love letters

Interview with Mahmood Mamdani, October 17, 2005.

An Interview with Mahmood Mamdani

Researching for the film Uganda Rising, I emailed legendary political activist/scholar Noam Chomsky with a series of questions that I sought either answers for or ideas on. Helpful and responsive as always, Noam humbly replied some of the questions were out of his expertise (despite being voted in 2005 the most important intellectual alive—now that’s humility).

He suggested I get in touch with Mahmood Mamdani, who Noam said was a “terrific African scholar.”

Emailing Mahmood and saying Noam sent me is not a bad way to get in some doors, and have others slammed in your face. Fortunately, Mahmood was gracious yet demanding. He would give me an interview only after I completed a reading list—two of his own books: Citizen and Subject and When Victims Become Killers.

Who did he think I was? Some half-baked university drop-out posing as an intellectual? Okay, I am a university drop out—and, okay, my obsessions with history, religion, sociology, political science, philosophy, science, love, hope and human nature do often find me posing as an intellectual (but only out of compassion for my own stupidity).

Anyway, with the film being rapidly put together, and me researching, writing and co-directing with my buddy Jesse James Miller (who also edited the film), I had no time for reading.

So of course I read both books—and was absorbed by their thick insights and nuanced details about colonial rule, the relevance of the politicization of culture, citizenship rights and the links with genocide. In short, they deepened my discussion of this already incomprehensible thing called life.

I also read Mahmood's Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, which should be required reading for anybody who uses the word terrorism. It is a primer on the rise of politicized, extremist Islam—an ideology that dangerously coalesced politically through extensive support from the CIA and Pakistan's ISI—beginning in 1979 to help counter the brutal Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

Born in 1947, Mahmood grew up in Uganda, was exiled in the early 1970s by the infamous Idi Amin's purges against Indians [talked about in the interview], returned to Uganda with Milton Obote's reemergence as president, and then was promptly pushed out again.

Mandami currently spends time between New York and Kampala. He is the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government in the Departments of Anthropology and Political Science at Columbia University, and the head of African studies.

A wealth of insight, information, wit and detail, Mandami was invaluable for Uganda Rising, on the topics of genocide and Uganda, and to help us grasp the acute difference between 'citizen and subject' in the same country.

*It should be noted that this interview has not yet been cleared for accuracy by Mahmood. That said, it was reproduced with painstaking care, and I hope you find Mahmood's knowledge as inspiring and informative as we did—and I also hope you find the footnotes useful.


Pete McCormack: There was such national liberation fervour in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s—and of course revolutionary enthusiasm around the world—exemplified in the West with the protests against the American invasion of Vietnam and the riots in Chicago and Paris in ’68 and so on.

In Uganda in 1971—whatever that mood was—it must have shifted after Milton Obote’s government was overthrown by Idi Amin. And a year later or so Amin was forcing the expulsion of the entire Indian Asian community from Uganda, tens of thousands in all—and, I’ve heard, the hub of Uganda’s economic infrastructure. This, of course, included you and your family—and would not be your last forced exile from Uganda.1

Could you describe the atmosphere of this time—and Amin’s effect upon it?

Mahmood Mamdani: The early 70s was a time of romance with armed struggle and national liberation. I was at Makerere University in Kampala and the students at Makerere demonstrated during the Asian expulsion of 1972. And the student take was that they would support Amin if he expropriated all wealthy people—not just wealthy people of one particular origin or race or colour or classification. Amin, of course, was not impressed with this at all.

I remember seeing him when he came to the University. It was the 50th anniversary of Makerere and he came with an entire battalion of troops, armed. He stood there and said, “I came with a full battalion so that when you raise your heads from your books, you know who has power.”

We just froze completely.

Then he went on to say: “On my way, I stopped at Mulago (the university teaching hospital), and I looked at your medical records and I saw that most of you are suffering from gonorrhoea.” Then he paused and said, “I will not tolerate you spreading political gonorrhoea in Uganda.”

