THE LAST KANG OF SCOTLAND
In January, I reviewed Ibram X. Kendi’s book Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas In America . Kendi argued that racial discourse in America can be divided into three camps: segregationists (who believe blacks are biologically inferior), assimilationists (who believe blacks are inferior, but were made so by their environment) and anti-racists (who believe in racial equality). Assimilationists are now the dominant school of thought in America.
I was reminded of Kendi’s arguments while reading about Uganda. The assimilationists believe that blacks are inferior, but were made so by their environment. In other words, the reason that blacks are the way they are is because of the legacy of slavery, the legacy of segregation, institutional racism, etc. It is our fault for “imbruting” them which is why we should feel guilty about inequality.
What was the unspoiled African really like though?
The typical American knows virtually nothing about Black Africa. They are unaware of the fact that the only interest that Europeans had in Africa for centuries was gold, slaves and other commodities. The first Europeans who arrived in Africa were the Portuguese in the 15th century. Throughout the entire period of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the interior of Africa was an uncharted mystery to Europeans. We’ve already seen how the British explorer Mungo Park died charting the Niger River in West Africa in 1805. The Americas were colonized by Europeans while Africa remained the Dark Continent.
It wasn’t until 1858 to 1875 that the first White men arrived in the Great Lakes region of Africa. They were the famous British explorers John Speke, John Burton, David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade had bypassed this part of Africa. No slaves from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi or Malawi had ever been brought aboard a slave ship to the New World.
The British who came to Central Africa in the mid-19th century were a changed people. Victorian Britain was the world’s great champion of anti-slavery. Britain had abolished the slave trade and slavery. The Royal Navy was being used to end the slave trade in West Africa. We’ve seen how Sierra Leone was founded as a colony for freed slaves how the Royal Navy operated out of Freetown. We’ve seen how David Livingstone was instrumental in arousing the British public to end the slave trade in Zanzibar. The founders of 17th century Barbados had been ruthless Englishmen but these were sensitive souls.
John Speke was the first White man to arrive what is now Uganda in February 1862. This was while the American Civil War was raging and contemporaneous with the Battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in Tennessee. Speke made first contract with the unspoiled Africans of the Great Lakes. He found that the Buganda were illiterate, practiced witchcraft and human sacrifice and were eager to acquire European firearms. He was struck by how little regard they had for human life. Speke was asked to demonstrate the power of his revolver by shooting four cows and was horrified when it was used to shoot a man.
“The king now loaded one of the carbines I had given him with his own hands, and giving it full-cock to a page told him to go out and shoot a man in the outer court: which was no sooner accomplished that the little urchin returned to announce his success, with a look of glee such as one would see in the face of a boy who had robbed a bird’s nest, caught a trout, or done any other boyish trick. … There appeared hardly no curiosity to know, what individual human being the urchin had deprived of life.”
Speke witnessed all kinds of horrible things in Buganda including human sacrifice and nearly every day he saw the random execution of women at court. The Buganda that Speke had found on the shores of what he named Lake Victoria was a backward kingdom with an economy based on bananas. Europeans were already centuries ahead of Black Africans when they first stepped foot in the Great Lakes region.
Henry Morton Stanley arrived in Buganda in 1875.
John Speke had established that Lake Victoria was the source of the Nile River – one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of geography – but there was still a dispute about whether another river flowed into Lake Victoria that was the real source of the Nile. Stanley established there wasn’t.
Stanley went on to trace the course of the Lualaba discovered by Livingstone which he learned was the source of the Congo River in West Africa. He became the first White man to traverse Central Africa. His epic journey down the Congo River was one of the great achievements of Western civilization. I used to enjoy reading about Mungo Park, David Livingstone, John Speke and Henry Morton Stanley in Africa. We used to celebrate the accomplishments of these great White males.
While Stanley was in Buganda, he discovered that the kingdom was being sucked into Islam and the Arab slave trade out of Zanzibar. Tippu Tip’s slave trading empire in the eastern Congo was even worse. If it hadn’t been for Great Britain, the Zanzibar Sultanate would taken over Central Africa. Uganda was very fortunate to end up under the wing of these sensitive Victorian era Christians who were scandalized by King Leopold II. It is not an exaggeration to say that it could have been much worse.
