ACCORDING to Shakespeareâ€™s Mark Anthony: The evil that men do lives after them, but the good is oft interred with their bones
With Paul Waibale Senior
ACCORDING to Shakespeareâ€™s Mark Anthony: The evil that men do lives after them, but the good is oft interred with their bones. That might have been completely true in the case of Julius Caesar, but in respect of former Uganda dictator Idi Amin Dada, only the first leg of that pronouncement holds.
After Aminâ€™s death in Saudi Arabia, there is a long list of evils he committed that will live after him until eternity. But there was nothing good worth talking about that was buries with him. All that went to the grave of the blood-thirsty former Kings African Rifles â€œafendiâ€, is the long catalogue of self-awarded titles: VC, MC, DSO, LLD, Conqueror of the British Empire, Life-President of the Republic Ugandaâ€.
I am aware that there are some Ugandans who, in accordance with the African tradition of smearing the dead with luxurious commendations, would despite their conviction to the contrary, desperately assemble enough courage to publicly declare that a basketful of good things was buried with Amin. In the case of some of those in that class, their stand is expected and understandable, but in the case of others, it is ridiculous.
I, for one, was not surprised when Sarah Amin, once upon a time the fifth (not the first) lady as some have misallocated that title to her, declared from her London home: â€œDr Amin was a good man, a good husband, a loving father and a great grand father.â€
Despite Amin being a good husband and a loving father, Sarah and her children departed from him two decades ago and neither party nursed any appetite for a family re-union.
Nor is it surprising that former Kampala mayor Nasser Sebaggala was among the handful of Ugandans who spent a nightâ€™s vigil at Sarahâ€™s home in respect of Aminâ€™s departure to the next world.
Sebaggala benefited from Aminâ€™s lavish mafuta mingi money-spin of the early seventies and baptised himself â€œthe young millionaireâ€. That explains his audacity to suggest that Aminâ€™s grave qualifies to be a tourist attraction!
At the other end of the scale, I find the remarks by His Grace Archbishop Livingstone Nkoyoyo most surprising. He speaks as if he was not in Uganda during Aminâ€™s era when he solemnly asserts that he remembers Amin â€œas a man who liked his religion and respected other religious leaders.â€
Amin may have, for purely selfish reason reasons, exhibited superficial commitment to the Muslim faith, but certainly there is nothing to suggest that he had any respect for religions.
If he had the respect for the leaders of other religions, which the archbishop has the courage to attribute to him, he would not have conceived the brutal murder of late Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, \janan Luwum. Aminâ€™s intolerance to Christianity came to a climax in December 1978 when he banned the broadcasting of Christmas carols over Radio Uganda and Uganda Television. If that is the respect for other religions which Nkoyoyo is speaking about, then God save us all.
The real reason why Amin dragged Uganda into the membership of the world body, the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) was to prove his claim that Uganda was an Islamic country and keep the Arab oil dollars flowing in to sustain his government and a virtually collapsed economy.
I do not know which side of the coin veteran politician-cum-freedom fighter Abu Kakyama Mayanja was looking at when he reportedly emphatically proclaimed: â€œI proudly served as a minister under President Idi Amin Dada. I am here to celebrate the life of this great man.â€
As if that was not horrifying enough, Mayanja rhetorically annexed to his declaration the sinister plea that those who denigrate Amin should instead â€œtake a leaf from the book of his illustrious life.â€
I am not aware of any leaf worth plucking from the book of the â€œillustrious lifeâ€ of Mayanjaâ€™s â€œgreat manâ€. But I am aware that while Mayanja was minister of education in the early part of the regime of that â€œgreat manâ€, he was sent on a disastrous mission he can never afford to forget.
Given his unimpeachable record in the struggle for human rights, Mayanja could not have imagined that his mission to receive the late William Kalema when he flew back from Tanzania was in fact the first leg of Kalemaâ€™s journey to death.
I am sure â€œthe great manâ€ deceived his minister of education, Abu Mayanja, that the return of Kalema, a former cabinet minister in the ousted Obote I government, was to enable Kalema live happily under a new era of freedom. Yet this was only a public relations gimmick.
Indeed, that was the sermon preached by Amin when he presented Kalema to newsmen at a press conference. But it was all a cock-and-bull story. Within a couple of weeks, Kalema was among the early victims of Aminâ€™s murder squads.
Paradoxically, Mayanjaâ€™s tenure as Aminâ€™s minister of education was short-lived as he had to flee into exile for his dear life. I can bet that in his heart of hearts, Mayanja has never had cause to lament the fall of dictator Idi Amin.
The evil Amin did will live after him