That was as explicit a warning as you can get. Students knew there would be no second chance. This man was ruthless and he would strike ruthlessly.

P: After the coup, Amin (who had been Obote’s main military man) began to take revenge on the soldiers that had remained loyal to Milton Obote2—mostly the northern soldiers, the Acholi and the Langi. Can you talk about the coup and the subsequent pursuit of soldiers?

M: The coup was one section of the army against another. Obote had set up an elite section of the army, a special guard, and it was better supplied with weaponry and so on. It was also Israeli trained—there was conflict between the army and this special guard and the Israelis were training on both sides. Colonel Bar-Lev [Israeli defence attaché to Uganda]3 was Amin’s sort of head at the time and the key link-man in the coup itself.

So this coup happened as an action by one section of the army against a more privileged section of the army. The more privileged section of the army had been recruited from Obote’s own area and the areas around it. Those were places considered loyal to him. So Amin’s first action was to massacre the soldiers who came from that part of the country. Some soldiers were massacred, others ran away.

P: I have read that Idi Amin was one of only one or two Ugandans ever to be given commissioned officer rank by the British. People upon hearing that, of course, have said that was obviously a bad choice by the British—and of course, one could think that.

But it seemed to me that Amin was a perfect choice for the indirect continuation of direct rule. The British knew he was a thug—and more importantly, their thug—who eventually just followed the pattern into his own journey as a dictator. Is that accurate?

M: Amin was recruited in the King’s African Rifles and then taken to Kenya. His lesson in counterinsurgency was in Kenya: the ruthless oppression and killing of the Mau Mau.4 Amin sometimes used to boast publicly about how he killed Mau Mau suspects with his bare hands, you know, breaking the neck or this or that.

So this was the “laboratory” in which he was trained. He was promoted for the services he gave to the British and he came into his own. For Amin, state terror was the way of doing things, the way of exercising power. It’s what he had learned.

With the new scholarship that’s out on the British counterinsurgency in Kenya, two new books show the incredible extent of this state terror. No other word can be used for it to describe it adequately.

P: Speaking of the Mau Mau rebellion, I remember as a kid reading that if a white settler could get through dinner without a machete splitting his skull, he was generally all right for the rest of the evening—a terrifying thought. I later learned that I think about 70 British were unfortunately killed in ten years, but a miniscule amount compared to the rebel Mau Mau.

M: There is no record of how many Mau Mau were killed. The record of the histories of those who were officially hanged are a thousand-plus. But those who died in the camps and those who were killed in the barbed wire villages—because the entire Kikuyu countryside was put behind barbed wires…? Nobody knows. Nobody knows.5

P: Even with the great movement towards independence that shook Africa with hope in the 1960s, it seems to me so many sub-Saharan countries, even with independence, have never been out from under the thumb of the colonizing power—or the Cold War tango—their own brutal dictators, poverty, diseases and western monetary institutions encouraging excess borrowing and then imposing impossible economic rules—an ongoing sort of neo-colonialism.

Could you explain what the standard decolonized African state carried into independence? Do they have any chance at nationhood, or are external tentacles or internal rifts just too great?

M: I think that we’ll have to take a kind of a look from a distance to get a broader perspective on this question because it seems to me, first of all, that most countries that have gone through a colonial experience have ended up with a civil war.

You can start with the American Civil War and go to China, to the Indian-Pakistani split—which is a civil war where they divorced rather than got back together again. Or you can go to Nigeria or Ethiopia or Rwanda or many places.

And there is a reason for this which is simply that no colonial power was going to succeed unless it was able to establish some kind of a social base in the colony and play on existing divisions and sharpen them, increase them, exacerbate them.

And so during the colonial struggle, it is not going to be all the colonized pitted against the colonial power. That will be only the outcome of a successful independence struggle—but not its history. Its history will be many groups arranged in the middle and some even arranged alongside the colonial power.

So one of the first questions after the end of colonialism is who belongs and who doesn’t? Who was part of the colonial struggle and who betrayed? Independence is the time to settle scores and the time for justice. And from there follow internal schisms and sometimes—or often times—civil wars.

