Aminism Comparisons are Absurd

By Josepha Jabo

I was shocked on May 1, 2011, when a Kenyan journalist on NTV News, interviewing President Museveni, compared Museveni’s regime to former President of Uganda Idi Amin Dada’s on the basis of Opposition leader Kizza Besigye’s arrest. This same interview was re-broadcasted on the evening of May 2, 2011. Answering the journalist’s question President Museveni pointed out that Besigye was arrested and taken to a court of law, whereas had it been Amin in Museveni’s place, Amin would have had Besigye killed and the Opposition leader’s body would have been thrown into the River Nile for the crocodiles to feast on!
On Friday, April 29, 2011, Daily Monitor’s editorial headline was, ‘Is Uganda returning to the days of Amin?’, comparing, in their editorial, Besigye’s 2011 arrest to Benedicto Kiwanuka’s in 1972. Yet, ‘Aminism’ comparisons are absurd because there simply are no similarities between Museveni’s (1986—) and Amin’s (1971-1979) regimes.
First of all, visual portrayals of Amin’s regime can be seen in: ‘Raid on Entebbe,’ ‘The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin’, ‘The Last King of Scotland,’ and more recently ‘State Research Bureau.’ These movies show that Uganda, under the dictator Amin, in the 1970s, is very different from Museveni’s democratic Uganda today.
Amin was very poorly-educated; Museveni is well-educated. Amin was ill-prepared for his role as President, indeed, it was a responsibility that was thrust upon him; Museveni was well-prepared for the presidency taking on leadership roles at an early age while at Ntare School.
Amin had total control over the media. Museveni has liberalized the media like no other Ugandan president before him.
As Amin became increasingly paranoid about opposition; his regime disintegrated into a reign of terror that put death in the air and littered this country with skulls. If Museveni was like Amin then the Opposition (let alone a multiparty system) wouldn’t even exist in Uganda today! Which member of the Opposition has died at Museveni’s hands? None! During Amin’s regime impromptu road-blocks to extort money from innocent civilians by undisciplined gun-wielding soldiers became the order of the day. Extra-judicial killings also became the order of the day as thousands of people ‘disappeared’ never to be seen again. Actually, it is impossible to know exactly how many people Amin killed; but the highest estimate puts the figure at 500,000. Today, the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF), one of the best and most disciplined armies in Africa, currently engaged in a peace-keeping mission in Somalia under the African Union.
Amin brought much shame to Uganda killing off the best and brightest minds in the land and sparking off a Ugandan exodus into the Diaspora. It is only under Museveni that they began trickling back home. In fact, Amin became so notorious that, up till today, whenever a Ugandan travels abroad and discloses he or she is Ugandan the first question will be about Idi Amin. On the other hand, Museveni has restored a sense of pride in Ugandans and Uganda’s tourism sector has picked up.
Museveni has reversed many of the mistakes that Amin made in the 1970s, like reconciling the Indians, whom Amin expelled in 1972, thus hurting Uganda’s economy. Yet, more than any other Ugandan president, Museveni has done much to encourage foreign investment. Under Amin foreign investors ran away and embassies were closed. Under Museveni embassies have been reopened and diplomatic relations with India, Britain, United States of America and Israel have been restored and improved to the point that Uganda hosted (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) Chogm in 2007 where the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II was present. It is this same queen that Amin wrote inappropriate love letters to back in the 1970s—even proposing marriage at one point! There is an infamous photograph of a vainglorious and bulky Amin being carried by four white men in a sedan chair; this same Amin praised Hitler for killing Jews. On the other hand, President Museveni has always been respectful when dealing with foreigners.
The Writer works for Uganda Media Centre