By Ofwono Opondo
Thirty-seven years after Idi Amin Dada’s eight-year fascist military rule drenched in blood and human disappearances ended, some of his apologists, mainly family members and former political protégés, now basking in the glory of reconciliation would want Ugandans to consider him as a good person, even national saviour. It is, to say the least, sadism to allow the revisionists have their narrative unchallenged.
The revisionists tried to show relevance in the wake of the visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the commemoration of their dead, 40 years ago, during the 1976 Entebbe Operation to rescue more than 100 hostages. Many of them, gloating over hostage taking and terrorism, would wish that Amin’s very sad public record be either forgotten or whitewashed.
In their dim view, Amin was a liberator and peacemaker who acted as the go-between for the Palestinian terrorists and hostages, when in fact all records available demonstrate that he was a willing accomplice who permitted terrorists to land and have Uganda as their safe haven. In addition, Amin provided additional overt and active security cover for the continued detention of the hostages. Moreover, and perhaps unknown to his apologists, Amin throughout the duration of the hostage crisis remained livened up in contact with then Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi who sponsored both the terrorist and Amin’s long-term mischief.
Yes, it may be regrettable that some Ugandan soldiers died while on the line of duty, needlessly put in harm’s way by Amin’s recklessness and criminal action of supporting terrorism. More importantly, this raid by a small and lightly armed band of Israel commandos indeed helped expose Amin as a military charlatan not worth any leadership, as well as the vulnerability of Uganda as a state. The destruction of Uganda’s military jets while its army was asleep should be more of a shame than anything else that any reasonable leader should be proud about.
No wonder, therefore, that Uganda’s air force went up in flames, and with it, the entire military quickly crumbled within 90 minutes of Operation Thunderbolt, now renamed “Operation Janatan,” in remembrance of Lt Col Yonatan Netanyahu, its commander.
Equally, the half-hearted criticism in the media attributed to Gen Moses Ali, a former Amin protégé as then Finance minister, and remains a senior minister to-date, shouldn’t be taken seriously because there is no available record to show that he has ever brought any proposal to have those dead Ugandan soldiers to either be decorated or remembered in anyway, and therefore mere convenient crocodile tears. It has been 40 solid years, and neither during Idi Amin’s reign or any other of the past seven regimes has the new found patriots ever thought of the dead Ugandan soldiers, not even listing their names. I know for sure that no one has ever been denied or prevented from honouring their dead if they so wish.
Now, assuming that Idi Amin was the peacemaker his apologists want the world to believe, what would we make of the thousands of the deaths and disappearances within Uganda, most of them prominent public officials or known senior Ugandan citizens!
Hussein Amin, lately the most eloquent spokesperson of the Idi Amin family, would still have to convincingly explain to Ugandans the offences former Chief Justice Ben Kiwanuka committed to deserve being dragged out of the High Court chambers in broad daylight, and never to be seen again, not even his dead body.
However, Ugandans should know that the world over, there are supposed to be no permanent enemies or friends, otherwise the US and Japan today, particularly after the atomic bomb obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wouldn’t be the best of allies in global politics, investments and trade. Only early this year, Obama travelled to Vietnam in remembrance of both the American and Vietnamese dead in an effort seen as adornment of US excesses during the Vietnam War; bury the proverbial hatchet and open a new chapter. And the world, including Europeans, have reconciled with former Nazi Germany making it possible for peace to prevail in Europe.
Looking at practices around the world, and as President Museveni pointed out in his speech at the ceremony, rather than bemoaning our dead soldiers, or the temporary loss of territorial sovereignty and the humiliation that accompanied it, Ugandans can and should turn this “sad event into new bonds” that can create great opportunities in investment, trade, tourism, and technical cooperation.
Mr Ofwono Opondo the Executive Director of Uganda Media Centre