It could be Amin, Kamuzu or Muluzi
For acting Idi Amin, the savage dictator who ruled Uganda in the 1970s, actor Forest Whitaker on Monday night scooped an Oscar, the highest award Hollywood accords to the cream of the cinema industry.
But as the world cheers Whitaker for his superb performance in the movie entitled The Last King of Scotland, let’s not forget that Amin was real and not an imaginary character in a Greek tragedy. He was a real head of state whose dictatorial reign of terror in the 1970s was a real tragedy for the innocent people of Uganda.
Now that Amin is long dead, we can afford to watch and be amused with the dramatised story of his tragic life as a leader. But should our children, who were probably young or not yet born when the last king of Scotland hunted and killed his own people with the passion of a Stone Age game hunter, wrongly think the movie is a mere piece of fiction, tell them the story of Amin is a real tragedy that indeed happened?
And it is still happening.
In fact, had Whitaker not acted Amin, he could as well have won an Oscar by acting His Excellency, the Life President, Ngwazi Dr. Kamuzu Banda, the Lion of Malawi, a friend of Queen Elizabeth II, Mchikumbe Number 1, Nkhoswe ya Amayi M’malawi.
Kamuzu may not have been the cannibal that Amin is reputed to have been but, like Amin, detaining without trial or even killing his real or imaginary enemies appeared to be his pastime.
So brutal was his regime that a whole Compensation Tribunal was set up later to compensate victims of its atrocities. Indeed, so many were the victims that to this day, the queue of those seeking compensation appears endless.
Ironically, the Ngwazi too had a special place for Scotland in his heart. He bragged about it as his second home. He also claimed that he was an Elder of the Church of Scotland. Probably as a proof that the Ngwazi was a complete Scottish gentleman of the 20th century at heart, he never parted with a white shirt, three piece suit, a hat, black shoes and a walking stick. A fly whisk was the only visible item from Africa in the whole paraphernalia that defined Banda’s taste and deportment.
Kamuzu’s successor—Bakili Muluzi—is also another Malawian head of state with a legacy that can make good material for the big screen. I’ve always found it very amusing that after being accorded an honorary doctorate by several universities abroad, Muluzi saw to it that his wife, Shanil, got an honorary doctorate from the Mzuzu University and his friend Chakufwa Chihana an honorary doctorate from the University of Malawi. Dr. Muluzi was the Chancellor of both universities.
If you don’t know the value of these honorary doctorates in politics, just listen to the songs of praise that were composed every time Muluzi was accorded an honorary doctorate. It was like the man with modest academic achievements had suddenly become a member of the intelligentsia.
But apart from bragging about honours, Muluzi’s 10-year reign of mediocrity was also a real tragicomedy that could have earned Whitaker an Oscar. Here is a man who boasted about putting his life at a risk by fighting Banda’s dictatorial regime so he could end the life presidency and ensure that democracy is entrenched in Malawi. Yet at the end of his tenure, he tried to secure a life presidency for himself.
He even allowed jobless youths called Young Democrats to inflict pain on anyone—politicians, traditional leaders, the clergy, journalists, human rights activists and ordinary people—who dared express dissenting views.
And, when all that failed, Muluzi the democrat hand-picked a successor who ditched him upon assuming power. Having been hoodwinked, Muluzi came back from retirement and went into camp, preparing to contest in the next general elections, probably the first former head of state in democratic Africa to do so.
Well, how about President Bingu wa Mutharika? His reign is still unfolding but already there’s good material for an Oscar winning movie. Here’s a man who only in 1999 failed to secure a seat in Parliament and scooped the least number of votes in the presidential race. Come the next presidential polls, he comes carried on the shoulders of the incumbent president who travels the whole length and breadth of Malawi, being sold as the ‘Economic Engineer’ who can take free Malawi to prosperity.
Mutharika then ditches Muluzi soon after winning the elections, accusing Muluzi’s party, UDF, of harbouring corrupt officials and vowing to deal with them. The new President even goes to the extent of saying he could not associate with a party that rigged the 2004 presidential polls for which he was the beneficiary.
Later, his relations with his predecessor become so bad that the Mutharika administration denies Malawi’s former head of state use of VVIP lounge at the airport. The plot of the Mutharika rule is still unfolding....
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