With 20th century Africa, the regime of indirect rule really ran a colony—not even as a country, but as some kind of a confederacy. The British were determined they were going to prevent the formation of a majority.

This is unlike Britain’s 19th century colonies in Asia and southern Africa and northern Africa, where they ran a centralized show and where over time most people became aware that they were excluded by virtue of being a different colour and that they were being ruled by aliens, by outsiders.

So they used to say that in the African colonies, there was no majority, only minorities—and that was true because that is what was created. The British ran their African colonies as a confederacy with multiple different districts, kingdoms, etc, each with its own civil service, each with its own legal system called customary law.

The whole project to build a country did not begin with colonialism. It began with independence—and the entire colonial legacy was something that our people fought against to create this single country.

And to create that single country, they had to fight against a kind of an aristocracy, a privileged group in each of these confederated units. They had to fight it tooth and nail—because for all of these privileged groups, independence would be the end of the confederacy. So you can just imagine the kind of problems faced by a newly independent country.

Having said that, still I think that for the first decade after independence in most African countries there was remarkable prosperity. The figures show an amazing increase in all social indicators: education, health, building of housing, things like that.

The African decline does not really begin until the 1970s, well over a decade after independence, and the collapse comes in the 80s, actually. It goes—this internal problem that I just described to you—wherever there was a failure in finding a solution to it.

It coincides with increasing external pressure, the coming in of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and structural adjustment programs, and a particular twist to the Cold War where the U.S. decided that nationalism was an enemy. That particular conjuncture made for a sort of domino effect, countries collapsing one after another after another.

P: In reading “When Victims Become Killers,” I became acutely aware of the seeds of dissension and hatred that were planted historically—playing on traditional tensions, the politicization of cultural differences and so on—and how these seeds in complex ways took root and contributed to the genocide of 1994.

Given such a devastating harvest, where do you see seeds of hope—for Uganda in particular but the African journey in general?

M: To see hope, I think one has to look both inside and outside the country—rather than just one place. Inside the country, the lesson of the 60s and 70s is clear: governments that tried to force change from the top down (and therefore found themselves facing resistance both from the people on whom change was being forced and those outside who were losing their historical privileges or advantages) could not face up to the pressure from both sides.

It’s clear that any attempt to alter historical legacies will have to be founded on some kind of an internally generated consensus. It cannot just be the program of an “enlightened” government from the top down.

The second thing that’s clear is that even this will not succeed unless the international environment is a little more favourable than it is today—which means that you need more than one superpower globally.

You need some kind of competition internationally. You need some reasonable power standing up to the U.S. You need some kind of accountability of big powers internationally so that we are in a world where outcomes are shaped by multiple forces—local and global.

P: Speaking of American power, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been very popular with the US government6 since shortly after he came to power in 1986—regardless of the ongoing humanitarian disaster in the north of the country. How do you explain the relationship between Uganda and the world’s one true superpower?

M: I think the U.S. attitude towards Uganda is determined more by regional factors than by the situation within Uganda. For the U.S., Uganda was simply a frontline state in the war on terror—that frontline being the border between Uganda and Sudan.

So the U.S. was going to support Museveni, no matter what Museveni did inside the country. And I say no matter what because the record has been pretty bad inside the country.

In the north, if you take the three districts in Acholiland, the government has sort of put more than 90 percent of the population behind barbed wire, in camps—forced incarceration—without providing them any support. Any. No food, no medicine, nothing.

Without these people having access to land or anything to grow their own foods—and being in the main at the mercy of the World Food Program—they have really been on a slow starvation diet.

I think the Ministry of Health in Uganda released figures last month for the first time of the numbers of people who died in the camps. They far exceed the numbers killed by the LRA.7

By any scale, this is a crime against humanity.

But it’s never figured either in the American government or in the American press. The American press attention is all to the night commuters and the children who come in to Gulu and spend the night there.

