Can former president Idi Amin Dada be a subject of intellectual or academic study? A longstanding debate over the legacy of the late Ugandan leader, Idi Amin Dada, is causing division among Ugandans. President Yoweri Museveni’s call to forget Amin has stirred controversy, reigniting discussions about the former president’s rule and its impact on the nation.
Efforts to commemorate Amin, including the proposal for an Amin Memorial Institute led by former lawmaker Hassan Kaps Fungaroo, faced obstacles. The first Amin memorial lecture, scheduled for September, was thwarted due to a lack of approval from the education ministry. Fungaroo’s subsequent appeal for an Idi Amin Memorial Institute was met with resistance, with President Museveni rejecting the idea, emphasizing the illegality of Amin’s rule.
President Museveni’s dismissal of Amin’s legacy has prompted criticism from those who draw parallels between Amin and Museveni. Critics highlight the use of military authority and allegations of corruption, abuse of public resources, and human rights concerns under Museveni’s lengthy presidency.
Joel Ssenyonyi, a lawmaker and spokesman for the opposition National Unity Platform party, asserts that Museveni’s directive to forget Amin is hypocritical, given the perceived shortcomings of Museveni’s own rule. Ssenyonyi argues that Museveni’s leadership has faced similar criticisms, challenging his moral authority to judge Amin.
Online criticism of Museveni’s stance prompted a response from government spokesman Ofwono Opondo, who argued that an Amin memorial may glorify him but cannot erase his atrocities.
Supporters of commemorating Amin’s legacy emphasize his contributions to national assets, such as a railway service and a national carrier, and his support for local talent in music and sports. However, Amin’s crimes, including extrajudicial killings and the expulsion of Ugandan Asians in 1972, are widely documented. Human Rights Watch estimates that between 100,000 and 500,000 people were killed during Amin’s rule.
The controversy surrounding Amin’s legacy exposes the polarization in Uganda, with opinions divided on how history should remember this controversial figure. As the nation grapples with political change after almost four decades of Museveni’s presidency, discussions about Amin’s legacy underscore the complexity of Uganda’s historical narrative.