"Mulembe" is a greeting in Lugisu, my language. It is a language spoken by a people who live on the western slopes of Mt. Elgon in eastern Uganda. When literally translated it means "peace." The person being greeted would also respond with the same, "Mulembe." This greeting serves the purpose of declaring no intention of harm. Therefore, I welcome everyone to this blog with, "Mulembe!"

Jun 19, 2011

How Amin Destroyed Uganda

It was a coup d'etat and it was the first time Ugandans had ever heard of coup d'etat.  Idi Amin Dada, a military general, had toppled the government.  He made an announcement on the National radio that he had taken over the Government, was the new ruler and was speaking from his "command post."  He spoke in broken English.  There was jubilation in the streets of Kampala because this military man had toppled President Obote, a leader much resented by the Baganda for having forced the Kabaka of Buganda into exile. Nobody could foresee what was to come.

Amin's reign turned out to be a nightmare.  He expelled the Ugandan Asians who were a significant part of the national economy, replacing them with Ugandans who had no skills in business.  Soon the shops were bare because commodities were not replaced. Ugandans had to line up for basics like sugar, soap, toilet paper and salt.  In order to survive those who were first in line bought more and the resold them at higher prices. "Magendo", meaning black market, was introduced and soon enough everyone was taking time away from their regular jobs to do magendo. Next Ugandans started crossing the border to go into Kenya or to fly to other countries to bring in commodities. They smuggled coffee to Kenya in order get money to purchase essential commodities which they could bring back.  It was a rough time. People were insecure and were living from day to day.  Dreams for professionals were crashed and they started looking for a way out.

As the Ugandans were suffering, Amin was having fun with his infamous spies, and killing suspected enemies.  He killed many Ugandans and dumped them in Namanve forest near Kampala.  Women who rejected his advances or advances from his intelligence group were raped and killed. The movies that have been made of Amin are not fiction.  Amin did those ruthless things as depicted in the movies. He killed  doctors, lawyers, teachers and foreigners.  He even killed his wives. Many people doubted his sanity and some accused him of cannibalism.

By the time he was toppled by the Tanzanian forces he had done catastrophic harm to the economy and his people.  The Pearl of Africa was no longer attractive to tourists.  The new generation needed and still needs serious rehabilitation in many aspects.  Few of them understand how to be responsibe citizens because all they know is you have to survive by any means necessary.  They are lacking in role models.  Take for example a headline in one of Uganda's newspapers, The New Vision  June 20, 2011 :  "Teachers, parents warned against stealing text books."

Those who remained in Uganda have gone through other Governments but Amin's damage is still strongly felt. Things will never be the same.

When President Museveni came to power he was a breath of fresh air.  He removed the road blocks manned by cruel soldiers who were out to rob and harrass citizens, he started rebuilding the economy. Ugandan Asians were invited back to reclaim their businesses and well-stocked supermarkets returned.  There is still a lot of poverty in Uganda even though international donors have poured a lot of money into the country.  Where this money goes is a mystery ... maybe not such a mystery.  Some Government officials have been accused of diverting funds meant for poor people in rural areas for their personal gain. Many are filthy rich!  There are lawsuits pending in courts against those who embezzelled the Global Funds money and CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) money while the country waits for justice.

As late former President Godfrey Binaisa said:   "the chair is sweet."  He was alluding to the fact that once you become President, it is hard to give up power.   It is obvious President Museveni has found the chair very sweet because he does not seem to want to relinquish power to anyone else.

There are commodities to buy but people don't  have the money.  Many of them have found ways overseas to work in jobs they would otherwise not do in Uganda, such as driving taxis and working as maids just to sustain their families and provide education for their children.   Uganda's economy is dependent on the money sent home by relatives in the diaspora. This is very unfortunate.  May God bless the Pearl of Africa.

For more information on Amin click on:  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idi_Amin

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