My Amin was just frank, not a dictator â€" Madina

Aug 02, 2003

Nalongo Madina is former president Idi Amin’s first and favourite wife. Madina is now the only wife of Amin’s five first ladies. The three Mariam, Norah and Sarah were divorced and the fourth Kay, was allegedly murdered by Amin <br>himself. Madina came back to Uganda after staying in exile for

Nalongo Madina is former president Idi Amin’s first and favourite wife. Madina is now the only wife of Amin’s five first ladies. The three Mariam, Norah and Sarah were divorced and the fourth Kay, was allegedly murdered by Amin
himself. Madina came back to Uganda after staying in exile for over 20 years with Amin. Elvis Basudde talked to her from Central Broadcasting Services studios last year. Below are experts.

QUESTION: Let me start with a rather personal question. Getting married to Amin is not an easy thing, let alone lasting with him. How did you manage?
Answer: I was a traditional dancer. Dancing was a family thing. My grandfather used to dance for Kabaka Daudi Chwa. My father used to dance for Sir Edward Muteesa. I was a member of a dance troupe which was based at the Silver Springs Hotel on Luzira road where all important people used to throng. Among them was Amin. He loved my dance strokes and used to give me money in appreciation. One day he sent his boys to summon me. I was terrified at first because I was not used to him, but I obliged. On the appointment day, I went and upon my arrival, he introduced himself. We talked a lot and he asked me to abandon dancing. I told him I could not unless he visited my parents. He accepted. That was how we started.

How did you find him? people used to say he was dangerous.
I found him to be a simple person, understanding and considerate. He loved his children very much.

Most of Amin’s children have Kiganda names like Mwanga, Kato, Wasswa, yet he (Amin) is a Kakwa by tribe from Arua. He also has a son called Lumumba. How come?
Let me take this opportunity to thank the President for having allowed us to return to Uganda. I am quite grateful. About the Kiganda names, my husband was fulfiling his mother’s wish. Before she died, she told him that if he became president, the first thing he should do was to return the remains of the late Sir Edward Muteesa ll to be buried here. She also instructed him to get a Muganda wife. She told him to give his children Kiganda names because Buganda kings were hospitable people who gave land to Nubians in Bombo. About the name Lumumba, when my husband went to Congo, he returned with the late Patrick Lumumba’s widow, whom he later helped to fly to Egypt, where she settled. In appreciation, Mrs. Lumumba asked Amin to name any of his children Lumumba.

For the eight years your husband was president, what were his achievements ?
Ssalongo (as she refers to him) achieved a lot for Uganda. He constructed barracks which include Bombo, Mbarara, Moyo, Bondo, Magamaga, Nsambya, Nakasongola and Mbuya. He also put up a flats in Bugolobi which were supposed to house commando soldiers. They are now occupied by civilians. He also constructed hospitals which include Nakaseke, Kayunga, Gombe, Moyo and Bugiri among others.
Did he build or complete them?
He completed them because by the time Obote was toppled, the infrastructure was incomplete and not being used. He also completed UCB building, International Conference Centre, Uganda House, and the building that houses the NRM Secretariat.

You said he also built UPC headquarters (Uganda House). Was he a UPC member?
No, he was a soldier. He wanted to change Kampala’s ragged face.
He also constructed a road from Bukolooto to the dam at Njeru, Karuma through Arua (before people used to go through Gulu). He also bought the presidential jet and three Boeings. He also constructed Entebbe International Airport and also bought a building in London, a building in America and another in Cairo for our embassies. One more noticeable achievement is installing the Mpoma Satellite in Mukono.
Your husband was commonly referred to as Nakyemalira, meaning dictator. Why?
Because he was frank. He did not beat about the bush. He would bluntly tell Ugandans that he would not hold elections because he still wanted to be in power. He said he did not believe in democracy in order to please Europeans.

Again, why was he referred to as Kijambiya (murderous)?
Yes, thank you for that question. Some people could have taken that word literally, but Ssalongo worked day and night to protect the citizens and their property. He directly dealt with the culprit. Ssalongo did not want to take chances. Some people started plotting against his regime immediately he took over power. You remember the assassination attempt on his life in Nsambya, where his aide was killed instead, don’t you?

It is alleged you used to practice cannibalism. What do you say?
Laughter. We never ate human flesh. I want to make it clear to the nation that we were not cannibals. Those were baseless and unfounded allegations to blemish our name. Maybe some people believed what they saw in the film Rise And Fall of Idi Amin. The allegations could have been made by Asians who were revenging for being expelled. You did not expect Asians to depict Amin positively after being expelled.

Why did Amin ban some Christian sects?
Ssalongo did not ban Christian religions because he strongly believed in them. I told you he even tried to unite Muslims. He summoned leaders of the Roman Catholic, Church of Uganda, Orthodox and the Muslims and complained about the religious cults which were mushrooming and which he subsequently banned. Otherwise, we would have had the Kanungu scenario of Kibwetere. I must add that he loved those leaders of the four major religions. He even bought them vehicles and gave them financial assistance.

