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Re: Tekiwoomera matama abiri
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Bye Bye Amin

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New Vision (Kampala)

August 23, 2003
Posted to the web August 24, 2003

ONE MAN'S WEEK By John Nagenda

As we the Baganda say, "Tekiwoomera matama abiri." "It doesn't suit two mouths", meaning taste. I reflected on this philosophy again, following the demise of Uganda's ex President Idi Amin. With his deservedly terrible reputation of his misrule of this country, compounded by the fact that upward of half a million people perished under it, you would expect universal condemnation of his memory.

Think again! The Muslim mosques overflowed with those chanting his greatness and praises. Here and there, it is true, as in the case of a senior sheikh, there were murmurs that Amin had "made some mistakes". But from that brilliant King's College, Cambridge, graduate, my gadabout friend, and sometime in-law, Abubaker Mayanja, there came nothing but a paean of praise! If true, this was unworthy of a scholar.

In any case do I recall wrongly that Amin jettisoned him from cabinet on the grounds that Mayanja was "unable to go the pace"! But you could ask why most of those in the mosques could have behaved differently. Did their hero slaughter many of their, and his, kind? Were they not "the princes and princesses" of the day? Nor were Muslims the only people to sing Amin's praises.

Highest among the others was Church of Uganda Archbishop Nkoyoyo himself. He praised the dead tyrant for being a big supporter of religion. Tell that to those who still remember the murder of Archbishop Luwum over a quarter of a century ago, to which Amin was directly linked! Nkoyoyo, a true man of God, should give up trying to be liked by all and sundry In this case certainly his pronouncement drew much opprobrium, not least from Vision's John Kakande, clear proof that what you seek you often don't get.

UPC functionaries also, as expected, jumped into the fray, attacking Government for not acknowledging Amin's greatness. You could see where they were coming from. After all, Obote, their party's leader, was clearly the "begetter" of Amin, and but a more sophisticated edition. We live in interesting times. Within a fortnight two murderous despots, the other being Forday Sankoh of Sierra Leone, had vacated the world in pathetic circumstances - by the will of Allah, may His power never wane. Meantime an unlikely poetry lover phoned to remind me of Shelley's Ozymandias. Read it, as well as the lines from Isaiah 14:10, with which Sunday Vision reported Amin's death in Saudi Arabia. Ozymandias ends: "Nothing beside remains.

Round the decay/ Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/ The lone and level sands stretch far away." And yet (for life abounds with "and yets"). How come the world was still so interested in Idi Amin Dada, even a quarter of a century after he had been booted out as president of Uganda? His demise was head of the news across the globe for the next day, in some of which your columnist participated. Amin had grabbed the world's interest when alive and kicking, as he now did, dead.

Let there be academic papers on the reason why. Here are two to be going on with. People quiver with an almost sensuous delight to hear of monsters, especially those who cannot touch them. It is better still when they come from places seen as savage and backward.

For who could, as the song goes, ask for anything more? On the receiving end, among the "savages", no doubt many will exult at the attention: that an African peasant from the middle of nowhere, had played so strongly on the world stage. Certainly on sober reflection it is exultation wrongly placed.

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