P: That is a startling omission. With this crisis in northern Uganda—the forced incarceration, the years wasted, the Acholi being a select group of people, the death toll in the camps being greater than those from the violence of the LRA—at what point does a situation bear the title “genocidal”?

M: These days we speak of not simply genocidal outcomes but genocidal intent—and that’s a more difficult area. How do you tell intent?

Well, you can tell it from policy. If you have camps where people are incarcerated and these camps are only for certain areas and certain people who live within those areas, then you can conclude that these policies are people-specific.

If there is a gradual rate of excess death in those camps over a period of 10 years and the camps continue, you can conclude intent from it. So I think this is a case of, you know, it’s a mass crime. It is a crime against humanity, in a sense.

But to me, whether we call it genocide or not is not really the key question right now—simply because there is such a “politics” around naming genocide or not.8 Sometimes, the effect of that politics is to detract attention from the situation and to focus it on the debate. I’d rather focus attention on the situation.

P: With respect to the genocide in Rwanda—the definition of genocide there uncontested—can you talk about the role of the Rwandese refugees in Uganda, how they came out of the ranks of Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRA), and the significance of the ‘citizenship crisis’ in Uganda?

M: There are different kinds of Rwandese people in Uganda. There are those who are Ugandans because the parts of the historical kingdom of Rwanda became part of Uganda and not part of the colonial country we know as Rwanda.

Then there are those who came from Rwanda into Uganda from the 1920s and onwards, basically to escape Belgian repression and enforced labour in Rwanda. Those who came in the 20s, 30s, 40s, they integrated. They were farm labourers. They began to speak Luganda—or Runyankore if they were in the west. They married locally.

In fact, when many of them joined the Rwandan Patriotic Force [RPF] later on, the communities they lived in were completely surprised to learn they had actually been immigrants from Rwanda—the integration had been so deep.

But then there were the refugees of the 1959 revolution in Rwanda. These were more distinct because they lived in refugee camps, more or less like Palestinian refugees lived in camps in Lebanon or Syria.

These camps were run by the U.N. so they had their separate structure and their own identity. Their children went to university often—I had many Rwandese students at Makerere University when I was teaching there. And the people who lived in the camps sometimes over time were able to get cattle and begin grazing them.

When the National Resistance Army [NRA] was formed in the early 1980s, the [Milton] Obote government charged that the NRA was actually a non-Ugandan force; a force anchored mainly amongst the Banyarwanda9—those who had come in during the 20s and 30s and 40s and were mainly pastoralists. The Obote government’s response was to arm agricultural peasants to expel these pastoralists.

This created supply [soldiers] for the NRA because more and more of the pastoralist youth joined the NRA to fight this [Obote] government which had unleashed its own repression against them. So the result was that the oldest of the Rwandan NRA fighters—the veterans—predominantly came from the Banyarwanda refugees and Banyarwanda migrants into Uganda.

When the NRA came to power in 1986, one of the first things that Yoweri Museveni did was to change the citizenship law from the old colonial law.

The colonial law said that you were a Ugandan only if you could prove a Ugandan ancestry rather than a Ugandan birth or a Ugandan residence—for ancestry you had to show that at least one of your grandparents had been born in what became Uganda, prior to the 20th century [the Uganda protectorate made by the British colonialists].

Museveni changed the colonial law so that to be a Ugandan citizen, all you had to show was five years residency. Thereby most of the migrants and hitherto refugee Rwandans became Ugandans.

Opposition to Museveni organized around this because they were able to tap a friction inside the National Resistance Army [NRA] between Ugandan-born and Ugandan ancestry fellows and the migrants from Rwanda. And there was also a tension between young, aspiring junior officers and the veterans of the war.

Museveni capitulated to the pressure and changed the law back to ancestry being a requirement of citizenship—which disenfranchised most of the [refugee] veterans in the NRA.

Now what we know is that just a few months later, the RPF crossed the Ugandan border into Rwanda. It was, as I said in my book, an armed expulsion. They were given all the help that they wanted but they were told that you will not come back. I think there were several opening chapters to the genocide in Rwanda but this was the most important.