Britain established the Uganda Protectorate during the Scramble for Africa in 1894. As with many of its other African colonies, geopolitical rivalry was the motivation. The French, for example, had no economic interest in Mauritania but acquired it solely to keep other Europeans out. Similarly, the British had no real economic interest in Uganda, but wanted to keep the Germans out of the region. German East Africa included what is now Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi which was lost after World War I.
The British brought in their machine guns and quickly established their sovereignty over the region. They incorporated the Buganda and Bunyoro who were rivals into Uganda and a bunch of African to the north, east and west of the Buganda heartland. The Buganda were eager to cooperate with the British because the system of indirect rule which the British used in Nigeria and elsewhere basically anointed them as HNIC of the wider region. In Rwanda and Burundi, the Belgians favored the Tutsis over the Hutus.
Buganda was been a fertile land with a wonderful climate and an economy based on bananas. Imagine a place where little work is required for sustenance because abundant food grows on trees. This how Winston Churchill described it when he visited Uganda in 1907:
“For magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly “the Pearl of Africa.”
The Kingdom of Uganda is a fairy tale. The scenery is different, the climate is different and most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa….what message I bring back….concentrate on Uganda.
Uganda is from end to end a ‘beautiful garden’ where ‘staple food’ of the people grows almost without labour. Does it not sound like a paradise on earth? It is the Pearl of Africa.”
The British in Uganda set about enacting their familiar three pillars of colonialism – Christianity, civilization and commerce – and this took the form of introducing cotton plantations, bringing in Indians to build the railroad that connected Uganda and Kenya and establishing churches, hospitals and schools. They pacified Uganda and developed its economy and infrastructure. The final result was a tropical country with lots of coffee and cotton plantations that had experienced economic growth and dodged the horrors of war in Europe and East Asia. Uganda experienced a great leap forward into the 20th century complete with Western technology and the end of slavery, witchcraft and human sacrifice.
As far as imperial conquests go, Uganda under British rule was nothing compared to Korea under the Japanese. It never experienced anything comparable to Barbados under Britain or Peru under Spain or Caesar in Gaul. The British had settled in parts of Kenya and South Africa. This was about as mild as colonialism gets anywhere in the world. The Uganda that gained independence in 1962 was more prosperous and humane than the one that had been discovered by Speke and Stanley. It was granted its independence with great fanfare like Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
The British transplanted a federal system of government and democratic institutions in Uganda. In the words of Richard Dowden, the British “might as well have left the Ugandans the instruments of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and told them to play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”
In Uganda, the major source of division was between the Bantu-speaking tribes in the south and the Nilo-Saharan tribes in the north. It didn’t help matters that Bantus like the Buganda and Bunyoro hated each other either. The majority of the population was from the north and put Milton Obote in power. He took over as Prime Minister when Uganda was granted independence in 1962.
Now, it wasn’t necessarily foreordained that this would be a total disaster. Senegal, Tanzania and Cameroon are three of the most diverse countries in Africa. They are also three of the most stable countries. We’ve also seen how Botswana has deviated from the norm with its track record of peaceful elections. Somalia is one of the most homogeneous and dysfunctional countries in Africa.
Milton Obote took over at the helm of Uganda in 1962.
He quickly develops a reputation for corruption and torturing his political rivals. It was Obote who suspended the constitution and became a dictator. He empowered his Lango tribe and the Acholi tribe. He dissolved the Buganda kingdom. Obote’s great mistake though was offending our gallant little ally Israel by supporting Sudan which went to war with Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israel War and the Six-Day War in 1967. It was feared that Obote would expel the Israelis from Uganda.
As part of Israel’s Peripheral Doctrine, Israel had trained and equipped the Ugandan military and was supporting the rebels in South Sudan to distract the Sudanese army from supporting its Arab enemies. Obote pissed off Israel by making peace with Sudan and denouncing neo-colonialism in late 1970. That’s why Israel helped Idi Amin, who had trained as a paratrooper in Israel and was a close to its military attaché Col. Baruch Bar-Lev, overthrow Obote’s government in 1971.
