Musical chairs. History, Amin and public order in #Uganda

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Gen. Idi Amin

[Global: Africa]

History like Mozart is full of undulating repetitions.  Reading up for a talk later this month, a friend lent me his copy of “The Report into the Commission of Inquiry into the Violation of Human Rights” that was prepared under Justice A.H.O Oder. The commission was established after 1986 to try and figure out why politics had brought so much suffering and instability to Uganda.

Most readers will find many familiar names, like musical strands, some low with subdued shame, others especially victims shrill with the madness of the so-called “Uganda question”, the failure for the most part of an institutionalized  “social contract” where common values such as “human rights” are protected by the state no matter the government in power.

Perhaps ironically today when the Uganda parliament finally passed the Public Order Management Bill- one of those post- Tahrir square legislations, the Justice Oder report is like the approaching drum beats that thunder with historical trepidation.

In the 60’s, Uganda’s political consensus unraveled spectacularly, a consensus that was crafted out of colonial institutions and ideas- of the elite at the time about political competition. Many from that era still linger. The political institutions, their leadership and ideas of building a society in the patchwork of ethnicities that occupied Her Majesty’s former property could not be contained within the framework of the 1962 Constitution nor by the erstwhile attempts to legitimize the actions of ruling coalitions such as the Uganda People’s Congress through subsequent legislation.

One of the laws passed to “contain” Apollo Milton’s central Uganda opponents will sound familiar- The Public Order and Security Act of 1967. Obote lost his government to a military coup by Idi Amin. In their preamble to an examination of the Uganda crisis, the Commission begins almost immediately with Amin’s 18 reasons for taking over the government. Like Mozart they sound like familiar keys. Let me list them just for kicks.

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