Uganda, March 31, 2003
Ugandans understand the horror of a stupid President
|After my Ethiopia Experience, I've returned to Uganda so that when I leave Africa in mid-April, I'll leave on a good note. In that, I've been having some of the most interesting conversations with the locals about President George W. Bush's mad war on Baghdad.
First off, they are reading about Iraq daily in the local papers, and they are glued to CNN just as much as any American, quoting me facts and figures of different Army moves in real time, usually when I am walking down the street or pressed in a crowd. That's when I stop in my tracks and turn around to face my antagonists.
They quickly ask my opinion on the matter, correctly assuming that I am an American to react that fast. I start by asking if they are all Ugandan, to which they agree of course.
Then I ask them if they've every experienced a President, here in Uganda, that came to power in a murky and controversial way, quickly instituting changes that were not good for Uganda's long-term health (but great for short-term profits of cronies and supporters).
Lastly, I ask them if that same President ever decided to invade another country, against the will of the people, just to hide his ineptitude in restarting an economy he drove into the ground and embarrassing a once proudly peaceful and strong nation. Moreover, that this unpopular invasion led to the downfall of that president, and almost of the nation.
To each and every one of these questions, the Ugandans agree completely, as the history of this country, rightly considered the Jewel of Africa, is marred by the mad reign of Idi Amin, who came to power in a coup, trashed the once streamlined government, and then, when the economy tanked after he kicked out the hard-working Indian population, invaded Tanzania.
When Tanzania routed Amin's better equipped and trained army, Uganda was occupied for a while by Tanzania, until the current President Yoweri Museveni, forcefully reinstated Ugandan rule over Uganda.
Now I don't think there is a chance that this war with Iraq will lead to an invasion of the USA, but I do hope it will lead to a new President in two years, to which the Ugandans usually cheer, as rightly, they dislike Bush as much as I, for bypassing the UN, on Iraq and pretty much everything else that he doesn't like.
They do end up liking me though, and come to understand that not all Americans agree with what President Bush is doing, or even like the guy in general, which hopefully will help, in some infinitesimally small way, to repair the image of American, and Americans, in the minds of Ugandans.