Idi Amin Dada of Uganda became the stereotype of the illiterate post-colonial African dictator with his buffoonish pronouncements and his chest festooned with medals.
Amin spent the day of his coup d’état riding around Kampala in his Jeep with Col. Baruch Bat-Lev. It was only later that he famously turned against Israel and embraced Libya, Saudi Arabia and Islam after he was insulted when Israel refused to sell him fighter planes to attack Milton Obote’s gathering forces in Tanzania. Obote had fled there after he was overthrown by Amin and would later return to power.
Idi Amin awarded himself the title “His Excellency Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada, President of Uganda, Conqueror of the British Empire, Victorious Cross, Member of the Excellent Order of the Source of the Nile, Distinguished Service Medal, State Combat Star, Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.” He had four British businessmen in Uganda carry him around in a chair on their shoulders and kneel before him in 1975. He proposed marriage to Princess Anne and graciously offered to become the King of Scotland and lead the country to independence from Britain.
The sinister side of Idi Amin was the one who purged the military of the Langi and Acholi soldiers who had supported Obote. Their bodies were dumped in the Nile and fed to crocodiles. He had countless members of his own government executed. He collected photographs of the victims he tortured. Amin had one of his wives murdered and her body chopped into pieces. He kept body parts of his rivals in a refrigerator. He ordered the expulsion of 50,000 Asians who lived in Uganda in 1972.
It all came to an end when Amin launched an attack on Tanzania in 1978 which was sheltering Milton Obote’s rebel forces. Tanzania counterattacked and drove Idi Amin from power. They liberated prisoners who had engaged in cannibalism and drank their own urine in order to survive. It is estimated that nearly 300,000 Ugandans died under Idi Amin. There was 90 percent decline in real wages.
Forrest Whitaker plays Idi Amin in the movie The Last King of Scotland. The title of the book and the media comes from Amin’s claim to have been “the true heir to the throne of Scotland.” The hijacking of the Air France plane which landed in Uganda is depicted in the movie. Benjamin Netanyahu’s older brother was killed in the Israeli extraction operation which liberated the passengers.
Milton Obote was restored to power in 1980.
It took less than a year for the shit to hit the fan again. Yoweri Museveni launched a guerrilla war to oust Obote from power. The Ugandan Bush War raged for 5 years. By the time it was over, another 300,000 Ugandans were dead and Museveni was president of Uganda. He has been the president of Uganda for the last 32 years and recently applauded with President Trump for speaking frankly about Africa’s shithole countries. He has some expertise in that area given the role he later played in Central Africa in inciting the First Congo War and Second Congo War. We will get to that later but it will suffice to say for now that roughly 6 million people died in World War Africa.
More Africans died under Milton Obote and Yoweri Museveni than Idi Amin. Neither of those two had Amin’s flair for the dramatic though so they are relatively unknown in the West.
Joseph Kony is a more familiar figure to Americans.
In March 2012, Africa’s most famous warlord went viral on YouTube. Jason Russell, the Kony 2012 filmmaker, had a bizarre, hilarious public meltdown in a viral TMZ video. Barack Obama sent US troops to Uganda to hunt down Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. He escaped from their clutches though like a modern Pancho Villa and they eventually gave up the pursuit.
In other news, Uganda has suffered from a moonshine epidemic and has driven the Pygmies out of their rainforest habitat in southeastern Uganda. After 57 years of independence, Uganda remains one of the poorest countries in the world and is ranked #163 in the UN Human Development Index. It is another African country propped up on life support by foreign aid from Western donors.
Uganda’s self-destruction isn’t the fault of the West. Britain rescued Uganda from the slave traders in Zanizbar. If anything, it uplifted the country in the early 20th century. The West was horrified by Idi Amin, Milton Obote and the orgy of bloodshed in the Congo Wars. These idiots will never concede any agency to Africans though. Uganda is even bucking the West on homosexuality.