P: In my research—be it with you or in Samantha Power’s “A Problem From Hell”—France’s continued involvement with the Rwandan Hutu government despite at least some awareness of at least the potential for genocide is quite shocking. What was their role?

M: The French were involved, first of all, because Rwanda was a francophone colony. It was a Belgian colony and to the extent that the Belgians were not involved, the French were involved. The French considered themselves, sort of, the patrons of Francophone colonies—whether they had been the actual colonizing power or not.

The French were also involved because they didn’t see the [Juvénal] Habyarimana [Rwanda] government as genocidal—and which, I think, it wasn’t. The French saw a civil war between the Rwandan Patriotic Force and the government of Rwanda—and they saw the Americans as sort of behind Uganda, which was directly assisting the RPF. The American relationship with Museveni was crucial for the French.

Now, of course, this wasn’t simply a civil war. It turned into a genocide—and it’s historically interesting that most genocides have happened at the time of war and civil war.

The French also understood that the American strategy to stop the genocide and to win the war was one and the same. The French never accepted that the Americans were opposed to stopping the genocide.10 They only thought that Clinton’s program was for an RPF victory—and that would be the end of the genocide.

The French were hoping for an RPF defeat which would also end the genocide. When it didn’t work out, the French mounted “Operation Turquoise,” which also had two objectives. One was to stop the genocide. Two was to rescue the leadership of the genocide. They did both, actually.

But it was not just those who participated in the genocide—but many more11—who went into camps in Kivu [in the Congo]. And a story that’s well-known about these camps is that they were really run by sort of gangster types who had come out of the previous [Hutu] government of Rwanda and were serviced [at the camps] by international NGOs in terms of food and medicine and stuff like that. So it was kind of like a mafia setup.

The new Rwandan [RPF, mostly Tutsi] government simply—I think with American approval—decided to just mount an armed incursion of the camps [in Kivu] and flush the population out—and in the course of doing so, killed many people. Some of the facts are now coming out of mass killings during that period. But it was a difficult, difficult situation.

The Congo (and Kivu itself) has its own kinyarwanda-speaking population which—even more so than in Uganda—has come at different historical periods. There are some who have been there before colonialism and they’ve always been considered Congolese.

There are others who came in during the last Rwandan emperor Mwami Rudahigwa, around the end of the 19th century. Then there were others who came in during the colonial period as labour migrants.

So in the Congo, [these refugees] again—for the same reasons as in Uganda, the same colonial legacy of tracing citizenship to ancestry—have not been considered Congolese.

But dictators sometimes present themselves as protectors of minorities, and in the Congo Mobutu Sese Seku was often ready to recognize the citizenship rights of Rwandans or kinyarwandan speaking people—the quid pro quo being that he expected their support in return.

This increased local antagonism towards [Rwandan refugees] even more. And when the civil society groups came together in Kisangani in the early 1990s, one of the first resolutions they passed were that the kinyarwandan speaking people would not have the right to vote.

So you had this situation—historically not unusual, but still difficult to take—where you had a dictator protecting minorities and you had democratic movements and institutions disenfranchising these same minorities.

P: Given that Rwandan Hutu extremists, who as refugees after the genocide, were making military raids back into Rwanda, one can understand why the RPF Tutsi-led government in Rwanda would be inclined to make counter-excursions into Kivu in the Congo where these Hutu extremists (and hundreds of thousands of other refugees) had relocated. But what motivated Museveni’s Ugandan military invasion into Kivu in the Congo?

M: Historically, first of all, Kivu is a place to where the Rwandan kingdom for centuries had always expanded. Rwanda, I think, with its internal tension between Hutu and Tutsi, almost needs the “logic” of expansion to find an outlet for this tension.

Also, the Rwanda government was strong enough to establish control over its army as it established control over resources—particularly northern Kivu—so that most of the gold or timber or whatever that came out of Congo became part of state largesse, not the wealth of individuals. These [resources] are an important component in state revenue in Rwanda.

