Peace Corps Writers
Falling in Love with Africa (page 5)
Falling in Love with Africa
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     In 1973, we escaped Amin in Entebbe, probably because we were Americans, or because someone paid a bribe. I hadn’t awakened to the terror he would thrust upon his own people. Some Ugandans survived to walk out of their country and tell their stories in Bukavu or Kinshasa or Kigali. According to most sources, during Amin’s nine-year rule, he and his thugs killed 300,000 people, wiping out entire ethnic groups. Bodies were dumped among the crocodiles in the Nile River because graves could not be dug fast enough according to the Biographical Research Center. Who knows how many were raped, mutilated, forced to kill others, tortured, or traumatized for life? Amin was a man who admired Hitler.
     Amin, who had a fourth grade education, ruled Uganda from 1971 to 1979 when he was forced from Uganda and fled with his wives and more than 30 children to Libya, then Iraq, and finally to Saudi Arabia. Ricardo Orizio interviewed “Big Daddy” in Saudi Arabia for The New York Times:

    Do you have any regrets, Mr. President? I asked. And the man who had killed at least 300,000 Ugandans, who had the Anglican bishop of Kampala assassinated and dumped on the side of the road, and who had several of his own ministers thrown to the crocodiles of Lake Victoria, placidly replied, with his trademark Big Smile: “No, only nostalgia.”
         I asked how he wanted to be remembered. Apparently, recalling his boxing days, he replied, “Just as a great athlete.”

A number of journalists who visited Amin in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia were frustrated by the opulent setting in which Amin spent his last days. Ethan Bronner of The New York Times wondered how a “man who, in the 1970’s had . . . robbed his nation into endless misery and admitted to having eaten human flesh was whiling away his time as the guest of the Saudi government” had received such a comfortable reception in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials referred to their “desert habits of hospitality, Amin’s conversion to Islam, and his support for the Arab boycott of Israel in the 1970’s.” Why wasn’t Amin jailed for crimes against humanity?
     As one punishment for Amin, who must surely be in hell, Asians have returned to Uganda. They are thriving, and they have invested a billion dollars in the Ugandan economy, according to Mark Lacey of The New York Times. Amin had wanted “a black man’s country.”
     The Asians had the last word — a compliment to offer the dead Amin — who died this past August 16
th in Saudi Arabia. “He wanted the indigenous Ugandans to get involved in business, too, and that’s happened. There’s room enough for everyone here.”

Margaret Szumowski has been a teacher since 1970, and teaches English at Springfield Technical Community College. Her work has appeared in Calyx, Willow Springs, American Poetry Review, Poetry East, The Agni Review, River Styx, as well as in a chapbook, Ruby's Cafe. Her first book-length collection of poetry, I Want This World, was published by Jeffrey Levine of Tupelo Press. She is the winner of the 2002 Peace Corps Writers prize for poetry.

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