My new read is “Criminology in Africa” a book by Tibamanya mwene Mushanga. In this book, a whole chapter is dedicated to what Mushanga calls Twenty Years of State Violence in Uganda. Here, he carefully lays out in detail the consequences of the regimes of Milton Obote and Idi Amin Dada.
In order to depict the kind of country Uganda was even before independence, he quotes Winston Churchill who had the following to say after his visit to Kenya and Uganda in 1908;
“The East African Protectorate- present-day Kenya- is a country of the highest interest to the colonialist, the traveller, or the sportsman. But the Kingdom of Uganda is a fairy-tale. You climb up a railway instead of a beanstalk, and at the end, there is a wonderful new world […] In the place of naked, painted savages, clashing their spears and gibbering in chorus to their tribal chiefs, a complete and elaborate polity is presented. Under a dynastic kind, with a parliament, and a powerful federal system, an amicable, clothed, polite and intelligent race dwell together in an organised monarchy upon the rich domain between the Victoria and the Albert lakes […]”
This, according to him, this is the reason why the British Colonial rule adopted a system of administration that they referred to as an ‘Indirect Rule’ whereby “they established their rule through the existing native.” He says that after the first few years of independence, Uganda still projected a trajectory of promising political stability and economic development. However, things took a turn for the worst in 1966 and lasted up until 1986.
After independence, Sir Edward Mutesa, Kabaka of Uganda became President while Obote was Prime Minister. Political discord began with Obote’s thirst for absolute power, causing him to storm the palace of the King of Buganda using the military under the command of Idi Amin, the then Chief of the Army. Thereafter, Obote abrogated the Constitution and declared himself President. Things took a turn when Idi Amin staged what Mushanga calls a coup d’état while Obote was out of the country. Mushanga reports that “Kampala went wild with people dancing on the streets, not so much as to welcome Amin, but for the removal of Obote from power.”

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As stated earlier, the military was the tool used to enforce power and reign in Uganda at the time. Most of these soldiers were intoxicated and rape to them, became a sport. Sadism became rampant where they used objects on human beings. One time a prominent politician pleaded to use the telephone to call the president to plead his case. The soldier cut off his penis using a sword and shoved it in his mouth, telling him to use that ‘telephone’. For a female whose husband was taken from home, she was taken to prison for questioning. Her hands were tied behind her back and a rubber tyre was set ablaze above her, with the burning material falling on her lap. In another instance after her escape, soldiers came to the hospital she was taken to and began beating, robbing and raping the patients, even those on intravenous transfusions. For another 21 year old female, she was gang raped severally while many other women were raped in her presence.
It wasn’t any different for the men. After torture, a thirty-two year old man was asked if he knew his own weight, “then a copper weight of about 5 or 6 kilograms was hung to his penis and testicles with a thin string and he was forced to walk around the room ten times […] the episode lasting 15 minutes.” After being fed on the third day he became sick since the food constituted rotten meat. In order to stop him from becoming sick the soldiers wanted him to eat his own vomit. A twenty-six year old reported being present when the soldiers, usually drunk, would beat them indiscriminately with their rifle-butts. One time he saw ‘pink stuff’ coming from the heads of the prisoners who died, and Mushanga presumes this to be brain tissue. Even after the prisoners died in the cells, their bodies would be left there for days; this was for both male and female detention centres.
This barely scratches the surface of what became a daily occurrence for the people of Uganda during these times. A doctor wrote, “What was new for me wasn’t the poverty or the violence, but the daily and accepted terror. Ugandans live by the day and their only hope is that they survive…” Mushanga notes that under Amin, 168 people were killed each day and 182 under Obote; each of these figures being the highest number of deaths ever recorded during peace time.




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  1. Haha! It could, as well, have been written by him, so many people had the same thoughts, and I am…

  2. Thank you! I am kinda sad that we were unable to keep writing for such a long time. However, we…

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