Sunday August 17, 2003

The death in exile of one of the most repulsive and cruel dictators in world history , former Ugandan President Idi Amin, closes another infamous and bloody chapter in the pernicious history of African dictators.

That Idi Amin lived a wholesome life in exile in Saudi Arabia for 23 years without being brought to justice (after his overthrow in 1979 ) would certainlty be the most talked-about aspect of his death at a time when international attention is now focussed on tyrants, and there are legal mechanisms in force to stop killer-Presidents from getting away with their heinous crimes .

The undisputed reality that will sadden human rights activists today is that Idi Amin got away with all his revolting crimes against the Ugandan people and foreigners. Even sadder is the fact that he did not chose a more inglorious time to die than the same week that yet another African human monster, in the person of former Liberian President Charles Taylor , was chased out of power into a much-condemned exile provided by another morally-bankrupt African leader, Nigeria’s Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo.

Idi Amin butchered over 500, 000 innocent people and enthroned cannibalism and the drinking of human blood in Uganda. He unashamedly had human meat for dinner , but was never brought to justice until he died and this is a big victory for the likes of Charles Taylor, who is banking on enjoying the same luck under the protective custody of his brother-in-law, Olusegun Obasanjo.. That half-a -million people died in vain in Uganda at the hands of a sadistic butcher who went free should also delight the bad guys of African politics  all of whom have the potential of becoming dictators in their own rights . These shameless men facilitated Charles Taylor’s temporary escape from justice and should be roundly condemned . However, they will not gloat for long for helping Taylor cheat justice . Nor can they succeeed to make Taylor flee punishment as Amin did. If Taylor tries to take succor from Amin’s fate, he will be in for a big surprise later.

Idi Amin and Taylor, it must be emphasized, lived during different epochs of Africa’s political life. In the Amin days, emphasis was placed more on kicking despots from power , regardless of their hideous atrocities against innocent subjects. And this era was graced by the existence of other pugnacious human butchers like Jean Bedell Bokassa, Marcias Nguema, Mengistu Haile-Mariam and Hissene Habre, all of whom never paid the price for brutalising their populace and committing barbaric massacres that riled the world. One could understand why the world turned the other side as Amin lived his patently luxurious life in Saudi Arabia with four wives and over 30 children at the expense of that country . There was no concerted effort then to bring leaders with blood-stained hands to justice.

Today however, things have changed. The world has shifted focus. Now it is not only ensuring that dictators are deposed; It is surmounting every odd to make sure that wicked rulers receive just recompence for their bloody crimes through International Tribunals. . This desire to punish political criminals not only in Europe but everywhere else saw the formation of the War Crimes Tribunals of Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Former Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milosevic is in hot waters in the Hague Tribunal while the Rwandan Court had already jailed former Prime Minister , Jean Kambanda and a government official, Jean-Paul Akayesu for life for Genocide .In Sierra Leone , a Militia Commander Hinga Norman has been indicted and arrested along with 2 members of the militia for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. A rebel leader , Foday Sankoh, also indicted and arrested , died in captivity recently , while two other indictees are said to have died while at large.

The pressure therefore has been turned full blast on despots and killers and Olusegun Obasanjo’s promises to Taylor that he would shield him from arrest and prosecution by the Sierra Leone Court, which indicted him for war crimes, are good enough only while the Nigerian leader is still enjoying his alleged pay-off from Billionaire Taylor and the mandate of the Nigerian people. Once Obasanjo leaves power, it will be a different story for Charles Taylor.

But these facts will not mitigate the sadness over Amin’s escape from justice. The Ugandan leader was one man who deserved to have been dragged to an international tribunal , not only to answer for his crimes but to bring closure to the lives of the nearly one million people whose relatives he slaughtered. It would have also served the demands of justice well if Amin had spent all those exiled years behind bars.

Amin really excelled as a crude, uncivilized and diabolical killer .He did not only kill with relish anybody who opposed him or whom he considered a threat . He enjoyed feeding his rivals to crocodiles .Within a couple of years after coming to power in 1971 via a military coup , Amin had the whole of Uganda smelling horribly with rotting corpses . The sea and the riivers that could not withstand the volume of human carcasses thrown there , spewed the rotten bodies ashore. And newspaper pages all over the world were full of moving and calamitious pictures of decapitated or whole human remains piling up in Uganda as Amin relentlessly pursued his macabre sport of human massacres.

Ministers of the government, civil servants, teachers, businessmen, clergymen and ordinary civilians were all butchered in reckless alacrity by the blood-thirsty Amin . Some African intellectuals who were abroad in Europe or the U.S , studying then , attributed the accusations against Amin to Western propaganda against a man who at last , according to them, made all Africans proud by standing up to neo-colonialists whom they accused of sucking the economic lifeblood of the continent .What these African ” Book-People ” will not explain convincingly, however , is where the Western press got all those tens of thousands of dead bodies seen strewn on the shores of Uganda’s rivers, oceans and streets countryside. While Western propaganda against some African leaders is one reality that cannot be denied , the Western media can in no way be said to have lied on the likes of Amin and Charles Taylor. The evidence was compelling—Amin was a psychopathic killer who deserved to have died in jail .And any member of the intelligentia who idealizes men like Amin deserves his academic qualifications annulled , for it is intellectual dishonesty of the highest order. Amin, inexcusably, thrived on murder, torture, genocide and terror and was lucky he did not face a firing squad.

Amin was a shame to Africa and was one of the men who made the outside world consider Africa a continent full of barbaric leaders who did not respect human life or the Rule of Law. He was a big and messy blot on the African political horizon. It is a shame that nothing by way of justice was done to him , after he made his nation stink with the rotten corpses of more than half-a- million of his countrymen and aliens.

But Amin has gone to meet the even Bigger and Greater Judge, God Almighty .As we said in the case of Foday Sankoh, the Sierra Leonean rebel human butcher, who died in jail two weeks ago, man does not have the divine capacity to determine the eternal destiny of another man who dies. But one assurance we must all have is that God is a fair and impartial Judge .He may render for the Ugandan people the judgement that eluded them in this world. May Africa be free of the likes of Amin and Charles Taylor forever more.