Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Friday, 15 May 2009

My meeting with Jaffar Amin

It has been an uneventful few weeks on this blog, but a hectic period for me.

In early April I was host at Butiama, together with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), to Jaffar Amin, one of the sons of the former Ugandan leader Idi Amin.
Jaffa Remo Amin (left), with me at Butiama.
I admit I faced a dilemma which made me suspend my posts. I was not sure how readers would react to my meeting with Jaffar. The mention of Idi Amin invariably raises extreme emotions, and I found those reactions contradicted my justification for accepting BBC's suggestion to meet Jaffar.

I explained that justification in an article I wrote after the meeting for my column, Letter from Butiama. Briefly, my argument is: the past should remain in the past and is only relevant as a learning tool to help us avoid past mistakes; the past should not be used as a club to bash the brains out of those living today and who have nothing to do with that past.

Our meeting revolved around BBC's idea of covering, through a series of radio programs aired in April, the 30th anniversary of the 1978-79 Tanzania-Uganda war. Initially, explained Solomon Mugera, head of BBC's Swahili Service, our meeting was intended to take place on neutral ground, in Nairobi. He revealed it was Jaffar who suggested the meeting should be held at Butiama.

So in mid-March I prepared to meet Jaffar in Nairobi only to learn, belatedly, that the venue had been changed to Butiama without my knowledge. I suspect, the BBC, rather than risk getting an objection from me went ahead with plans.

I had great difficulty drawing up the guest list. It was easy to decide who among my friends and colleagues to include. Some made it easier for me by asking to be invited. The difficult list involved regional government officials. I had no idea whether they would show up although they regularly visit Butiama on other occasions. I sent out invitations and a few attended.

In the end it seemed that those who followed the BBC coverage of our meeting and the war anniversary had only positive comments. One commentator suggested that the person who initially came up with the idea of bringing together the sons of Idi Amin and Julius Nyerere should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Solomon Mugera addresses invited guests at Butiama.

I hope when Solomon Mugera steps up in coattails to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at Oslo (and the million dollar cheque), he will remember to include me on his list of invited guests.

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