Uganda is a different matter. Museveni sent in every crook who had been imprisoned for either indiscipline or human rights grounds or theft or whatever; he cleared the prisons and sent them to Congo. The loot in the Congo was translated into individual enrichment for Uganda.

Sooner or later, it became quite clear that if these guys were to return, it wasn’t entirely clear what would be the consequence back home. In addition, there was no strong pressure for them to come back.

I think Museveni was fairly confident that he had American support and that he had quite a bit of latitude—and so long as he had American support, he would enjoy regionally the same impunity that the U.S. enjoys globally.

P: I think, generally speaking, people either believe that humanity as a whole is getting, worse, better or staying the same. My hope, of course, is that we are progressing, and there are signs of this, from the abolition of legislated slavery to the rights of women in the West.

Yet there is strong argument also for the contrary, seen by just picking up the daily newspaper. Are there marked differences (or similarities) between colonialism, slavery and neo-colonialism?

M: To the extent that slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism involve the use of direct, brute force in the interest of accumulation and economic benefits, there is a continuity between them. But only to that extent—because, of course, there is a difference between being a slave and being a peasant or a worker or even a serf. So the continued coercion and unfreedom is part of the story.

The other part of the story is the extent to which [the oppressed] have managed to wrench degrees of freedom and build for themselves a community that is testimony to that freedom; whose institutions are a testimony to that freedom and can thus provide the basis for a continuing struggle against this historical imposition.

P: After World War I, I believe there was a law in the colonies that disallowed direct rule, in a way. Did that play a role in the push towards national liberation? Or was it the war itself, and World War II, of having to, say, use the colonized in the colonialist army that watered the seeds of independence?

M: There was a law that the British passed after World War I which outlawed the use of direct force in the colonies—and the French passed a similar law after World War II. But the law had an escape clause which was “unless it is customary.”

And really by then the arrangement in the British colonies was that direct force was to be used by those who had been hired locally to enforce it: locals anointed as customary chiefs whose power was evoked as customary power and so it was exempt from this law. So it wasn’t really that law.

It is the fact that in spite of everything the British or the French wished, their desire for wealth meant they had to move Africans from the countryside to work in the towns or the mines. They had to move them out of these “customary” arrangements, out of these shackles—and to put on new shackles is not always that easy. You get some resistance.

The British and French were also the source of World War I and World War II, and to fight these wars they recruited Africans under slogans of freedom. They recruited them into multi-racial battlefields where Africans realized that they were as good as anybody else—or as bad as anybody else—and came back fully expecting that promises on which they had shed their blood would come real. When they didn’t…?

These were the fellows who organized the Mau Mau [rebellion in Kenya]; these were fellows who organized strikes and peasant resistance. And so the world moved on.

P: Indeed it has. In the researching and making of [Uganda Rising], the history of violent precedent is omnipresent in colonial rule and continued on in the subsequent battles in post-independence countries with so many mad dictators, Bokassa, Amin, Mobutu and so on.

But still, with the four million deaths in Congo in the last ten years, the misery in Northern Uganda, the hell in Darfur, the Rwandan genocide and so on, one of the common media sentiments of today remains: “Why don’t these blacks or natives stop killing themselves in these tribal wars?”—so-called.

How would you respond to a question of such limited awareness of history—or even human nature under stress?

M: Well, first of all, it is a legitimate question except that it’s racialized. But if one looked at the question a little more broadly, one would realize it is not only that the fighting doesn’t end, the scale of the fighting is increasing.

The most violent century in the history of the world was the 20th century, not the 2nd century or the 1st century; that ever since the birth of nationalism and the creation of non-mercenary patriot armies, people have been willing to kill for causes.

Previously, they just used to kill for money and there was a limit. You wouldn’t be willing to give your life as easily. But now people die and kill for causes.

So there is a bigger question for us to think through. Why is the scale of killing increasing globally?

Why is killing the most in the places that consider themselves the most modern?

If we just take the largest killing fields, they weren’t really Cambodia. The largest killing fields were World War I and World War II.

