Monday, September 25, 2023

Uganda, Iddi Amin and the 'outsiders'

I travelled across southern Uganda in August, retracing my wife's early years when she lived there - her father was a young medic there for some years, setting up rural hospitals and working with Save the Children Fund. I took these pics in the capital city, Kampala. This infamous leader is why, like so many others, Hilary and her family were forced to leave Uganda.

We heard some truly horrifying stories when we visited this former 'armoury' within the grounds of the Kabaka's Palace. The 'outsiders' were only his first objective, after they'd been ousted he then got to work on his own 'internal' opponents. Amin used to send soldiers out into the streets to round up random civilians, forced them into this concrete bunker where they stood shin-deep in water. And then an electrical charge was applied.

Uganda has 5 kingdoms (the Kabaka is the King of one of those, called Buganda) and 56 tribes with different languages, all of whom have their own migratory stories of how their ancestors arrived here, and then there are clans within each tribe. People from Arabia, India and Europe have also come to Uganda.

The “outsider” is often a convenient scapegoat. “They” are to blame for all of the problems. The brutality of President Iddi Amin’s era from 1971-79 shows that conflict doesn’t require outsiders, flags, ethnic or cultural differences, or politics - just a human heart that is fixated upon the selfish pursuit of power and greed.

But it’s easy for us to see the flaws in others, especially notorious or celebrated individuals like Idi Amin. Human nature is universal. Buy a mirror.

It seems that these days, every week in Ireland, there is more vicious vitriol than ever. Someone asked me a while ago if violence could ever return to Ireland. He was shocked when I said "yes". There is a generation on the way up who have been radicalised and propagandised. The human heart is, as the Bible says, "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?". And the first human death in the Bible - when Cain killed his brother Abel - was a religious murder.

As Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel tells us, we all have within us both the charming Dr Jekyll, and also the potential to become a monstrous Mr Hyde.