I just finished a brilliant book, written by the American investigative journalist Andrew Rice.
In this book I found three lines of investigation that all come together:
* the story of Duncan Laki who searches for his father Eliphaz Laki who disappeared during the reign of president Idi Amin. He was a chief in Ankole. After his disappearance silence took his place.
* the story of Uganda (starting with the Brit Speke 😦 ) to put the search by Duncan into a proper context. Rice traces the different groups, the influence of colonialism, the way to hold sway among many oppositions.
* the search for an answer to the question of forgiveness and rememberance and confession. What do communities and countries want to remember about their past? What is the role of justice in it all? Can there be forgiveness when there is no confession of guilt?
All these lines come together in a fascinating story, built upon research and many interviews with the people concerned (except Laki senior and Idi Amin), but Rice had contact with Obote and with Museveni, who took a personal interest in the case and who was present at the reburial of Eliphaz Laki.
We follow the lives of Eliphaz Laki, the rise to power by Yoweri Museveni, the lives of three people who were brought to court for the death of Eliphaz, one of them being Gowon, a close associate of Idi Amin, and also from the West Nile area.
We see the outcome of the courtcase and the shaping of a post-Amin judicial system. We see the changes of Museveni, from a communist/socialist fighter to a man who prefers the liberal capitalism. We see the fragility of a nation that smiles but cannot forget (a saying of the Banyankole, to which Duncan and his father and Museveni belong). We meet people who want to embrace Idi Amin once again. We see Duncan Laki in his search for his father, while close relatives prefer to let the dead be dead. Every answer could lead to complications.
Near the end of the book we see the difficulty Museveni has with a legal opposition in his country, Bisegye is a victim of this attitude. He has been fighting with Museveni during the rebellious days and now he tries to run for president, just like Museveni. Now recently a second edition of Museveni’s “Sowing the Mustard Seed” has been published. The name of Besigye, who was present in the first edition, has been wiped out of the second edition. This reeks of oldfashioned communist rewriting of history.
On page 248 I came across the name of the American Roy Innes (1934). I did not recognize the name and did not get much information on him in the book (notwithstanding the many and extensive notes). In the book it is mentioned that in 1973 Innes was in Mbarara, in the company of Idi Amin.
At the time of this visit, Roy was the National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He was elected in 1968. Under his leadcership CORE supported the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972.
This trip to Uganda was not the first trip in Africa for Innes. Two years earlier he and other delegates of CORE visited seven countries in Africa and had met with peple like Kenyatta (Kenya), Nyerere (Tanzania) and Tolbert (Liberia). And on that very same tour the CORE group also went to Uganda and met with Idi Amin, who was awarded a membership for life of CORE. I do not know if this included a medal, that could be pinned on the uniform of the president. Strange bedfellows: an American Black Nationalist Movement and Idi Amin.
A well researched and documented book. Warning: you might want to read it in one go!
Andrew Rice – The teeth may smile but the heart does not forget. Murder and memory in Uganda – 2009