If you want single acts, in one day: Nagasaki, Hiroshima.12 Nothing exceeds that scale.

It’s something worth thinking about.


Mahmood Mamdani is the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Anthropology at Columbia University. A world-renowned scholar, his award-winning books include Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, When Victims Become Killers and Citizen and Subject.


(1) Mamdani was invited back into the country (by Milton Obote) after Amin’s overthrow, but was then denied return to Uganda (by Obote) in the early 1980s.

(2) Apollo Milton Obote was from the Lango ethnic tribe in northern Uganda. A protectorate formed by the British in 1894, Uganda has been divided north-south by language since before colonization. The south are mostly Bantu speaking, and the north largely speak derivations from the Nilotic language group.

These north-south ethnic, cultural and language differences were utilized and exacerbated by colonial Britain’s Divide-and-Rule policies. In general, southerners were given economic and educational advantages, while northerners were given military and police positions.

Current president Yoweri Museveni—whose rebels fought Obote in the brutal civil war of the 1980s after the overthrow of Idi Amin—is a southerner. He is politically supported in the south yet unpopular in the north. The economic disparity between the south and the poorer north remains chronic.

(3) Chaim “Kidoni” Bar-Lev was, between 1968 and 1971, the highest ranking military officer of the Israeli Defense Forces: the Chief of General Staff.

According to Richard Dowden in The Independent, August 17, 2003 (from the release of British Foreign office papers), Bar-Lev was with Idi Amin the morning after the coup and continued to advise Amin against “potential foci of resistance.” Amin had also trained in Israel—a relationship that was to reach full collapse in 1976 with Amin allowing a plane captured by Palestinian terrorists holding Israeli hostages to land in Entebbe.

One of the initial reasons for Israel’s interest in Uganda was Amin’s willingness to supply the southern Sudanese rebels in their war against the Arab northerners—and Israel wanted to punish Sudan for their support of Arabs in the Six Day War (1967).

(4) The Mau Mau Revolt (or Rebellion) was a rebel uprising in Kenya against British colonialists between 1952 and 1960. The Kikuyu tribe made up the core of the resistance.

(5) The actual number of deaths is unknown. Recent scholarship (Caroline Elkins for example) has estimated the number of indigenous deaths (mostly Kikayu people, the largest ethnic group) at 50,000-100,000 people. Other sources have suggested at least 20,000 (David Anderson). Official sources (British) put the death toll at around 11,000-12,000 (in combat). 1090 Mau Mau rebels or suspected rebels were hanged. Some 150,000 suspects were allegedly put in detention camps.

As for deaths at the hands of Mau Mau rebels, an estimated 2,000 loyalist Africans (loyal to Britain) were killed, 68 settlers (32 white settlers, according to David Anderson), 63 British soldiers and 26 Asians.

(6) From BBC News, March 1, 2001. Profile: President Yoweri Museveni:

Museveni took power in 1986 and “…[o]ver the next 10 years…became a darling of the West. 1998 was Mr Museveni's highest point. He was visited by US President Bill Clinton and described as the head of a new breed of African leaders.”

(7) From The Republic Of Uganda Ministry Of Health, July 2005:

“Health and mortality survey among internally displaced persons in Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts, northern Uganda. Internally displaced persons health and mortality survey, Uganda, 2005.

4.6 Conclusion and recommendations

Our study demonstrates that the 1.2 million displaced persons living in camps in the Acholi region of Northern Uganda are experiencing a very serious humanitarian emergency, undoubtedly among the very worst in the world today, and possibly the most neglected by international media and the relief community. Almost 1000 excess deaths occur every week in Gulu, Kitgum and Pader Districts among IDPs in camps, above and beyond the baseline mortality not attributable to the crisis.”

(8) In Uganda Rising, Samantha Power (author of “A Problem From Hell”) said:

“One of the things we’ve seen with Darfur and the massive killing and rape and ethnic cleansing that has gone on there, is that policy makers have spent almost as much time debating whether or not the word genocide should apply to the horrors as they have debating which tools should be applied to stop the horrors. And that’s very convenient, actually, it turns out, for governments.”