You say he loved them, yet it is alleged that he killed the Archbishop of Uganda Jonan Luwum leave alone Oboth Ofumbi, Oryema and others, what do you say about that?
Bishop Luwum’s story is mysterious. One morning Ssalongo asked me to go to Bulange, to verify what was being said; about a lorry that was intercepted in the Bishop’s home. It had two cabins, the upper one housed bibles while the lower one contained guns. I went back and asked Ssalongo how he got information about the lorry. He said it was one of the workers in Luwum’s home, who told him they had so far received two lorries. He told me that he was taking those lorries to the conference centre to show them to the people.

Did he take them?
Yes. He took the lorries and the firearms were removed and displayed to the people at the conference centre gardens. But I did not go with him because I had already seen them. Luwum, Oryema and Ofumbi were then taken for questioning.

I don’t know. After some time we heard over radio that they were involved in a road accident as they were being transported.

Say something about an Air France plane that was hijacked by the Palestines and flown to Entebbe in 1976.
Before the hijackers forced the plane to fly to Entebbe, they had requested other countries to allow them to land in their countries, a request they refused. So they asked Ssalongo to allow them to fly the plane to Entebbe and he accepted. They landed at the old Airport and removed all Israeli passengers. My husband had his military training in Israel and he was trained by Muse Dayan (the one-eyed army officer). So on learning about the hijack of the plane, Dayan telephoned Ssalongo and ordered him to release the plane to which he objected, conditioning him to first release the Palestines. Dayan called Amin many times but he still refused to yield to his demands. That night, the Israelis raided the airport, killing all our people who were guarding the plane and rescued all the hostages.

So your husband defied orders of the man who had trained him?
Yes. When he came back, I had a row with him over his refusal to abide by Dayan’s orders which resulted into the death of innocent Ugandans. While shedding tears, I cautioned him not to always think that the gun which he depended on could solve every problem. On realising how sad and annoyed I was, he showed remorse and apologised.

Why did your husband expel Asians?
One Sunday evening as we strolled out on Kampala road, we realised that all the streets of Kampala were filled with Asians. Amin commented that the Asians were turning Kampala into Bombay. So he resolved to expel those who had failed to register after the expiry of the ultimatum he had set. When we returned home he announced the expulsion of non-Ugandan Asians of British origin.

What do you say about the rampant corruption in Uganda?
Corruption starts in state house.

When Ssalongo announced the expulsion of Asians, their delegates thronged State house, carrying a lot of money to bribe my husband to pardon them. I saw money in sacks and sacks loaded in lorries. He refused it and was angered by their act. Initially, he had given them 90 days. But when they tried to bribe him, he told them to leave immediately. He also ordered the arrest of leaders of the delegation. Madhvani was one of those arrested. After the Asians had left, Amin allocated their businesses to the indigenous citizens.
did your husband compensate the leaving Asians?
Yes. He drew out cheques and dispatched them to their embassies.

in 1966 your husband invaded the Lubiri and dethroned the Kabaka. What is your comment?
Being the commanding officer, my husband was simply taking orders from Obote who had ordered him to take Kabaka to him alive or dead. Ssalongo told me he saw no reason in killing the Kabaka. So he hatched a plan to save him. He sent somebody to Kabaka Mutesa and told him about Obote’s plan. But, he assured him of his safety. Amin dispatched the first bunch of soldiers to Lubiri and were crushed by the Kabaka.
Being the commanding officer, he stopped the second bunch of soldiers, purportedly giving them fresh instructions. Meanwhile, he had communicated to the Kabaka, instructing him to flee the Lubiri. Coincidentally, it started raining and Kabaka managed to escape.
Obote did not know about Amin’s plan otherwise he would have killed him. When the Kabaka reached the UK, he called Amin and thanked him for having rescued him. that was what Amin told me.

While Amin was the president, what did he do for Buganda Kingdom?
as soon as he took over, he returned the Kabaka’s remains and were buried in dignity. Because of his love for the Kabaka, he evicted the soldiers who were occupying the Bamunanika Lubiri and handed it back to the kingdom.

Museveni’s government has allowed the return of some former presidents like Binaisa, Lutwa and Amin. How did Amin’s government treat exiled leaders?
when Obote was deported, my husband took the responsibility of taking care of his family. Obote’s wife Miria remained in the official house in Kololo where she was being protected with her family. After sometime, Ssalongo organised for Miria and her family to join her husband in Tanzania.

What do you do during your free time?
Going to theatres to watch plays. I also like listening to Paul Kafeero’s music. He is my favourite musician.

Are you with your children here?
Some are here but most of them are outside the country. For those who were calling us cannibals and others who said we had sacrificed Moses, I want to tell them that Moses has just graduated with a degree from a University in France and he has started working. Very soon he will be coming and you will see him. Thank you.

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