves.
The big miss-out was ‘Big Daddy’, Idi Amin, himself for reasons Gen. Elly Tumwine, the chairman of the National Awards Committee cited as a “bad legacy”. “The medal is for people who served honourably. Amin had so many bad cases,” Tumwine said.
I agree with him, but to the shock of people like Tumwine and myself, there are many Ugandans who would not agree. Last week I had a deep discussion with a young lady who opined that Amin deserves a much better press than he has been getting. She has been repeatedly told that Amin did many great things which, by far, outweigh the negatives. I told her that he had indeed done a few good things – promoting sport, bringing Uganda to the satellite telecommunication age, opening the airport and conference centre that Obote started, and a few more.
But I also told her that she did not know what it was like in the 1970s: not to taste sugar, milk and bread for years; to wash clothes with the sup of pawpaw trees; to be a Langi, an Indian or an Acholi; to have your brother locked away in a car boot before murder; to return to boarding school every term and hear of yet another boy’s father having “disappeared” or a family fled into exile; to not be able to drive a fancy car; to be hunted for being an intellectual; to be a persecuted Pentecostal; to have your beautiful wife/girlfriend snatched from you; to be free to wear a mini-skirt or bathroom slippers. She does not know; many will never know, for no fault of theirs.
That is because she is below 30 years, and it takes practical experience to appreciate despotism for what it is (the Luganda renders it well: Amin’s reign of terror is efugabbi, he a dictator nakyemalira, and a murderous one at that kijambiya).
But, increasingly these days, you hear a revisionism that attempts to rehabilitate Amin (one suspects that it is a loss of perspective by people blinded by disgust with what they view as Museveni’s corrupt and nepotistic government).
My discussion with the young sister was joined by a good gentleman, a European, who pointed out that even on his continent, there are increasingly more young neo-Nazis, those who find no fault in what Adolf Hitler did in the 1930s and 1940s.
You see the passage of time brings both healing and forgetfulness. Think of last week’s awards, then divide Uganda’s independence in half – 25 years which is 1987. Would Obote and Okello have been honoured in 1987 (Museveni was in power even then!)? Or go back to 1992, when playwright Mukulu immortalised the 30th anniversary with his great satire Thirty Years of Bananas. Not even genteel Binaisa was honoured.
I would wager that, by 2030, when Field Marshal Al-Haj Dr Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, CBE, would have been 50 years out of power, and Tumwine would have long retired, kijambiya Amin would have been found worthy of a post-humous award. The likes of that young lady would be in power then, and will probably entertain apologists’ arguments like Amin’s (racist) expulsion of Asians helping to build an African merchant class, and so on.
Amin’s award may not even wait till 2030. Consider these UBOS statistics: by June 30 last year, our population was 34.1 million, of whom 25.1 million (73 per cent) were born on or after June 30, 1986 (Museveni’s kids). Most are alarmingly ignorant of our history. With the rate at which we produce new Ugandans (1 million a year), those born before Museveni will be just a meagre 10 per cent of the population in 10 or so years. That means in a few short years, about 90 per cent would have had no experience at all of Amin. Why, then, would they not honour him?
The revisionism we hear today is borne of ignorance of facts and non-experience of events. Sign of the times.