(9) From the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance, March 1996, Sellström and Wohlgemuth:

“Rwanda had developed into a geopolitical entity possibly already by the 16th century (Ogot, 1984). However, over time the Banyarwanda, i.e. the people who speak the language of Rwanda, kinyarwanda, have been—and are still—spread over Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Zaire. The Banyarwanda, close relatives of the Banyankole and Bakiga in Uganda and the Barundi in Burundi, are thus East Africa's largest ethnic grouping.

Outside Rwanda itself, the Banyarwanda in Uganda form the biggest sub-group, and are also the best documented (Watson, 1991). In 1991, they [were divided into 3 categories and] numbered slightly over 1.3 million…”

(10) Four years after the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, American President Bill Clinton said this:

“We in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could have and should have done to try to limit what occurred. It may seem strange to you here but all over the world there were people like me sitting in offices, day after day after day, who did not fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable horror.”

Samantha Power in A Problem From Hell (pg 373) writes: “The Clinton administration did not actively consider U.S. military intervention, it blocked the deployment of UN peacekeepers, and it refrained from undertaking softer forms of intervention. The inaction can be attributed to decisions and nondecisions made at the National Security Council, at the State Department, in the Pentagon, and even at the U.S. Mission to the UN. But as was true with previous genocides, these officials were making potent political calculations about what the U.S. public would abide.

Author Philip Gourevitch wrote in the New Yorker (June 12, 2006): “So it is not surprising that we have stayed out of Darfur. That, truly, is Rwanda’s lesson: endangered peoples who depend on us for their salvation stand undefended. President Clinton has said that he regrets not protecting Rwanda, but during the 2000 Presidential campaign Bush identified the decision as one of the few Clinton policies he approved of. “I think the Administration did the right thing in that case,” he said. “It was a horrible situation, no one liked to see it on our TV screens, but . . . I thought they made the right decision not to send U.S. troops.”

(11) As many as two million Hutu refugees left Rwanda in the wake of the genocide, including those who had planned the genocide (the Interahamwe). A large percentage went to Zaire, which is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Humanitarian funds to the refugee camps passed by those in need (and there were millions) and went into the coffers of the Interahamwe, who had taken over the camps. This and other factors led to the First Congo War in 1996.

In 2003, Romeo Dallaire wrote in Shake Hands With The Devil (pg 518):

“Are there any signs that we are prepared to take the higher road in international human relations? Not many. Look at the conflict that has engulfed the whole Great Lakes region of central Africa since the genocide…”

Referring back to 1994, Dallaire says  “…[t]he two million Rwandan refugees in neighbouring nations, still suffering in horrendous conditions in refugee camps under the thumb of génocidaires, living on scraps of international conscience, with no voice and little hope, were the fuel that  could ignite the entire Great Lakes region of central Africa into an even larger catastrophe than the Rwandan genocide.”

Indeed, “…[t]he result has been a continuing regional war. From the Rwandan exodus in 1994 until genocide broke out again in 2003 [I think Dallaire is referring to Darfur here], it has been estimated that four million human beings have died in the Congo and the Great Lakes region…”

(12) Deaths in World War I (1914-18) are generally estimated around 9 or 10 million; about 50 million in World War II (1939-45).

The estimated populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, at the time of the dropping of the atomic bombs, Aug 6th and 9th, 1945, were  310,000 and 250,000 people respectively. Estimated deaths within 2-4 months of the bombs being dropped were between 90,000 and 140,000 people in Hiroshima and between 60,000 and 80,000 people in Nagasaki (See the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (www.rerf.or.jp), a joint American/Japanese research group).

By the end of World War II, the fire bombing of civilians had become epidemic; Coventry and London in England, Hamburg and Dresden in Germany; and dozens of Japanese cities (prior to Hiroshima and Nagasaki).


copyright 2006 Pete McCormack